Goodwill ambassador

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A goodwill ambassador is a person who advocates for a specific cause or global issue on the basis of their notability as a public figure. [1] Goodwill ambassadors generally deliver goodwill by promoting ideals from one entity to another, or to a population. The term should be distinguished from the related concept of a brand ambassador, who plays a role in promoting a company or product through personal interaction. [2] A goodwill ambassador may be an individual from one country who resides in or travels to another country, on a diplomatic mission (or international friendship mission) at a peer to peer level; that is: country to country, state to state, city to city, or as an intermediate emissary representative of the people of a specific organization or cultural group such as an indigenous tribe or enclave population.


Goodwill ambassadors have been a part of governments and countries for as long as diplomacy has existed. They represent their constituents by traveling abroad exchanging or delivering gifts and presents while bringing awareness to their cause or purpose through public relations activities and organizing events. Goodwill ambassadors are responsible for delivering humanitarian relief, implementing public programs and providing development assistance to demonstrate benevolence and compassion between parties. Most often nation-states and organizations use well-known celebrities such as actors, actresses, musicians, scientists, authors, former politicians and other high society figures; but they also engage civilians and government officials to fulfill the role.

Goodwill missions of US states and international nations are usually carried out or overseen by the head of state, but do not necessarily involve official diplomatic credentials beyond a letter of presentation, letters patent or a letter of credence, it is very rare that goodwill ambassadors are ever issued a diplomatic passport. However, some countries, such as Haiti, do issue credentials that include diplomatic immunity for goodwill ambassadors [3] and organizations sometimes issue a civil service credential or international identification such as a laissez-passer. [4]

Governments and Countries

Most governments have goodwill ambassadors that are appointed or known implicitly that promote the objectives of the country or government, normally without promoting political agendas or official state business. (See public diplomacy and citizen diplomacy)

Governments of countries often recognize the spouse of a president, governor, prime minister or a monarch as goodwill ambassadors such as the First-Lady of the United States, Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh for the British Empire, and in the Caribbean country of Belize there is the Special Envoy for Women and Children, [5] all are formally recognized or known as national goodwill ambassadors.

Many countries and their national states or provincial regions use goodwill ambassadors to promote tourism, economic development, traditional values, customs and cultural ideals that contribute to their recognition.

United States

US states have civil service recognition programs that designate goodwill ambassadors honorarily and officially who are responsible for promoting tourism, economic development, cultural events and the prosperity of the state in general. The oldest example of this is the Kentucky Colonel, which is the highest award bestowed by the state's governor, established in 1813, the honorary award is given to civilians based on performing a great deed, community service or for accomplishing a noteworthy achievement that deserves recognition. The distinction of Kentucky colonel entitles the recipient to use the honorary title of "Colonel" and is denoted through the issuance of letters patent and is an official designation. [6] Other US states also have similar civilian awards that denote the role of goodwill ambassador which are well-recognized including that of the Tennessee Colonel, Rhode Island Commodore, Nebraska Admiral, Order of the Longleaf Pine, Arkansas Traveler, Yellow Rose of Texas, and Sagamore of the Wabash. [7]

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II bestows knighthood to her goodwill ambassadors upon being recognized for their contributions to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Nations, which entitles them to use the titles of "Sir" or "Dame" as Commanders of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. [8]


Goodwill ambassadors are not always people, in 2008 Japan adopted the cartoon character Hello Kitty as their official goodwill tourism ambassador to China and Hong Kong. [9]

Republic of Kosovo

Honorary Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo is a title given to foreign citizens and citizens originating from Kosovo, who have contributed to the national interest of country and use their fame, the award is provided as a state decoration. [10]

Angelina Jolie, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador at the World Economic Forum with spouse Brad Pitt and Kofi Annan, Secretary-General, United Nations with his spouse in Davos, Switzerland in 2006 Angelina Jolie at Davos2.jpg
Angelina Jolie, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador at the World Economic Forum with spouse Brad Pitt and Kofi Annan, Secretary-General, United Nations with his spouse in Davos, Switzerland in 2006

United Nations

The United Nations agencies appoint and employ popular celebrities to advocate their missions including FAO, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNEP, UNFPA, UNODC, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNESCO, WFP, WHO, UNWOMEN, OHCHR, UN-Habitat, and IMO all have or may have goodwill ambassadors who are appointed officially by the UN. [11] The largest of these United Nations programs is UNICEF which has over three hundred (300) ambassadors around the world designated by country or region. [12] The United Nations began using goodwill ambassadors to promote their missions in 1954, the first was actor Danny Kaye. The most famous of today's contemporary goodwill ambassadors was Angelina Jolie, who currently serves professionally as a Special Envoy to the UNHCR. [13]

International Organizations

A wide range of organizations employ goodwill ambassadors to promote their programs and reach out to others based on goodwill relations and benevolence. There are supra governmental organizations such as the African Union [14] and the European Union [15] and international non-governmental organizations like the IUCN [16] and the IOM. [17] Goodwill ambassadors are also used by social and civil society organizations such as Rotary International, the Olympic Games, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the organization of goodwill ambassadors, Globcal International [18] which provides practical training, international appointments and nominations for those who become members. [19]

Amnesty International

The Ambassador of Conscience Award is Amnesty International's most prestigious human rights award. It celebrates individuals and groups who have furthered the cause of human rights by showing exceptional courage standing up to injustice and who have used their talents to inspire others. It also aims to generate debate, encourage public action and raise awareness of inspirational stories and human rights issues. [20]

Civil Society Award Programs

Numerous governmental and nongovernmental organizations employ goodwill ambassadors following the practice of honoring individuals with awards that denote goodwill ambassador status and roles. Awards are given for good relations, fundraising, acts of philanthropy and recognition for cause advocacy; some examples of such recognition are comedian Trevor Noah who received a South African Goodwill Ambassador Award in 2015, [21] actress Alex Okoroji who received a Nigeria Goodwill Ambassador Award in 2017, [22] and the Steve Irwin Memorial Goodwill Ambassador Award which was established in 2007. [23] The former First Lady of Nigeria, Patience Jonathan became a goodwill ambassador after receiving the African Goodwill Ambassador Award in Los Angeles in 2008. [24] [25]

See also

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