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UNICEF Celebrates 50 Years Of Star Support

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UNICEF CELEBRATES 50 YEARS OF STAR SUPPORT FOR CHILDREN WORLDWIDE

Major Gala In Honour Of Celebrities Who Have Promoted UNICEF And The Rights Of Children

Auckland, New Zealand, 4 December 2003 - UNICEF today marks the 50th anniversary since celebrities have been involved as Goodwill Ambassadors supporting and promoting the organisation and the work it does on behalf of children worldwide.

The "UNICEF Goodwill Gala: 50 years of Celebrity Advocacy" is a star-studded event to benefit the organisation's efforts to ensure the health, education, equality and protection of every child. Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan will attend the gala along with a 'who's who' of celebrities such as Laurence Fishburne, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Tea Leoni, Adam Sandler and Shakira.

Executive Director of UNICEF New Zealand, Dennis McKinlay says that the Gala anniversary honours 50 years of significant achievement where major celebrities from Danny Kaye onwards have given unselfishly of their time to promote the interests and social causes of children and women everywhere, particularly those at risk and in the most disadvantaged countries.

"Celebrating 50 years of celebrity advocacy is a remarkable milestone for UNICEF. Through celebrities like Danny Kaye and Katie Couric who is the recipient of the Danny Kaye Humanitarian Award in 2003, these stars have been instrumental in using their status to raise awareness of UNICEF's mission for children around the world, "says McKinlay.

"When Kaye took off on 33 years of globe-trotting for children, UNICEF became the first organization to harness the power of celebrity to reach millions of ordinary people and bring the world home to them."

McKinlay says that the UNICEF Danny Kaye Humanitarian award is given annually to an entertainment industry individual in recognition of his/her visionary and transformative advocacy on behalf of children and women worldwide. The gala will also pay a special tribute to George Harrison, whose 1971 Concert for Bangladesh marked the first time musicians collaborated for a common humanitarian cause. The 1971 concert pioneered the all-star rock benefit concert model, which has since been widely emulated for various causes worldwide.

McKinlay says the Gala will also present a number of awards to recognise the commitment by celebrities to improving public awareness of and bringing children's needs onto the global stage.

"These men and women who we all know and love through TV, film and music have all demonstrated an extraordinary devotion to improving the lives of children throughout the world and also exemplified the notion that compassion and the dedication of a single individual can make a world of difference."

"New Zealanders should also feel proud for their contributions to the social causes of UNICEF and for doing their part to alleviate poverty, suffering as well as improving the health and wellbeing of both children and women, " says McKinlay.

McKinlay says UNICEF New Zealand is delighted to have Hayley Westenra as the country's Goodwill Ambassador for the organisation.

"Hayley is a very special person and an incredible singing talent. She has already made a significant impact on the world stage, and we have no doubt that she will do much to further UNICEF's mission of improving children's lives," says McKinlay.

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Whoopi Goldberg will host the gala and Halle Berry will serve as honorary event chair. The event will benefit the "Audrey Hepburn All Children in School Fund" to help UNICEF provide 120 million children in developing nation's access to quality basic education, including the skills and knowledge they need to survive.

Award-winning actor Jessica Lange, also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, presents the Humanitarianism through the Arts Award to the NBC television show "ER," for devoting entire story lines to distant and neglected crises in such countries as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Croatia.

Lange, who recently visited the Democratic Republic of Congo on behalf of UNICEF, will commend the television show for bringing attention to war crimes in Congo that were "virtually ignored by the U.S. media - until ER devoted two hours of exceptional television to the crisis."

"They did these episodes with honesty, with dignity and they aired them during sweeps," said Lange.

UNICEF was the first organisation to use celebrities to help draw public attention to important social issues. Beginning with renowned internationally acclaimed star Danny Kaye in 1953 and followed by Audrey Hepburn, numerous actors and musicians such as, George Harrison, Ricky Martin, Harry Belafonte, Meg Ryan, Jessica Lange, Tom Hanks, Sir Roger Moore, have joined with UNICEF as goodwill ambassadors to promote the interests of children in the developing world.

ENDS

For B-rolls, satellite footage and photographs of the Celebrity Gala please go to the UNICEF website: http://www.unicef.org/media/media_17482.html

About UNICEF

Founded in 1946, UNICEF works in 158 countries to ensure that all children survive and thrive through adolescence. UNICEF's efforts on the ground emphasize immunization and micronutrients; the best start in life, including safe water and sanitation, basic health and nutrition, and loving interaction; education for all children; fighting HIV/AIDS and caring for children orphaned by the disease; and a protective environment that shields children from abuse, exploitation and violence.

UNICEF is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from governments, foundations, businesses and individuals.

For more information about UNICEF please visit www.unicef.org


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