Goodwill ambassador

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Goodwill Ambassador is a post-nominal honorific title, a professional occupation and/or authoritative designation that is assigned to a person who advocates for a specific cause or global issue on the basis of their notability such as a public figure, advocate or an authoritative expert.[1] Sometimes the role of a goodwill ambassador is presented as "Ambassador" or "Goodwill Ambassador" preceding the first and last name, the titled name of the individual is always presented with an organizational, regional or national affiliation. Goodwill ambassadors generally deliver goodwill by promoting ideals or positions from one entity to another,[2] or to a population to establish a benevolent relationship. 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, marginalized people or enclave population.[3]

Goodwill ambassadors have been a part of governments, institutions 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 social welfare programs and providing development assistance to demonstrate benevolence and compassion between parties. Most often nation-states, international and non-governmental organizations use well-known celebrities such as actors, actresses, musicians, scientists, authors, former politicians and other high society figures; but they also engage civilians, professionals and government officials to fulfill the role.[4]

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 a goodwill ambassador is ever issued a diplomatic passport. However, some countries, such as Haiti, do issue credentials that include diplomatic immunity for goodwill ambassadors[5] and organizations sometimes issue a civil service officer credential or international identification travel document such as a laissez-passer.[6]

Recognition as an authority is designated by an official document that entitles the subject to the use of the honorable title or can be developed over time through the social media or public relations in close association with the "Goodwill Ambassador" title with a personal name, such as (Angelina Jolie, Goodwill Ambassador) or (Angelina Jolie, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador) or (Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie).[4] Any regional, state, nation or body politic has the authority to officially designate goodwill ambassadors.

Victoria Beckham, UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador

National goodwill ambassadors[edit]

Most governments and kingdoms (jurisdictions) have ambassadors of goodwill that are either appointed or known implicitly which promote the objectives and values of a country, nation, state, government or monarchy without promoting political agendas or any official state business. Sometimes "goodwill ambassadors" are created from other ideas that represent, that are positive to social well-being and the general prosperity of a state or nation. The winners of the United States Medal of Freedom are all considered to be goodwill ambassadors for the United States for their lifetime and into history. Being an ambassador of goodwill traditionally includes most individuals competing for a title when a place or organization name is attached, such as winners of prominent scholarships, beauty contests, competitive events and pageants like Miss America, Miss USA, Mister World, Miss Universe, and many others use "goodwill ambassador" as part of their job description.

Organizations often use destinations and place names to represent elements, methods, virtues and values of goodwill ambassadorship, however their practice is most often based in public diplomacy, citizen diplomacy or international cooperation. Official goodwill ambassador representatives of a country, state or nation are designated by the president, prime minister, chancellor, the secretary of state or the head of a cabinet.

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,[7] all are formally recognized or known as national goodwill ambassadors.

United States[edit]

The United States government does not have a formal, active or organized goodwill ambassador program, but it does have many high-profile public figures that have been recognized with the United States Goodwill Ambassador title as individuals. The US periodically organizes official goodwill ambassador tours and also has a number of agencies that assign the title to selected individuals based on talent, expertise and popularity. Some of the more notable U.S. goodwill ambassadors include Jesse Owens, Kirk Douglas, Lefty Gomez, and Pearl Bailey.[8] The United States also designates particular individuals for roles as emissaries abroad when traveling for a special event supported by the U.S., to deliver foreign aid, participate in a conference or to meet a head-of-state such as the appointment of Jillian “JJ” Simmons United States Goodwill Ambassador to the Republic of the Gambia in 2014.[9] Senators and members of the U.S. Congress also have the authority to designate goodwill ambassadors and representatives of USAID are also known as goodwill ambassadors.

In 1956, the US State Department created the Jazz Ambassadors program, hiring leading American jazz musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, and Duke Ellington to be "ambassadors" for the United States overseas, particularly to improve the public image of the US in the light of criticism from the Soviet Union around racial inequality and racial tension.


In 2008 Japan adopted the cartoon character Hello Kitty as their official goodwill tourism ambassador to China and Hong Kong.[10]

Republic of Kosovo[edit]

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.[11]

United Nations goodwill ambassadors[edit]

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

According to the United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld Library; "United Nations Goodwill Ambassadors and Messengers of Peace are distinguished individuals, carefully selected from the fields of art, literature, science, entertainment, sports or other fields of public life, who have agreed to help focus worldwide attention on the work of the United Nations. Backed by the highest honor bestowed by the Secretary-General on a global citizen, these prominent personalities volunteer their time, talent and passion to raise awareness of United Nations efforts to improve the lives of billions of people everywhere .. on the other hand, [goodwill ambassadors] are designated by the heads of United Nations Funds, Programmes and specialized Agencies, e.g., UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNHCR. Goodwill Ambassadors are subsequently endorsed by the Secretary-General. .. In 2010, in response to a General Assembly request to mark the International Year of Biodiversity, for the first time the Secretary-General appointed a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador."[12]

The United Nations agencies appoint and employ popular celebrities to advocate their missions, including the FAO, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNEP, UNFPA, UNODC, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNESCO, the WFP, the WHO, UN Women, the OHCHR, UN-Habitat, and the IMO; all have or may have goodwill ambassadors who are appointed officially by the UN.[13] The largest of these United Nations programs is UNICEF which has over three hundred (300) ambassadors around the world designated by country or region. The United Nations began using goodwill ambassadors officially to promote their missions in 1954, the first was actor Danny Kaye.

The most famous of today's contemporary goodwill ambassadors is Angelina Jolie, who currently serves professionally as a special envoy to the UNHCR and is legally recognized as "Ambassador Angelina Jolie" in being addressed "Her Excellency Angelina Jolie," whereas most other UN goodwill ambassadors are recognized as "Honorable", and use post-nominal titles that are assigned to them.[14]

UN titles of authority[edit]

In 2020 and 2021 the United Nations began incorporating official standardized titles of authority for credentials, news releases, their websites and semantically on Wikipedia using the initials of each of the specialized agencies of the United Nations followed by the title "Goodwill Ambassador" or the title/term "Advocate" like it did for the SDG Advocates.[15]

Collectively they are all United Nations goodwill ambassadors, each however is designated with a legal title by each individual agency such as: [4]

  • FAO Goodwill Ambassador, official title of a goodwill ambassador advocating for the Food and Agricultural Organization
  • ILO Goodwill Ambassador, public figure or advocate of the International Labour Organization
  • IMO Goodwill Ambassador, expert or advocate of the International Maritime Organization
  • IOM Goodwill Ambassador, strategic ally promoting the mandate of the International Organization on Migration[16]
  • Stop TB Goodwill Ambassador, advocate for the UN Special Envoy of the UN Partnership to Stop Tuberculosis[17]
  • UN-Habitat Goodwill Ambassador, advocate of United Nations Habitat commission (urban sustainability)
  • UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, celebrity advocate for UN Women (UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women)
  • UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador, celebrity advocate of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)
  • UNDP Goodwill Ambassador, prominent individual that serves the mission of the United Nations Development Programme
  • UNEP Goodwill Ambassador, public figure or advocate of the United Nations Environmental Programme
  • UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, public figure that advocates for UNESCO
  • UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador, celebrity advocate of the United Nations Population Fund mission
  • UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, celebrity advocate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees'
  • UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, local, regional and internationally known public figure that is selected to promote the mission of UNICEF
  • UNIDO Goodwill Ambassador, public figure or expert that advocates for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization mission
  • UNODC Goodwill Ambassador, celebrity advocate of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
  • WFP Goodwill Ambassador, public figure or advocate of the United Nations World Food Programme
  • WHO Goodwill Ambassador, a celebrity advocate of the World Health Organization

INGO and NGO goodwill ambassadors[edit]

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[18] and the European Union[19] and international non-governmental organizations like the IUCN[20] and the IOM.[21] 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[22] which provides practical training, international appointments and nominations for those who become members.[23]

Amnesty International[edit]

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.[24]

Civil society award programs[edit]

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,[25] actress Alex Okoroji who received a Nigeria Goodwill Ambassador Award in 2017,[26] and the Steve Irwin Memorial Goodwill Ambassador Award which was established in 2007.[27] The former First Lady of Nigeria, Patience Jonathan, became a goodwill ambassador after receiving the African Goodwill Ambassador Award in Los Angeles in 2008.[28][29]

State goodwill ambassadors[edit]

Many national states or provincial regions use goodwill ambassadors to promote tourism, economic development, traditional values, customs and cultural ideals that contribute to their recognition. US states have civil service recognition programs that designate goodwill ambassadors honorarily and officially who are responsible for promoting tourism, 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, officially established in 1895,[30] the honorable title 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 "discharge their duties" with the honorable title as a "colonel" and is denoted through the issuance of letters patent with the official designation as a goodwill ambassador.[30] 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.[31]

Civilian goodwill ambassadors[edit]

There are many types of people that may be considered goodwill ambassadors representative to their local area for a short-time or over many years, informally, unofficially or by name. From a diplomatic perspective, the only difference in many cases is "who, under what authority, confirmed the appointment or commission to a post or mission based ambassadorship" with international protocol.[23] Civilian goodwill ambassadors most often are not designated with an official appointment document from a head of state, granted letters patent, the honorable title or an officer commission; but this does not make them any less goodwill ambassadors. The term goodwill ambassador of an organization or ambassador of goodwill could be used for a company, an association, a local nonprofit, an event, a cause, an indigenous tribe, or a small city with a population of 50 to describe a representative; the difference and distinction of how and when to use the descriptive term as a professional title, position, role or occupation or to let it serve a part a job description is up to the person writing. Generally a goodwill ambassador can be anyone demonstrating benevolence on the part of someone else professionally, it can also be used in a community or informal sense.

There are many programs and objectives that include the term "goodwill ambassador" which are executed at a local levels for those who wish to pursue a career or define themselves using the term as a "goodwill ambassador". There are a number of cities that have exemplary permanent and established goodwill ambassador programs including New York City, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Miami-Dade, Florida.[32]

Other types of goodwill ambassadors[edit]

The term goodwill ambassador should be clearly distinguished from the relative concept of a brand ambassador, who plays a role in promoting a company, organization or product through personal interaction.[33] Under the idea of brand ambassador other concepts converge such as a tourism ambassador or the spokesman for the local fire department that goes out to talk to school children, who serves as a goodwill ambassador in his/her own right as a fireman.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Fasulo, Linda (2015). An Insider's Guide to the UN (3rd ed.). Yale University Press. p. 35. ISBN 9780300210729. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
  2. ^ "Goodwill ambassador definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary". Retrieved March 23, 2021.
  3. ^ Cooper, Andrew (2016). Celebrity Diplomacy (2nd ed.). London: Routledge. ISBN 9781317262701.
  4. ^ a b c Wright, David (March 2, 2021). "Goodwill Ambassador Foundation". Goodwill Ambassadors. Globcal International.
  5. ^ Wyclef Jean, Ban Ki-Moon, Bill Clinton Visit Haiti to Raise Global Awareness and Needs of Devastated Country.
  6. ^ "Communication from the Commission to the Council". December 21, 2007. Retrieved November 18, 2015.
  7. ^ "Special Envoy for Women and Children – Love FM | Belize News and Music Power". Retrieved January 16, 2020.
  8. ^ "Pearl Bailey Mural To Be Unveiled Thursday". Newport News, VA - Official Website. March 27, 2018. Retrieved March 15, 2021.
  9. ^ "New Documentary Captures Cross-Cultural Experiences Among American and West African Girls | Medley Incorporated". Retrieved March 15, 2021.
  10. ^ "Hello Kitty to be goodwill envoy". The Japan Times Online. May 19, 2008. ISSN 0447-5763. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  11. ^ Thaçi, President of the Republic of Kosovo-Hashim. "Franc Beckenbauer Honorary Ambassador of Kosovo". President of the Republic of Kosovo - Hashim Thaçi. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  12. ^ "Who are the United Nations Goodwill Ambassadors and Messengers of Peace and how are they appointed? - Ask DAG!". Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  13. ^ "United Nations in Ukraine". Retrieved January 29, 2020.
  14. ^ Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "Special Envoy Angelina Jolie". UNHCR. Retrieved January 16, 2020.
  15. ^ "17 SDG Advocates 17 Goals". SDG Advocates. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  16. ^ "Mexican Filmmaker Samuel Kishi, New IOM Goodwill Ambassador". International Organization for Migration. March 5, 2021. Retrieved March 28, 2021.
  17. ^ "Stop TB Partnership Goodwill Ambassadors". Stop TB Partnership. United Nations. Retrieved March 28, 2021.
  18. ^ "Press Release - NEPAD announces Goodwill Ambassador | AUDA-NEPAD". Retrieved January 16, 2020.
  19. ^ "EU appoints Elmaco as goodwill ambassador". Silliman University. Retrieved January 16, 2020.
  20. ^ "Goodwill Ambassadors". IUCN. January 16, 2017. Retrieved January 16, 2020.
  21. ^ "UN Migration Agency Appoints Ghanaian Rapper as Goodwill Ambassador to Promote Safe Migration". International Organization for Migration. November 24, 2017. Retrieved January 16, 2020.
  22. ^ Wright, David. "Become a Local Goodwill Ambassador". Goodwill Ambassadors of the World. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
  23. ^ a b Wright, David. "Goodwill Ambassadors Everywhere!". Goodwill Ambassadors of the World. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
  24. ^ "Climate activists Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement honoured with top Amnesty International award". Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  25. ^ Staff. "South Africa Prizes Noah". New York Daily News. 16 April 2015.
  26. ^ Staff. "Nigeria Goodwill Ambassador Honours Kano State Governor, Juliet Ibrahim". ThisDayLive. 2 July 2017.
  27. ^ Beattie, Peter. "Smart State Expats Awarded In New York". Queensland Government. 9 May 2007.
  28. ^ Ogunjimi, Opeoluwani. "Dame Patience Jonathan, the Perm. Sec". Vanguard. 27 July 2012.
  29. ^ Gastrow, Shelagh. "First Lady philanthropy – a double-edged sword?". Daily Maverick. 26 January 2017.
  30. ^ a b Wright, David (March 5, 2021). "Homepage (Index)". Kentucky Colonelcy. American Colonels Network. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  31. ^ Grundhauser, Eric (November 8, 2017). "You Can't Be Knighted in the U.S., But You Can Be Named a Sagamore of the Wabash". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved January 16, 2020.
  32. ^ Morilla, Laura. "Goodwill Ambassador Program". Miami-Dade County Website. Retrieved March 23, 2021.
  33. ^ Szmigin, Isabelle; Piacentini, Maria (2014). Consumer Behaviour. Oxford University Press. p. 292. ISBN 9780199646449. Retrieved October 28, 2015.


  • Andrew F. Cooper and Louise Frechette. Celebrity Diplomacy, London: Taylor & Francis, 2015. ISBN 9781317262701.

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