The 88th annual Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, February 28. While the Oscars recognize acting, we’re recognizing eight of the many Academy Award-winning actresses who use their platforms to help promote the work of aid organizations, including United Nations agencies.
In 1988, Audrey Hepburn became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and traveled to more than 20 countries, reporting what she saw to world leaders, governments, and the international media. Through her efforts, Hepburn instilled her passion for UNICEF’s vital work in hearts and minds all over the world. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role in 1954 for Roman Holiday and the Academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1993.
In her role as a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Sophia Loren brought global attention to the plight of refugees, and specifically to the over 1 million Somalis who had fled war, drought, and famine in the 1990s. In 1962, Loren won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in Two Women.
Mira Sorvino supported the UN Office on Drugs & Crime (UNODC) in encouraging the ratification of the “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children,” through her advocacy work and participation in global and regional events. Sorvino won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in 1996 for her performance in Mighty Aphrodite.
Halle Berry collaborated with Michael Kors on the Watch Hunger Stop campaign, which supports the World Food Programme’s (WFP) school meals programs around the world. Sales of the watches help WFP feed children in need. In 2002, Berry won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Monster’s Ball.
Penelope Cruz advocates for the World Food Programme (WFP) by speaking out through public service announcements and video recordings about the millions of people who live on the edge of starvation. She has been a partner of WFP since 2005. Cruz won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Vicky Cristina Barcelona in 2009.
Angelina Jolie Pitt
After years of supporting UNHCR and the cause of refugees, Angelina Jolie Pitt in April 2012 was appointed as Special Envoy of then-UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. In this role, she has represented UNHCR at the diplomatic level and has appeared in front of the UN Security Council in New York to raise awareness on the ongoing refugee crisis in Syria. Jolie Pitt won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in 1999 for Girl, Interrupted and the Academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 2014.
Through video messages and fundraising events, Whoopi Goldberg promotes UNICEF’s work to ease the burden of HIV/AIDS on children and their communities around the world. In 1991, Goldberg won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for the movie Ghost.
Susan Sarandon was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in December 1999, and since her appointment, has helped raise awareness about UNICEF-supported child development and education programs in developing countries. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role in 1996 for Dead Man Walking.
Photo credit: World Food Programme