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Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK
UN's stars meet in New York
Actress Angelina Jolie, left, and Portuguese actress Catarina Furtado
Actresses Angelina Jolie, left, and Catarina Furtado were present
Former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, author Elie Wiesel and actresses Angelina Jolie and Susan Sarandon were among 50 of the United Nations' celebrity ambassadors who met on Tuesday to discuss their work for the organisation.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked the New York meeting to "help us learn from you how the United Nations can make its message more effective".


I don't know really the difference I've made - I know how it's changed my life

Angelina Jolie
Singer Harry Belafonte, a United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) goodwill ambassador, said that without the UN: "This planet would have long since become a great carbon mass".

The two-day meeting is only the second time the celebrity ambassadors have met.

Since 1954, when the late comedian Danny Kaye became the first goodwill ambassador for Unicef, many leading figures in the arts, literature and public life have travelled the world promoting the UN's work.

Launch new window : VIEW IMAGE
Click above for a group photo of the assembled ambassadors

There are now some 100 goodwill ambassadors, chosen by various UN agencies, and nine "Messengers of Peace" appointed by the UN secretary-general.

Peter Ustinov
UK author and humorist Peter Ustinov spoke
The ambassadors first met October 2000, when Susan Sarandon, Geri Halliwell and Somali supermodel Waris Dirie discussed the difficulties of their roles in open session.

But this year discussions were held behind closed doors and only the opening session, at which Annan and a few celebrities spoke, was open to the press.

'Adversaries'

Harry Belafonte used the opening session to defend the UN from its detractors.

"We have underestimated the power, and the evil will, of our adversaries," he said.

"There are forces who are immoral, and those who would oppose us in what we do."

And Belafonte urged the celebrities to use their platforms more effectively, and to do their jobs "with courage".

Angelina Jolie, who became an envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) a year ago, said she was stunned to find out through her work that 20 million people had fled their countries.

Her role has taken her to Cambodia, Pakistan, Colombia and Sierra Leone.

"I don't know really the difference I've made," said Jolie.

"I know how it's changed my life and made me a better person. It's taught me to value my family more, to value life more, to value other people more."

At a closed session, Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor Nobel Peace Prize winner, urged fellow celebrities never to forget the world's victims, UN officials said.

See also:

19 May 02 | Entertainment
16 May 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
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30 Jul 01 | Entertainment
24 Oct 00 | Americas
20 Mar 00 | UK
11 Jun 99 | Entertainment
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