A Holocaust survivor, Nobel Laureate, writer and human rights activist, Elie Wiesel was designated as a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 1998. He lent his compassionate voice throughout the years to numerous United Nations causes, such as focusing public attention on eradicating poverty and the atrocities occurring in the Darfur region of Sudan. He was a regular presence at the United Nations, including at the first-ever International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.
Born in the Transylvanian town of Sighet, Mr. Wiesel was 15 years old when he and his family were deported to Auschwitz. He was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize for Peace and soon after founded The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity with his wife, Marion Wiesel, to combat intolerance and injustice.
Mr. Wiesel, who passed away on 2 July 2016, was remembered by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as one of the world’s “most important witnesses — and one of its most eloquent advocates of tolerance and peace”.
Known worldwide as “the Greatest”, three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer Muhammad Ali (USA) was designated UN Messenger of Peace in 1998. Spending most of his time outside the boxing ring devoted to the pursuit of peace, Mr. Ali first came to the UN in 1978 to address the UN Special Committee against Apartheid with a message of peace and spirituality.
He brought people from all races together by preaching “healing” to everyone irrespective of race, religion or age. Over the years Mr. Ali was a relentless advocate for people in need and a significant humanitarian actor in the developing world, supporting relief and development initiatives and hand-delivering food and medical supplies to hospitals, street children and orphanages in Africa and Asia.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paid tribute to Mr. Ali upon his passing on 3 June 2016, saying the United Nations was grateful “to have benefitted from the life and work of one of the past century’s great humanitarians and advocates for understanding and peace.”
International tennis player Vijay Amritraj (India) was designated UN Messenger of Peace on 9 February 2001. Mr Amritraj has been a committed advocate to people in need, devoting his time to raising awareness on the issues of drugs and HIV/AIDS. He has participated in and organized charitable events worldwide, raising funds to fight the spread of AIDS and is associated with numerous Indian-American charitable and community organizations.
Author and journalist Anna Cataldi (Italy) was designated UN Messenger of Peace in 1998. She is the author of “Letters from Sarajevo” which chronicled the impact of war on Bosnia’s children. To mark the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Ms. Cataldi initiated a project to create and distribute a “passport” version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for children. As a human rights advocate, she has traveled to a number of conflict zones where the UN is engaged, including the Balkans, Central Africa and Afghanistan.
A committed human rights advocate, actor, director, writer and producer George Clooney used his global appeal to focus public attention and support for United Nations peacekeeping efforts around the world.
In September 2006, Mr. Clooney spoke to members of the United Nations Security Council at an out-of-session meeting to help mobilize political action against the violence in Darfur.
In April 2007, Mr. Clooney co-founded Not On Our Watch, a non-profit organization using influential people in the arts to capture global attention and resources as a way to combat mass atrocities around the world. The organization’s first priority is to help bring about a resolution to the Darfur crisis.
Professor Wangari Maathai contributed over many decades to furthering the ideals and objectives of the United Nations. A globally recognized champion for human rights and women’s empowerment, Professor Maathai was a pioneer in articulating the links between human rights, poverty, environmental protection and security — for which she was awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.
Born in Kenya, the daughter of farmers in the highlands of Mount Kenya, she was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctoral degree. She subsequently became an associate Professor in Veterinary Anatomy in 1977 at the University of Nairobi and, that same year, founded the Green Belt Movement. The grassroots environmental organization has assisted women and their families in planting more than 40 million trees across Kenya to protect the environment and promote sustainable livelihoods.
In recognition of her deep commitment, the Secretary-General named her a United Nations Messenger of Peace in December 2009, with a focus on the environment and climate change, a role she carried out effectively and enthusiastically until her passing on 25 September 2011.
Designated Messenger of Peace in 1997, singer-composer Enrico Macias (France) is a human rights activist, supporting many NGOs and humanitarian grass roots movements. His music reflects his strong commitment to the promotion of human rights, peace and tolerance, and draws attention to the plight of refugees around the globe. Born in Algeria, Mr. Macias knows the refugee’s pain of the loss of country, family and friends. He left his country as a refugee and immigrated to France more than 30 years ago. In 1979, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat invited Mr. Macias to perform a peace concert in Egypt soon after Egypt and Israel had signed their historic peace treaty.
Jazz musician Wynton Marsalis was designated Messenger of Peace on 20 March 2001. He has devoted much of his professional career to teaching and advocating music education and has donated musical instruments and assisted young musicians from underprivileged backgrounds with scholarships. On a recent European tour, Mr. Marsalis, Artistic Director for Jazz at the Lincoln Center, and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra helped raise funds for the Gujarat Earthquake Appeal.
The internationally recognized opera singer served as a United Nations Messenger of Peace for nearly a decade before his death at age 71 in Modena, Italy on 6 September 2007. Mr. Pavarotti was strongly committed to alleviating the suffering of children in war-torn countries and generated millions of dollars in humanitarian aid. He staged concerts, marshaled talented friends to raise funds, and lent his name and reputation to the United Nations to promote its efforts to protect human rights and refugees around the world. The Secretary-General joins Mr. Pavarotti’s countless fans and admirers, as well as those he worked to help and heal, in giving thanks for his life.