Celebrities and the Global Development Agenda

Pop quiz: Connie Britton, Lily Cole, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Alicia Keys, Edward Norton, Emma Watson. Other than the fact that they are one of the most famous people in the world, what other commonality do they have?

Answer: They are those who stood in front of the public this year and talked about their work and/or interest in the global development issues.

As all of you might have seen or read through the news, Emma Watson recently made a big impact to the society by giving a speech at the United Nations about Feminism and how men have to make it their problem as well – for their “daughters, sisters, and mothers” – and launched the HeForShe campaign.
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Matt Damon, actor, philanthropist and co-founder of Water.org, went on stage during a panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative to talk about his work on water and quoted that “To solve world poverty, you need clean water”.
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Leonardo DiCaprio, actor, founder of Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, and recently appointed United Nations Messenger of Peace, spoke at the United Nations Climate Summit to address the seriousness of climate change and urged global leaders to take prompt action.

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As examples above, for the past few years, I’ve seen an increasing number of celebrities and renowned people joining the global society to share their concerns and involving themselves to make the world a better place. Some people like Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio are creating their own organization, and some people like Emma Watson and Connie Britton are acting as goodwill ambassadors for the United Nations.

However, I always have this big question bubble above my head when I see celebrities talking about those issues – Are they for real? Are they really interested in those issues? Maybe I’m just being pessimistic about this, but really, how do you know? They might be just doing what they are because they feel obligated to fulfill what are expected of them to be a better person – a good example to follow. Am I being paranoid and really just being pessimistic about this whole situation?

Nonetheless, I do believe that celebrity involvements, regardless of their veracity, are useful. Thanks to them, issues get more spotlight and thus get more public attention from those who were ignorant. After all, my inspirations for helping children are from Audrey Hepburn (past UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador), and Angelina Jolie (past UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and current Special Envoy to the UNHCR).

But in the end, we have to question – Is it okay to appoint people who are not genuine? Wouldn’t it be lying to the public if we don’t?