The much-honoured socially conscious actor, producer and director, Lord Richard Attenborough, was named Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF on 27 October 1987.
His appointment followed a long acquaintance with UNICEF’s field programmes and field staff, built during the filming of projects such as ‘Gandhi’ in India and ‘Cry Freedom’ in Zimbabwe. He later went on to support benefit premieres of both ‘Gandhi’ and ‘Cry Freedom’, raising over US$1 million for UNICEF-supported programmes.
In his role as a Goodwill Ambassador Lord Attenborough visited UNICEF projects across the world, including trips to Thailand, Kenya, South Africa and Swaziland. While in these countries he witnessed first-hand the full scope of UNICEF’s programmes and met with Heads of State and Government and senior ministers to discuss the concerns of the children he had encountered and been impassioned by.
In April 2000, he went on a mission to Mozambique to see the devastation left by the country’s worst floods in half a century. Following the trip Lord Attenborough set up a joint appeal with The Observer and UNICEF to get additional assistance to the Mozambicans. In 2007 Lord Attenborough also pledged his full support to UNICEF’s ‘Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS’ campaign.
Lord Puttnam, UNICEF UK Ambassador and long time friend of Lord Attenborough, said: “Richard was an incredibly kind, generous and magnificently warm man whose strong social conscience was borne out in everything he did – from his films such as Gandhi, to his remarkable dedication and commitment to children across the world in his role as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Throughout his years as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, Richard was an immensely powerful advocate for children’s issues. Through his creativity, integrity and passion he supported advocacy and fundraising initiatives, delivering amazing impact and transforming children’s lives the world over. I will miss him greatly. UNICEF will miss him greatly. Today we are all the poorer for his passing but there are thousands upon thousands of children the world over whose lives have been enriched by his living and we celebrate and are grateful for Richard’s life, his friendship and his support of UNICEF.”
Born in Cambridge, United Kingdom, on 29 August 1923, Lord Attenborough, the son of a university principal, spent his childhood in Leicester. He left home at age 17 to take up a Leverhulme scholarship at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and went on to have enormous success with parallel careers in both acting and directing. He directed the movie Gandhi which won eight Oscars in 1982. Lord Attenborough was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1976 and became Lord Richard Attenborough after he was granted a life peerage in 1993.
UNICEF UK President Lord Ashdown said: “Today we mourn the loss of a much-loved and respected member of the UNICEF family. Lord Attenborough was a giant of a man with the gentlest of manners whose support of UNICEF’s work for children was unwavering and inspiring. In his role as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador he raised millions of pounds and spoke up for children across the world who are not able to speak out or be heard on their own. He turned the volume up, and focused our attention, on some of the biggest challenges facing children around the world. UNICEF is greatly indebted to Lord Attenborough for his dedication and commitment to our work.”
Lord Ashdown extends the greatest sympathy of everyone at UNICEF UK to Lord Attenborough’s family at this sad time.