Note to Correspondents

Note No 126
7 March 2001


Geneva, 6 March 2001. – On 19 March, UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) will appoint French soccer champion Zinédine Zidane as Goodwill Ambassador for the fight against poverty at a ceremony that will take place at 11 am in Geneva at the Palais des Nations. Zidane will thus join other UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors Brazilian legendary football player Ronaldo, US actor Danny Glover, South African Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer and Japanese actress Misako Kono to boost UNDP’s advocacy in support of poverty eradication.

Nearly one in five people – some 1.2 billion men, women and children – currently live in extreme poverty, subsisting on the equivalent of less than a dollar a day, and one person in two struggles under an income poverty line of two dollars a day. 800 million people do not have access to health services, and 500 million are chronically malnourished. 90 million children are unable to attend primary school, and 230 million do not have access to secondary school.

"No longer do we have to live with the assumption that ‘the poor are always with us’. We have the means and the know-how to do something about it", claims UNDP’s head Mark Malloch Brown. This is precisely one of the messages that Zinédine Zidane will deliver as a UNDP ambassador. In fact, several countries boast spectacular results: the proportion of income poor people decreased from 60% in 1960 to 14% in 1993 in Malaysia and from 54% in 1974 in India down to 39% in 1994. Human poverty reduction made great strides during the 1990ies when adult illiteracy decreased in developing countries from 35% to 28%, income poverty from 29% to 24%, and the risk to die before reaching the age of 40 from 20% of all new born to 14%.

"We should not be deterred by the magnitude of remaining problems", says Zidane, "because the good news is that each of us can do something to help reduce poverty". Zinédine Zidane’s main role with UNDP will be to stimulate action at all levels of society. He will receive his credentials as ambassador from the Associate Administrator of UNDP, Mr Zephirin Diabré.

Zidane first collaborated with UNDP over a year ago, when he and Ronaldo launched UNDP’s mobilisation campaign "Teams to End Poverty". Photographed by Dominique Issermann, they appeared in an advertisement that has been carried pro-bono in full page by more than 150 media outlets throughout Europe, inviting people, business and institutions to get involved in anti-poverty action locally or internationally and to press for well-off countries to increase their aid budget in favour of disadvantaged countries. Zidane himself chose to support an education project in Albania, one of Europe’s poorest countries. Recently, Omar Sharif and Carla Bruni appeared in a similar "Teams to End Poverty" UNDP advertisement, and will be followed by many other celebrities such as Martina Hingis, Gérard Depardieu, Jacques Villeneuve, Jeanne Moreau, Satya, Serguei Bubka, etc… This campaign is designed pro-bono by the agency Leagas Delaney, and has attracted some of the world’s leading photographers including Sarah Moon, Satoshi Saikusa, Paolo Roversi, Jeanloup Sieff, Helmut Newton, Javier Valhonrat, Fernando Scianna, Sebastiao Salgado…

At the Millenium Summit organized in September 2000 by the United Nations, over 160 heads of State and government – the largest ever gathering of world leaders – adopted the objective of halving the number of people living in poverty by 2015. UNDP is in charge of leading the contribution of the United Nations agencies in tackling this goal. UNDP helps the governments of developing countries plan and implement strategies and measures for reducing poverty. In addition to advising governments, UNDP creates partnerships with public and private actors to foster people centred economic and social development. As the "development agency of developing countries", UNDP also has an advocacy role, in particular through the yearly publication of the "Human Development Report", which offers creative policy proposals alongside an updated situation of how people are faring world wide. "Teams to End Poverty" is, together with NetAid, one of the instruments set in place by UNDP to communicate with the public at large and garner support for all those who are on the front line of poverty reduction.

Zinédine Zidane who plays with Juventus in Turin has been selected 62 times in the French national team and played a key role in France’s victory at the 1998 World Cup as well as at the European Cup of Nations in 2000. In 1998 he was elected by FIFA as the best player in the world. Born in 1972, in Marseille, France, he played with Cannes and Bordeaux before moving to Italy. Zinédine Zidane has been involved in a number of social and humanitarian actions mostly in a private manner. Public appearances included a charity football match in Marseille with the French team in early 2000 in favour of SOS Children Villages, and when UNDP made him team up again with Ronaldo to support the celebration organized on 24 August 2000 at the Stade de France near Paris by Secours Populaire Français in favour of 60,000 children whose families could not afford to send on vacation.

The appointment of Zinédine Zidane takes place during the International Year of the Volunteers proclaimed by the General Assembly of the UN to foster volunteerism. The appointment also coincides with the opening of the annual session of the Human Rights Commission, thus recalling that "freedom from want" is a basic Human Right.

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Journalists who are not accredited at the UN in Geneva who wish to cover the event and take part in the press conference with Zinédine Zidane on 19 March must register with UNDP. Please contact Jean Fabre in Geneva at (41-22) 917 85 42; fax 917 80 05; e-mail jean.fabre@undp.orgas soon as possible.