How to Become a UN Ambassador

Are you slated to become an extremely prominent personality from the world of art, music, film, sport, business or literature? Do you have a deep passion for social and environmental issues, combined with a demonstrated desire to change the world for the billions who occupy it?


Don't be shy about it, and don't be afraid to aim high...after all, those will be your biggest two obstacles if you are considering a career as a UN Goodwill Ambassador.


If you're up to the challenge of rising to the top, and you desperately want to see a better world, then a role as a United Nations ambassador may be in your future. If we’ve piqued your interest, then let’s figure out more about what these advocates do, and how you can break into this field!



What is a United Nations Ambassador?

A United Nations (UN) ambassador, also known as a UN Goodwill Ambassador, is a renowned individual from the arts, music, cinema, sport, literature or the sciences, who has been enlisted to advocate for the various causes the United Nations. 





General Job Description

In general, the job of a United Nations ambassador is to promote the work of the United Nations in areas where there is a need to focus worldwide attention. This work may take place at a national, regional, or international level.


Their main objectives are to raise public and political awareness, and sometimes also funds, to the different United Nations programs in areas such as:


• Peace and security

• Education and culture

• Mental, social, and physical health

• Environmental and sustainability issues

• Economic development and poverty alleviation

• Poverty and hunger eradication

• Family planning

• Drug abuse and trafficking

• Human rights, including women’s, children’s and refugees’ rights



What Does a UN Ambassador Do?

General job duties


• Articulate the philosophy of the UN program they represent

• Motivate people to act in the interest of improving their own lives and those of their fellow citizens

• May participate in certain pre-approved United Nations events  

• Travel to United Nations operations in the field for first-hand observation

• May engage in public advocacy and fundraising activities

• Refrain from any conduct that would adversely reflect on the United Nations

• Obtain guidance on specific activities from the UN staff assigned to act as a liaison



Difference Between a 'UN Ambassador', and an 'Ambassador to the UN'

The term “United Nations Ambassador” is often confused with the term, “Ambassador to the United Nations”. As described above, a United Nations ambassador is a celebrity advocate who helps draw worldwide attention to issues that affect the wellbeing of millions, or even billions of people.


An ambassador to the United Nations, on the other hand, is a diplomatic official accredited to the United Nations to serve as the official representative of his or her own country, and represent their country’s interests in the UN General Assembly, and/or on the UN Security Council.


Simply put, a UN ambassador is a celebrity advocate, and an ambassador to the UN is a politician.



How Much Do They Earn?

UN ambassadors volunteer their time, passion, energy and talents to promote peace and other aims of the Charter of the United Nations. They are not paid a salary. A symbolic payment of $1 per year or equivalent may be granted to them.


UN Goodwill Ambassadors may be given travel and daily subsistence allowances when they are traveling on behalf of the UN, depending on the discretion of the sub-organization that they represent. UN Goodwill Ambassadors are however, encouraged to self-finance their travel.




Characteristics Needed to Become a Successful

The UN doesn’t just pick anyone to become one of its Goodwill Ambassadors; if you hope to become one someday, you must meet the following criteria:


Be at the top of your field: You must be a household name. Whether it's broadcasting, politics, the literary world, the performing arts, or in a sport, your talents and achievements must make you stand out from those who stand out.


Represent cultural values: To have the maximum impact on a target population, you must represent the cultural values of that population.


Personal values: Arguably the most important trait you’ll need, is a set of personal values that align with the mandate of the UN. Do you have a deep concern for the world’s poor, environmental sustainability, protecting human rights, or empowering women? If so, you’re off to a good start.


Live and breathe it: In the past, some ambassadors have been accused of merely using their title as a UN Goodwill Ambassador to boost their image. Doing so would impede someone from becoming truly successful in this role. You must be committed to upholding the UN’s values in your everyday life, as well as in the role, in order to succeed as a UN ambassador. 



Who Creates Jobs for Them?

It may seem obvious that the United Nations creates jobs for its ambassadors, but it’s a big organization. Since 1954, a total of 16 United Nations system organizations (2006 statistics) have at some time had an ambassadors program in place. These programs are, however, at different stages of development; some fully fledged, while others are still in development. These organizations include:


• Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),

• United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

• United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

• Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

• World Health Organization (WHO)

• United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),

• World Food Programme (WFP)

• United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)

• United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)



Being Chosen as a UN Ambassador: Selection Criteria

Individuals who are invited to serve as UN Goodwill Ambassadors must typically meet the following criteria:


• Have widely recognized talent in the arts, sciences, literature, entertainment, sports or other fields of public life

• Demonstrate a strong desire to help mobilize public support for the cause 

• Demonstrate the commitment and proven potential to reach out to significant audiences, including decision makers

• Have good credentials related to the mandate (such as the environment, human rights, etc.) in work or life

• Must be passionate and inspiring with regards to the mandate of the organization

• Possess the personality and dignity required for such high-level representative capacity

• Be influential beyond their national borders, thus having the ability to promote the values of the UN internationally

• Be knowledgeable and articulate with regards to the goals and activities of the mandate being represented

• Not be engaged with or endorsed products, organizations or causes that conflict with the UN’s values


Please Note: At the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Goodwill Ambassadors are selected for their experience in the private sector and international trade, to play an advisory role, in addition to the customary advocacy function. They are typically bankers, industrialists and business people, rather than celebrities.



Who Appoints UN Ambassadors?

United Nations Goodwill Ambassadors are designated by the heads of United Nations Funds, Programmes and specialized Agencies, such as UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP) and The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Goodwill Ambassadors are subsequently endorsed by the Secretary-General.



How Many Ambassadors Positions Exist?

Goodwill Ambassadors may have different titles at each sub-organization within the UN. As of 2006, there were more than 400 Goodwill Ambassadors for the UN, under the different categories and titles.


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Similar Occupations

If you’re interested in becoming an Ambassador for the United Nations, the following careers may also be of interest to you:


Animal Rights Coordinator: Animal rights coordinators are responsible for organizing staff and other resources, in order to promote their organization's animal rights mandate. 

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Diplomat: Diplomats are responsible for acting as a representative of their home country in relations with other countries. Diplomats must also work to facilitate relations with other countries, especially during times of negotiation or crisis. 

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Human Rights Activist: Human rights activists perform in-depth investigations concerning allegations of human rights abuse, and by execute high-profile advocacy campaigns. 

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International Aid Worker: In general, international aid workers are responsible for providing everyday, and emergency, services that improve the lives of animals, people and communities in the developing world. 

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Social Worker: Social workers are responsible for helping families, individuals, couples, groups, communities and organizations develop the skills and resources necessary for enhancing social functioning.

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To find out more about what a United Nations Ambassador does, and how to become one, please consult the following resources:


Partnerships:Goodwill Ambassadors.” (n.d.). UN Women website. Retrieved January 15, 2020.

Content:Goodwill Ambassadors and Advocates.” (n.d.) United Nations Development Programme website. Retrieved January 15, 2020.

Women Watch:A Guide to a Career with the United Nations.” (n.d.). United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs website. Retrieved January 15, 2020.



Scholarships Relevant to this Career

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Applicable Majors

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