Celebrity speakers and performers converged on the United Nations headquarters in New York City to highlight the plight of refugees on World Humanitarian Day. Friday’s celebrity show of support for efforts to aid refugees around the world came ahead of next month’s U.N. summit there to address the dire global crisis.
“I just hope that people will be reminded of our common humanity,” writer and keynote speaker Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie told The Huffington Post before the event, themed around the motto “One Humanity.”
“I’ve generally been troubled by the ways in which refugees and immigrants are talked about as though they are not fully human.”
“Game of Thrones” actress Natalie Dormer, “The Voice” winner Alisan Porter, former “Hamilton” actor Leslie Odom Jr. were among the artists onstage at the event, which fell on the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, which killed 22 people. Each celebrity spoke with heartfelt messages for humanitarian support in between clips from a 2016 PBS Frontline documentary, “Children of Syria,” telling the story of the Kamil family’s life in Aleppo, Syria, and migration to Germany. Dormer specifically called on the international community to protect women and girls from sexual violence and “engage men and boys in the conversation,” echoing U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson’s words as the British actress kicked off the feminist HeForShe campaign in 2014.
“In most of the conflicts around the world, rape has become a weapon of war, with women directly targeted by fighting parties,” Dormer said.
After performances that included the vocal stylings of an “Arab Idol” winner from Palestine, the audience of press, nongovernmental organization workers and members of the public heard from Hala Kamil, who spoke passionately against the violence in her home country. Soldiers took her husband in Aleppo and she’s not heard from him since.
A message appeared on screens behind the stage: “tweet your leader” with a designated hashtag, #ShareHumanity.
The New York City event comes three months after the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, where 55 heads of state and government gathered along with representatives from 173 member nations. However, President Barack Obama did not attend, nor did Secretary of State John Kerry. Also absent were Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, France’s Francois Hollande and Britain’s then-Prime Minister David Cameron. In fact, Germany’s Angela Merkel was the only leader from the largest global powers to attend the Istanbul summit. (Aid group Doctors Without Borders boycotted the summit, which it dismissed as a “fig leaf of good intentions.”) U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that he considered the turnout from the world’s richest countries “disappointing.”
Conflict in Syria alone has led 12 million people to flee, according to leader of the U.N., which stated in January that humanitarian efforts would require an additional $15 billion in funding.
However, “Quantico” actress Yasmine Al Massri stressed before the New York City event the small actions ordinary people could take to help refugees abroad.
“You don’t have to belong to an organization. Your government does not have to have a plan or a budget to help refugees. You and your neighbors can buy three suitcases, put some clothes [in] them, put some coats, put some baby things, and find somewhere to send them,” she told HuffPost. “Go online. Go on the United Nations website.”
The U.N. will hold its summit to address issues related to refugees and migrants on September 19 in New York City.