UN signs up Australian actress Cate Blanchett to boost support for refugees

Cate Blanchett throws a kiss as she arrives at the 88th Academy Awards in Hollywood on Feb 28.
Cate Blanchett throws a kiss as she arrives at the 88th Academy Awards in Hollywood on Feb 28.PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA (AFP) - The UN said Monday it had enlisted Oscar winning Australian actress Cate Blanchett to help raise awareness about the plight of refugees, amid a massive global displacement crisis.

The United Nations refugee agency said it had appointed Blanchett as its newest Goodwill Ambassador, a role long famously held by US film star Angelina Jolie.

"I am deeply proud to take on this role," Blanchett said in a statement, stressing that "there has never been a more crucial time to stand with refugees and show solidarity".

"We are living through an unprecedented crisis, and there must be shared responsibility worldwide," she added.

Last year, a record 60 million people worldwide were displaced from their homes, and more than one third of them were living as refugees, according to the UNHCR.

But solidarity has recently appeared to be in short supply in Europe for instance, which is facing surging xenophobia as it reels from its worst migration crisis since World War II.

"It feels like we're at a fork in the road, do we go down the compassionate path or do we go down the path of intolerance?" Blanchett said.

"As a mother, I want my children to go down the compassionate path," she added.

Ahead of the announcement, Blanchett had gone to Jordan to see for herself the massive operation there to help people displaced by Syria's brutal five-year conflict and to meet refugee families first hand and hear their stories, UNHCR said.

Before that, she had been working closely with the agency for over a year to raise awareness around the forcibly displaced, including a trip to Lebanon last year to meet stateless people.

UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi hailed Blanchett's appointment saying it would help "create better public understanding and support for refugees".

"She has already demonstrated great commitment to the cause and we look forward to seeing her inspire many more people in her new role," he said, stressing: "Never has there been a greater need to build these bridges".