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The Rise of Celebrities in International Affairs

Mia Farrow in Sudan. Nasser Nasser/AP Photo

As the Ebola crisis worsens, world leaders are scrambling to find solutions. U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon has approached the issue by appealing to celebrities. He has reached out to Bono and other celebrities to secure the $1 billion USD needed to combat the virus. This unorthodox method of fundraising is becoming more popular in international affairs.

Perhaps this modern trend of relying on celebrity assistance is an indication that traditional international collaboration is failing.

There are many advantages of relying on celebrities for fundraising. Bono for instance was most likely chosen for his previous success raising money for AIDS. Celebrities are able to connect with large audiences and disseminate their message through different media to people who can be motivated to donate.

The focus on foreign aid is actually counterproductive to Africa’s development. Aid, while well intentioned, can inhibit underdeveloped countries from developing the necessary institutions independent of the international community. These countries must learn how to meet and respond to their own needs. Relying on the assistance of the international community is not a sustainable solution. Development issues in Africa are complex and multi-faceted. Over simplifying a solution does an injustice to the continent’s many issues. Perhaps celebrity initiatives should focus on ‘trade, not aid‘, which has proven more successful for development and growth in Africa.

There is a limit to what the voices of celebrities can accomplish. While it is true that they can reach large audience, their fame and wealth should not entitle them to such important positions in global affairs. Raising awareness is a commendable initiative and is extremely important. It is public officials however, who are elected to tackle international issues. Solutions to the world’s most pressing problems should come from a body of experts, not a panel of celebrities.

Malcolm McEachern
Malcolm McEachern recently completed his B.A. in Politics & International Relations at the Royal Holloway University of London. Malcolm studied a wide range of topics, from political theory to South Asian politics, and Post-Cold war defense. Malcolm’s main interests include security studies, refugees, human rights, and international relations theory. Malcolm is in the process of applying for a Masters in International Security. He aspires to work for an international organization that focuses on human rights.