For our first recap of 2017, we’ll be delving into UN Social 500 activity on South Sudan and its related refugee crisis, which generated lots of interest in Twitter in January. Perhaps not surprisingly, the most popular tweets focused on South Sudan featured a celebrity- model and actress Cara Delevingne, who traveled to Uganda in early January to meet with South Sudanese refugees. She traveled with Girl Up, the UN Foundation’s campaign focused on teen girls and with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), also known as the UN Refugee Agency. UNHCR staffer Khaled Kabbara traveled and tweeted with Delevingne as she visited refugee camps in Uganda to meet with South Sudanese refugees. Kabbara shared photos of the actress as she met with women and girls in the camp to discuss their aspirations and educational needs and shared the hashtag #withrefugees.
— Khaled Kabbara (@khaled_kabbara) January 10, 2017
Tweets by Kabbara and other UNHCR staffers involved in Delevingne’s trip shared other images of the actress playing soccer and dancing with children.
— Khaled Kabbara (@khaled_kabbara) January 11, 2017
The popularity of these tweets underscores how celebrity involvement can draw attention to UN priorities and agencies. Delevingne shared images and stories from her trip in a travel diary for Marie Claire magazine, in which she also highlighted the work of Girl Up and her involvement as a champion for the initiative. No wonder so many UN agencies engage celebrities as spokespeople, champions and Ambassadors to highlight problems around the world.
As Brendan McDonald noted, the current movement of refugees from South Sudan to neighboring countries began during an outbreak of extreme violence in the capital city of Juba during the summer of 2016.
Hundreds of thousands have fled South Sudan since then, bringing the total number of South Sudanese refugees to over a million, over 300,000 of which are in Uganda. Although the recent violence has exacerbated the refugee crisis, conflict has been driving the South Sudanese from their country for years, as highlighted by a photo shared by Kent Page of a refugee reunited with her children after three years of separation due to the crisis.
— Kent Page (@KentPage) December 29, 2016
Next month, the UN Social 500 team will continue to explore how UN staffers are using their social media accounts to draw critical attention to crises like the one unfolding in and around South Sudan.