Robbie Williams was introduced to UNICEF UK by the late Ian Dury, himself a UNICEF Special Representative in 1998, when they travelled together to Sri Lanka to see UNICEF's work. In 2001, Robbie became a UNICEF UK Ambassador and has continued to be a passionate supporter ever since visiting UNICEF's work on HIV and AIDS in Mozambique and South Africa, and fronting UNICEF's Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS campaign.
How it all began
In 1998, UNICEF were searching for a new face to use for a fundraising campaign called Music For UNICEF. Ian Dury, a UK Ambassador at the rime, was asked to come up with a list of musicians in the UK, but came up with only one… Robbie Williams. with the help of their mutual make-up artists, the pair made contact and the rest, as they say, is history.
Robbie officially took over from Ian Dury in June 2000, after Ian's death from cancer. his first assignment with UNICEF was week-long trip with Ian to Jaffna, the war-torn Tamil capital of Sri Lanka. Their quest was the experience a Day of Tranquility and to launch and promote Sri Lanka's National Immunisation day. The occasion would see a beak i the convict agreed by both sides, so that children under five could be immunised against polio.
Ian and Robbie formed a great bond on the trip and proved to be unstoppable advocates on UNICEF's behalf, putting their names to things where the magic of celebrity has made the difference between success and failure.
Whatever he does for UNICEF, Robbie is a real hit with the kids. From football tricks with children in a refugee champ in Sri Lanka, to face-painting with youngsters at a North London school, the children are always his biggest fans.
UNICEF helps children get the care and stimulation they need in the early years of life and encourages families to educate girls as well as boys. It strives to reduce childhood death and illness and to protect children in the midst of war and natural disaster, including those affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. UNICEF supports young people, wherever they are, in making informed decisions about their own lives, and strives to build a world in which all children live in dignity and security.
Working with national governments, NGSs (non-governmental organisations), other United Nations agencies and private-sector partners, UNICEF protects children and their rights by providing services and supplies and by helping shape policy agendas and budgets in the best interests of children.
Robbie has been involved in a number of important campaigns for UNICEF.
The Haiti earthquake on 12 January 2010 devastated the country; killing over 220,000 people, injuring more than 300,000 and affecting three million lives.
With almost 1.3 million Haitians still living in emergency shelters, Robbie spent two days in Jacmel, the devastated heart of Haiti, for UNICEF to meet some of the country's worst affected residents.
During his trip Robbie kept a diary, which you can read here.
Watch his Soccer Aid appeal, which he filmed in Haiti, below:
To further support the Helping Haiti cause, Robbie also recorded a solo contribution to the charity single Everybody Hurt, from which proceeds were split between the Helping Haiti fund and the Disasters Emergency Committee.
Unite for Children
On World AIDS Day 2005, UNICEF Ambassadors Robbie Williams and David Beckham joined forces in this video to support UNICEF's campaign, Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS on film.
End Child Exploitation
Launched in 2002, UNICEF UK's campaign to End Child Exploitation aims to heighten public awareness of the issues of child trafficking, sexual exploitation and child labour. Robbie's first public project for the campaign was the narration of a shirt film, 'More Precious Than Gold', in June 2003, to highlight the harsh issue of child trafficking.
He described the three-minute movie as "short, but definitely not sweet". Shown as his European concerts and featured on Live At Knebworth, the film called on the government to bring in laws to protect the victims of child trafficking.
As part of the End Child Exploitation campaign, Robbie took time out from his European Tour in November 2003 to visit disadvantaged children in Moscow. It was his chance to see first-hand how poverty and family breakdown were making children vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking.
"It's a real eye-opener seeing how kids like this have to live - especially when it's so cold during the winter," Robbie said speaking of his trip. "Luckily there are places like the UNICEF-supported shelter where kids can come if they have nowhere else to go. It's palace full of fun and laughter and I feel privileged to have spent some time with there kids."
Break The Silence
The Break The Silence campaign aims to raise awareness of the reluctance of many countries to acknowledge the widespread problem of HIV/AIDS.
In December 2000, Robbie marked Worlds Aids Day by literally bringing down the 'Wall of Silence' on a building site in London's East End.
Robbie visits Mozambique
In May 2000, Robbie made a trip to Mozambique to see the double disasters facing the country - of HIV/AIDS and the devastating flood damage.
Here, Robbie mer some of the people who had lost everything in the floods of 1999. Months after the natural disaster it was still a devastating sight.
He was also taken to visit the children's ward of the central hospital in Beira, Mozambique's second city, in a bid to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and more international aid to fight it. It was a humbling experience for Robbie, who struggled to find the right words to describe the effect it had on him.
BBC's African correspondent Jane Standley accompanied Robbie on his mission and you can read her report here.
National Immunisation Day, Sri Lanka
In September 1998, Robbie ventured on a week-long trip with mentor, Ian Dury, to Jaffna, in wor-torn Sri Lanka. The purpose of their trip was to experience a 'Day of Tranquility' and to launch and promote Sri Lanka's National Immunisation Day.
They also spent a day on an immunisation site, raising awareness of the plight of the Sir Lankans and entertaining the masses.