21 October 2010 - Vienna - (UNODC) - Today at the United Nations global conference against organized crime in Vienna, Oscar-winning actor, filmmaker and UNODC Goodwill Ambassador, Nicolas Cage reaffirmed his commitment to helping the countless numbers of women and children whose lives had been struck down by crime.
Mr. Cage made a plea on behalf of innocent victims before the UN Conference which is reviewing progress one decade after the adoption of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
Referring to his work as UNODC Goodwill Ambassador, he said, "I met many children who were victims of crime and I listened to their stories. They were survivors of sex trafficking and former child soldiers; some were receiving treatment for drug addiction or HIV. Their stories were heart-wrenching".
"I met a young girl who had been the sex slave of a rebel leader and bore his child. I met a boy who was forced to kill his own sister. Yet I was also amazed by these children, and deeply humbled. So many of the children I met displayed incredible strength and resilience, and an almost incomprehensible capacity for forgiveness-of both themselves and others".
UNODC Executive Director, Yury Fedotov paid tribute to Nicolas Cage as a humanitarian committed to a promoting a victim-centred approach in tackling organized crime. "He established a fund to help former child soldiers, providing vital support for on-the-ground rehabilitation shelters and medical and psychological services. In addition to supporting UNODC's work, he has also supported efforts to promote international arms control and to rebuild New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina".
Last year Cage travelled with UNODC to Uganda and Kenya to learn about how child soldiers were recruited and other forms of human trafficking abuses. He also observed first-hand how UNODC is tackling challenging issues such as piracy, prison conditions, HIV and AIDS and drug addiction in the region. He listened to the plight of many victims including fifteen-year old Rashad, serving a ten-year prison sentence for piracy in Kenya.
"In prison at fifteen. I'm sure many of you are parents, and some of you may even have a fifteen-year-old son. If you do, what is your son's life like?" he asked. "Now think about Rashad, who has no parents, condemned to a decade behind bars".
"Thanks to support from UNODC, conditions at Shimo Le Tewa prison are quite good. In fact, it serves as a model for prisons in the region….But Rashad is still a child in prison" he stated.
Paying homage to the host of unsung individuals whose support helps vulnerable young people to survive, Cage said, "Through working with UNODC, I've come to understand who the world's real heroes are. I've seen the brave souls working on the frontlines, operating under the most difficult circumstances and with very limited resources, to help victims of organized crime….They are ordinary people. Yet they are also extraordinary".
"Throughout my career as an actor I've played many parts: heroes and villains, lovers and losers, and yes, both criminals and crime-fighters. But Goodwill Ambassador for Global Justice for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime is certainly my most challenging and meaningful role" said the Hollywood star.
Mr. Cage has starred in some 65 major motion pictures. He won an Oscar for Best Actor for Leaving Las Vegas and was later nominated for his dual performances in Adaptation. He is the recipient of a Golden Globe Award, two MTV Movie Awards and a Screen Actors Guild Award, among others, as well as having a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In May 2009, Mr Cage also launched "Welcome to Gulu", a benefit exhibition at United Nations Headquarters in New York, featuring paintings by former Ugandan child soldiers and abducted girls.
Mr. Cage's speech will be webcast on www.unodc.org
The media may obtain footage of his visit via FTP or UNIFEED
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