Dear friends and colleagues,
We are agreed: the recent UNICEF ‘Schools for Africa’ campaign, in
which white children were coloured with dirt/make-up/shoe cream in an
attempt to represent ‘African children’ simply should not have
happened. What is UNICEF doing to atone for the damage it has caused?
We have written a list of demands which, if they are fulfilled, will
demonstrate publicly that no German organisation has the right to
depict human beings in a demeaning way. Indeed, mistakes of this kind
can be avoided in the future, if UNICEF agrees to meet our demands.
In order to attract as much attention to our cause as possible we have
issued a press release and sent the demands to UNICEF.
We would like to ask you to lend your explicit support to this course
of action! Please copy our letter and send it to UNICEF and the UN (“it’s your world”):
To help us keep track of the progress of the campaign, we would be
grateful if you would send us a copy of your email at:
Ms Heide Simonis, Alexandra-Friederike Princess of Schoenaich-Carolath,
and UNICEF employees,
In the UNICEF ‘Schools for Africa’ Campaign, white children were
coloured with dirt/make-up/shoe cream in order to depict ‘African
children’. We are certain you would agree that this simply should no
have happened. Many UNICEF employees, countless civil rights
organisations and shocked individuals from countries across the world
have recognised this and have written to UNICEF to express their
Regrettably, the standard response issued by UNICEF Germany makes
clear that the organisation still has not recognised precisely why the
campaign was so insulting and damaging. This is highly
unsatisfactory. The whole-page advertisements were published in
several national newspapers, thus lending an extremely high public
profile to the representation of sweeping cliches and racist images
and giving the impression to the Germany public that these were
perfectly humanitarian and acceptable.
What action is UNICEF taking in order to atone for the damage it has caused?
UNICEF is a United Nations organisation, therefore this case has
considerable political consequences: to what extent can a UN
organisation insult and villify people, regarding and treating them as
subservient and irrelevant, without these actions having any
consequences for the organisation? Countless individuals have written
to express their disconcern.
For this reason, we demand:
– the publishing of whole page advertisements in the same newspapers
in which the original advertisements appeared. These
counterstatements should inform the readers that it was wrong and
damaging to have used the images (suggested text below)
– an educational / training meeting of the Chairs of the UNICEF
diversity departments (particular from, but not limited to, the USA
and England), with UNICEF Germany employees responsible for the
conception and management of the ‘Schools for Africa’ Campaign.
– that the following policy is introduced at an institutional level
and strictly observed: in future, competent professionals,
specialising in Diversity Management or Anti-Discriminatory Practice as well as members of the groups that are supposed to receive the help/donations are consulted in order to inform all advertising campaigns of UNICEF
– To be informed as to when and how these demands have been (or will be) met.
Because your organisation has an exclusive focus on humanitarian
issues, we are certain you will agree that the actions listed above
will be viewed positively. Indeed it is essential that these actions
are carried out, if your goal ‘equal opportunities for all children’
is to be reached.
Vorstand der braune mob e.V.
media-watch – schwarze deutsche in medien und öffentlichkeit
Division for Social Policy and Development
Department of Economic and Social Affairs,
United Nations, DC2-1320,
New York, NY 10017, USA
Fax: 1 212 963 3062
suggested Public Apology:
UNICEF Deutschland recently published an advertising campaign “Schools
for Africa”. The aim of the campaign was to draw attention to the
fact that, regrettably, there are still children in some countries in
Africa who are unable to access primary level education.
Despite our sincere intentions to highlight the plight of these
children, our campaign was conceptually flawed as it perpetuated
several damaging and negative stereotypes about Africa.
In a series of images, four white German children, each with their
faces coloured brown, were depicted next to statements which made
sweeping generalisations about the lack of education of African
With the benefit of hindsight we can now see that colouring children’s
faces was a serious error in judgement. Black skin colour is neither
‘dirty’ nor should it be compared to ‘make-up’.
We apologise unreservedly for the offensive nature of this campaign.