The United Nations anti-crime arm has named acclaimed American painter Ross Bleckner as Goodwill Ambassador to Combat Human Trafficking, at the opening of an art exhibition displaying paintings by former child soldiers and abducted girls from Uganda.
Bleckner, the first artist to be honoured as a UN Goodwill Ambassador, has been appointed to spearhead the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) "Blue Heart" campaign against human trafficking.
Launched in March, the initiative aims to raise awareness about the millions of victims and rally support to combat this modern form of slavery.
Proceeds raised from the sale of some 200 paintings, as well as some of Bleckner's own portraits, will benefit children from Gulu in northern Uganda who created the works.
In recent years, Gulu and other areas of northern Uganda, have been plagued by rebel groups snatching, recruiting and conscripting thousands of children, forcing the boys to be killers and girls to be sex slaves.
In January, Bleckner joined UNODC and the International Criminal Court's Trust Fund for Victims on an official mission to Gulu, assisting in the rehabilitation of former child soldiers and abducted girls through art therapy.
"Art is one of the most powerful advocacy tools to raise awareness and move people to take action," said UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa.