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Random Tweet From Kanye West About The U.N. Baffles The World

Kanye West surprised everyone --€ including the U.N. --€ by tweeting about the organization's sustainable development goals.
Chris Pizzello
Kanye West surprised everyone --€ including the U.N. --€ by tweeting about the organization's sustainable development goals.

Kanye West, who can never resist a Twitter controversy, sent out a seemingly bland tweet to his 28 million followers on Monday.

His tweet about the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals — a set of 17 goals to end extreme poverty, abolish inequality and improve the environment, among other things, by 2030 — has left the global development community scratching their heads.

Many people, especially those working to reach the Global Goals, pretty much can't believe what just happened.

Once heads stopped exploding, they began wondering: Why did he do it? And why three years after the goals were first adopted?

Various theories are being put forth.

Some speculate that West is out to redeem himself. He has made headlines over the past few weeks for saying in a TMZ interview that slavery was "a choice" and praising President Trump on Twitter.

Others think it's part of some kind of performance art piece, with West taking us all along for a ride.

The U.N., meanwhile, is just happy that he did it.

Since 2015, the institution has been trying to make the SDGs, not known for being the sexiest topic, "famous." The tweet from West is a welcome "surprise," says Florencia Soto Nino, associate spokesperson for the U.N. in New York City.

"Kanye's tweet helped us reach people we normally would not have reached," she says. "His fans may not be interested in U.N. issues, but maybe now they're more curious. The more people that know, the better."

Others share the U.N.'s enthusiasm.

But there was also criticism of the U.N.'s reaction.

Shakira Taveras, a digital strategist at Corelab, an agency that creates digital campaigns for social justice groups, said she was "baffled" by West's tweet — and disappointed by the U.N.'s reply to West on Twitter.

"It's tone deaf," says Taveras, who has worked on social media campaigns for various U.N. agencies and groups like the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and the Malala Fund. "It's like something a father who has no idea who Kanye West is would say."

The U.N. could have used West's lyrics or "some kind of cultural reference" to connect with his audience, she says. "The U.N. didn't even show what they've accomplished, or tell people what they can do to make the goals a reality."

In response to this criticism, Nino from the U.N. says that "the U.N. on Twitter tries to be as open and friendly as possible. It's not the U.N.'s job to troll Kanye's account."

As for the question of whether the tweet will make people care more about the Global Goals, Taveras is skeptical.

"Tweeting about the SDGs one time is not going to make them 'famous,' unless he consistently asks his audience to take action," she says. "In another hour, Kanye will tweet about something else."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Malaka Gharib is the deputy editor and digital strategist on NPR's global health and development team. She covers topics such as the refugee crisis, gender equality and women's health. Her work as part of NPR's reporting teams has been recognized with two Gracie Awards: in 2019 for How To Raise A Human, a series on global parenting, and in 2015 for #15Girls, a series that profiled teen girls around the world.
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