The 49-year-old Oscar winner will be recognized next week for his commitment to using cinema to promote humanitarian ideals, the organization said.
Whitaker's screen work includes the films "Better Angels," "Common Destiny" and "Last King of Scotland."
"As a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Mr. Whitaker will champion the agency's priorities, including mobilizing decision-makers globally to support youth programs on education for peace, human rights and global citizenship," the group said in a news release Thursday.
The actor is to be the keynote speaker at a youth forum during UNESCO's 36th General Conference in October.
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