Posted by: Sam Carson | 30 August, 2007

Beyond the Hype: what was Princess Diana’s legacy?

When one thinks of Princess Diana, the first thought may be of the media hype. Or the teary interview, the photos on a luxury yacht or the crashed car in the tunnel. There are many different Dianas left over after a decade of her memory. The BBC has put together another look at the Princess, investigating how her charity and causes have faired continued in the past ten years.

I remember her for the landmines. Before I heard Diana speak on the issue, it had never occured to me the problem that landmines present, but since then, it has always followed me.

In Afghanistan over 10 million landmines were dropped by the Soviets in their war in Afghanistan in the 80s. An estimated 4 million remain. In 2002 alone, 1,286 casualties were reported due to landmines in Afghanistan alone, according to No More Landmines.

In the tourist office in Post Stanley, Falkland Islands, you don’t get a map of the town, but a map of the area, shaded red, yellow and green to say where you can walk. As of 2001, twenty years after the war, there was still a vast amount of red.

It costs a lot of money to remove landmines and cluster bombs. For this reason, Cambodia is still covered with 4 million of them.
My thinking on Landmines changed because of Diana, and I wasn’t the only one.

Keith Kelly, director of the No More Landmines Trust, says: “Where it became part of the public consciousness was when Diana went to Angola and walked through the minefield. It was a successful use of her celebrity.”

In fact, her star power seems to have helped with put forward the Mine Band treaty, signed in December of 1997, just months after her death. Today 122 countries have ratified this treaty, and others abide by it. The United States has not signed the treaty, though funds much of the world’s de-mining. Speaking of Princess Diana’s assistance to the cause Mr. Kelly says:

“There are thousands of people around the world who have directly benefited from her legacy. There are millions who have benefited indirectly. She has an incredibly positive legacy,” he adds.

“In 10 or 15 years time, we hope organizations like us won’t need to be there.”.

Princess Diana also helped lift some of the stigma and ignorance that surrounded AIDS. Remember in the late 1980s and early 1990s AIDS was misunderstood and mainly seen as a “gay problem”. Diana was one of the many personalities that helped to comfort those who had the virus and inform those who didn’t.

Lisa Power, head of policy at the Terence Higgins Trust, says Diana’s example gave people a clear signal HIV was nothing to be ashamed

Rachael Bruce, spokeswoman for the National Aids Trust, agrees. Diana’s example of touching patients had a huge impact, she says.

“It really made people realize that those with HIV should not be treated like outcasts. They needed compassion and sympathy.

The many other causes that Diana champion ranged from Centrepoint, a charity for the young homeless, and Leprosy Mission. As with AIDS, Leprosy is a largely misunderstood stigmatized condition.

Keith Nicholson, director of the Leprosy Mission, says Diana was the charity’s first patron – and that they have not had one since her death.

“She sat on the bed of sufferers, touched them, shook hands with them, talked to them. Up to that point, it was not the done thing. She was a champion for those that are marginalised, she showed the world there was nothing to be afraid of.”

It is easy to remember Diana for the tabloid mess that overcame her. But there are many reasons why she moved people the way she did. Few have the “star power” that she had, and fewer still have been able to use it so effectively.

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Responses

  1. Hi there. I’m a journalism student at Bournemouth Univesity doing a radio package on Princess Diana’s legacy. I loved your post and think you have some very valid and interesting points on the topic. Would you be able to help me with a really short 5 minute telephone interview to get a quote for my project in the not too distant future? If you or anyone else would be willing to help me, could you email me? Many thanks, Jacqui Kane


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