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UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie wins award for humanitarian work

News Stories, 25 November 2013

© UNHCR/J.Tanner
UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie meets a young Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.

GENEVA, November 25 (UNHCR) Acclaimed actress and UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie has been presented with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her work on behalf of the forcibly displaced and victims of sexual violence.

She received the award, an Oscar statuette, at the recent Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' annual Governors Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles. The award is given out every year in recognition of an "individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry."

Since Jolie was appointed Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR in 2001, she has travelled to nearly 50 countries to meet refugee families in often remote and dangerous places. She was named UNHCR Special Envoy by High Commissioner António Guterres in 2012, embarking on an expanded advocacy role focusing on complex emergencies such as the Syria situation.

Guterres congratulated Jolie and underlined her dedication and support to UNHCR. "Angelina works tirelessly for refugees. I have seen how much they inspire her as she listens to them for hours on end. Together, we have focused our efforts on very complex refugee situations, most recently the Syria crisis," he said.

"She has spent many days and nights in camps or at border crossings in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. She has met with world leaders and made strong media appeals advocating for more to be done to stop this terrible conflict," Guterres said. "I speak on behalf of the world's refugees to say how grateful we are for her incredible dedication," he added.

Clearly moved by the recognition, Jolie said on the night of the awards: "I have never understood why people are lucky enough to be born with the chances I had and why across the world there is a woman just like me with the same abilities, same desires, same work ethics and love for her family who would most likely make better films and better speeches, only she sits in a refugee camp and she has no voice.

"She worries about what her children will eat, how to keep them safe and if they will ever be allowed to return home. "I don't know why this is my life and not hers, but I will do as my mother asked me to do, the best as I can and be of use to others."

The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award is named for the Danish actor and translator who was one of Hollywood's most active philanthropists in the 1930s and 1940s. His service to the industry included 18 years as president of the Motion Picture Relief Fund.

Angelina Jolie receives the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award

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Angelina Jolie revisits Myanmar refugees on World Refugee Day

UNHCR's Special Envoy Angelina Jolie spent this year's World Refugee Day with Karenni refugees from Myanmar. Some have been in exile in Thailand for 30 years, making this one of the longest-running refugee situations in the world.

On her fourth visit to the refugee camps in Thailand, Jolie met Baw Meh's family, three generations of refugees who have lived in Ban Mai Nai Soi camp since 1996.

The family told Jolie they fled Myanmar's Kayah state thinking they would return home shortly. Eighteen years later, they are still here. Baw Meh, 75, lost her husband last year. He died before he could fulfill his dream of returning home. Some of their family members have been resettled to third countries. Others have chosen to stay. Baw Meh has refused to go, preferring to stay close to her village.

Like many refugees along the border, her family is watching the reform process in Myanmar closely and mulling the prospect of eventual return. "After 30 years in exile, the best solution we can give these refugees is the right and power to choose their own way forward," said Jolie. "This is our chance to get it right, to break the vicious cycle of conflict and displacement once and for all."

Angelina Jolie revisits Myanmar refugees on World Refugee Day

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UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to Iraq in July 2009 to offer support to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who remain displaced within their own country.

During her day-long visit to Baghdad, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie visited a makeshift settlement for internally displaced people in north-west Baghdad where she met families displaced from the district of Abu Ghraib, located to the west of Baghdad, and from the western suburbs of the capital.

Despite the difficulties in Iraq, Jolie said this was a moment of opportunity for Iraqis to rebuild their lives. "This is a moment where things seem to be improving on the ground, but Iraqis need a lot of support and help to rebuild their lives."

UNHCR estimates that 1.6 million Iraqis were internally displaced by a wave of sectarian warfare that erupted in February 2006 after the bombing of a mosque in the ancient city of Samarra. Almost 300,000 people have returned to their homes amid a general improvement in the security situation since mid-2008.

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More than 40,000 people, including refugees and asylum-seekers, have crossed the Mediterranean on overcrowded boats and descended on the small island since the beginning of the year.

The UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador flew to Lampedusa from Malta, which has also been a destination for people fleeing North Africa by boat.

Angelina Jolie meets boat people in Malta, Lampedusa

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