Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie accepts Global Humanitarian Award

News Stories, 13 October 2005

© UNA-USA/K.Morishima
UN refugee agency Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie receives the the 2005 Global Humanitarian Action Award for her work with refugees on Tuesday in New York.

NEW YORK, Oct 13, (UNHCR) UN refugee agency Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie has been honoured with the 2005 Global Humanitarian Action Award for her work with UNHCR and with refugees.

Ms. Jolie accepted the award from the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA) and the Business Council for the United Nations at a dinner in New York attended by 700 diplomats, political and business leaders and other dignitaries on Tuesday evening.

Ms. Jolie, who has travelled extensively to more than 20 countries including Pakistan, Kosovo, Sudan and Chad to talk personally to refugees, said they deserved "every bit of our efforts."

"They have seen so much, they've felt so much pain lost more than anyone could bear and yet they contain joy of life and appreciation for small things we often forget," she said.

The UNA-USA applauded Ms. Jolie for fulfilling her work as a Goodwill Ambassador with vigour and valuable insight, adding that she served as a leading voice for millions of refugees and internally displaced persons around the world. In addition to her fieldwork, Ms. Jolie has become a highly regarded activist for refugee rights, arguing for their protection before senior political and economic leaders of the world.

The President of UNA-USA William Luers described her as standing apart from other celebrities involved in humanitarian work. "She has gone to the refugee camps. She has sat with heads of state. She has personally and publicly engaged in ways to better manage the problems surrounding this noble cause," he said.

The Academy Award-winning actress, who has worked with UNHCR as a Goodwill Ambassador since 2001, used her acceptance speech to draw attention to the plight of refugees and the work of the UN refugee agency. She said that apart from her children, spending time with refugees was "the greatest gift the greatest life lesson I could ever receive."

She also paid special tribute to all those working with refugees. "In any UNHCR office, in any one of the many areas around the world, you will find an amazing mix of hard-working and often very tired people. What is beautiful to me is that the men and women are always a mix of nationalities who have come together with the common goal to help others. That is the UN at its best."

In his congratulatory message, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, pointed out that Ms Jolie had given an entirely new meaning to the words "global humanitarian action."

"The depth of your dedication and commitment inspires many others, especially the legions of young people who admire you, to think about how they too can help to make the world a better place," he added.

Other tributes were sent from the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and America's First Lady, Laura Bush.




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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.

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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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Jolie was clearly moved by the spirit - and the ordeal - of the people she met and she pledged to highlight their case. Most of the people she talked to have been living in exile since the end of the 1992-1995 conflict. Jolie visited collective centres in the towns of Gorazde and Rogatica, where the inhabitants lack basic services such as running water.

The actress spent some time with a group of women who were raped or tortured during the war. Their tales left a deep impression on her. She also met a family of refugee returnees who were still waiting to move into their village home near the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad.

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