Jolie, Clinton join UNHCR chief António Guterres in live video link to mark World Refugee Day

News Stories, 18 June 2010

© UNHCR/B.Diab
High Commissioner António Guterres talks to an Iraqi refugee in Al Hassakeh before taking part in the live event.

WASHINGTON, DC, United States, June 18 (UNHCR) UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie, High Commissioner António Guterres and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took part Friday in a unique live video event linking four locations around the world to mark World Refugee Day.

The event was held in the Benjamin Franklin room on the top floor of the US State Department in Washington, DC, and included participants linked from Ecuador, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Syria.

Addressing the audience of 250 people, media and those watching via the internet, Clinton said: "I hope we can use this day to honour the courage and resilience of the millions of refuges around the world who push forward each and every day with the hope that tomorrow might bring a return home or the hope of a better life. I certainly intend to remain committed to making that hope a reality."

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie joined the proceedings from the remote community of Berranca Bermeja in northern Ecuador, which is home to a small group of Colombian refugees.

Jolie, who first visited Ecuador for UNHCR in 2002, said the refugees, though isolated, were now receiving regular support and assistance from the refugee agency. "I have noticed a great deal of change here," she said. "UNHCR has done extraordinary work. The field officers have been getting out into the Amazon and going up and down the river. They've registered now 50,000 refugees who are so grateful. It's a very moving story."

Sitting among refugees in Al Hassakeh governorate (province) in northern Syria, High Commissioner Guterres praised the generosity of the Syrian people who continue to host more than 1 million refugees from Iraq. In contrast, he said, "increasing numbers of countries are closing their borders" to refugees.

The programme also linked to a settlement for internally displaced people near the town of Dungu in north eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nearly 2 million Congolese have fled their homes as a result of continuing violence. UNHCR staffer Jorge Holly spoke to a man whose family had fled their home to escape violence by the Lord's Resistance Army, a brutal Ugandan militia group infamous for its attacks on civilians.