UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie

GENEVA - American actress Angelina Jolie was formally appointed a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador today in a brief ceremony at the agency's Geneva headquarters presided over by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers.

As hundreds of UNHCR staff looked on, Mr. Lubbers welcomed Ms. Jolie to the ranks of one of the world's foremost humanitarian agencies and thanked her for her interest in the plight of nearly 22 million refugees and uprooted peoples worldwide.

"In the conversations I have had with you it became clear to me that you are committed to the refugee cause," Mr. Lubbers said to Ms. Jolie during the ceremony.

Ms. Jolie said she was very happy to be officially appointed UNHCR goodwill ambassador. "I have such deep respect for the people you work with and for," she said.

Ms. Jolie approached UNHCR several months ago saying she wanted to learn more about humanitarian action for refugees. Since March, she has made arduous field visits to refugee camps in Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Cambodia and Pakistan. She insisted on covering all costs related to her missions and shared the same rudimentary working and living conditions as UNHCR field staff.

As a Goodwill Ambassador, Ms. Jolie will help educate the public not only about the plight of refugees, but also about the perseverance and courage they show in overcoming all odds to rebuild their lives. In the process, millions of refugees have made enormous contributions to their own societies and to their host countries.

Ms. Jolie kept a journal of her mission to Africa which can be found on the website www.usaforunhcr.org. Her journals for Cambodia and Pakistan will soon follow.

UNHCR's 5,000 staff members work on behalf of refugees and other uprooted people in some 120 countries, often in difficult and dangerous conditions. The agency, which is marking its 50th anniversary, has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize.