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Angelina Jolie as Humanitarian

Angelina Jolie as Humanitarian

11 February 2009

Since she was named as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in early 2001, Angelina Jolie has visited more than 20 countries around the world to highlight the plight of millions of uprooted people and to advocate for their protection. She has managed to do all this while pursuing a busy acting career and bringing up her children.

Her interest in humanitarian affairs was piqued in 2000 when she went to Cambodia to film the adventure film, Tomb Raider. Her interest and determination to help the displaced, publicize their plight and lobby for international assistance has never flagged.

After Jolie's recent trip to Afghanistan at the end of 2008, the Oscar-winning American actress appealed for more international commitment to help returnee reintegration and urged greater humanitarian support for the population.

"The courage, resilience and quiet dignity of returnee families rebuilding their lives against the kind of adversity few of us can imagine show the human spirit at its best," she said after spending part of her time in eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, where almost 850,000, or 20 percent, of all Afghan returnees have repatriated since 2002.

When travelling to Sudan and Chad in early 2007, Jolie was so struck by what she had seen that she and her partner, actor Brad Pitt, donated US$1 million to be shared by UNHCR and two other agencies for their work in helping millions of people affected by the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region.

"It's always hard to see decent people, families, living in such difficult conditions," she said at the time, while adding that she was also struck by the sense of hope she encountered. Jolie called on the international community to do more to help the displaced and needy, just as she did when visiting Syria and Iraq in August 2008 to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis and raise support for UNHCR and its partners.

In addition to her extensive field missions for UNHCR, Angelina has been calling attention to the plight of the displaced at the political level in various gatherings, including the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. She regularly visits Washington DC, raising humanitarian issues during meetings with the United States' top politicians. In 2007, she became a member of the influential Council on Foreign Relations.

In 2005, also in the US capital, she launched the National Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Children, an organization that provides free legal aid to asylum-seeking children with no legal representation. In 2006, Jolie announced the founding of the Jolie-Pitt Foundation, which has made significant donations worldwide. She also co-chairs the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, founded in 2006, which helps fund education programmes for children affected by conflict.

Jolie's devotion to this and other humanitarian causes has not gone unnoticed. In 2003, she was the first recipient of the Citizen of the World Award by the United Nations Correspondents Association, and in 2005 she was awarded the Global Humanitarian Award by the United Nations Association of the USA and the Business Council for the United Nations for her work with refugees.

In the same year she was awarded Cambodian citizenship as a result of her extensive work in the Asian country ravaged by civil war and brutal rule from the early 1970s to the late 1990s. And in 2007, the International Rescue Committee awarded its Freedom Award to Jolie and UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres for their contributions to the cause of refugees and human freedom.

11 February 2009