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UNHCR teams up with Angelina Jolie and Dr. Jane Goodall

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UNHCR teams up with Angelina Jolie and Dr. Jane Goodall

7 February 2002

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie are scheduled to meet in Salt Lake City this week with renowned wildlife expert Dr. Jane Goodall, who is exploring programmes to benefit the world's refugee children.

Lubbers and Jolie are among the panelists scheduled to take part Saturday in a Salt Lake City round-table discussion on sports and children. The event is sponsored by Olympic Aid, an international association of athletes dedicated to promoting healthy sports and play as a right of all the world's children. Olympic Aid sponsors sports programmes for refugee children in more than a dozen UNHCR camps in Africa and Asia.

"I can't think of a better time and place - Salt Lake City at the start of the Winter Olympics - to join forces with two of the world's most prominent women to draw attention to the needs and the potential of millions of refugee children," said Lubbers, whose agency works in some 120 countries and has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize.

"As the world gathers in the spirit of friendship and healthy competition, we need to be aware that there are many refugee children who have never known the carefree joy of a simple childhood game or the sense of accomplishment that comes from teamwork. Many have simply forgotten how to be children. Play and teamwork can help heal their emotional scars and restore at least some semblance of normalcy in the otherwise alien environment of a refugee camp."

Jolie is an Oscar-winning American actress who was named a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador by Lubbers last year. She has visited refugee camps and operations in Africa and Asia. The journals she kept to share her field experiences are published on

Goodall, perhaps best known for her 40-year study of wild chimpanzees in Africa, is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, an international organization dedicated to animal research, conservation and environmental education. A key part of the institute's outreach is its Roots and Shoots programme, an international environmental and humanitarian education programme for young people with some 4,000 groups in more than 50 countries. She and Lubbers are examining possible Roots & Shoots projects for children in refugee camps.

Fun, hands-on projects aimed at connecting children with their natural environment - one of the main goals of Goodall's Roots & Shoots programme - can give young people a greater sense of community and self-respect. The presence of large numbers of refugees can have a serious impact on the surrounding environment, affecting water supplies, forests and animal populations, for example. In recent years, UNHCR has worked with host governments to try to alleviate the environmental impact as much as possible. Lubbers said the Roots & Shoots programme would give the refugees themselves an opportunity to identify appropriate projects - re-forestation, for example - and then to carry them out with the possible support of other branches worldwide.