Perhaps the most well-known celebrity-humanitarian hybrid of our day is the one and only Angelina Jolie. She is particularly noted for her work with refugees as a former Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In 2012, she was promoted to Special Envoy of High Commissioner António Guterres. So how exactly did the woman said to be the “most beautiful woman in the world” become such a devoted humanitarian?
According to Jolie, she first became interested in the humanitarian affairs while filming Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in Cambodia in 2000. Upon seeing the horrible living conditions of the refugees living there, she felt compelled to call UNHCR for more information about international trouble spots.
In an interview in 2001, Jolie stated that she was beginning to discover what’s really happening in the world for the first time. Her eyes began to open. What particularly struck her was the prominence of landmines from decades past that were still causing injuries and deaths from accidental detonation.
The UNHCR is the sector of the United Nations mandated to coordinate international action in defense and protection of refugees worldwide. The agency has won two Nobel Peace Prizes in the last 50 years, and currently cares for approximately 22 million refugees in over 120 countries.
After speaking with UNHCR, Jolie chose to embark on a series of visitations to refugee camps in order to learn more about the living conditions. In early 2001, she traveled to Sierra Leone and Tanzania on an 18-day mission. She was shocked by what she saw. “I honestly want to help… All of us would like to believe that if we were in a bad situation someone would help us, “ Jolie said shortly after her return.
Since her appointment to a Goodwill Ambassador, she has done over 40 missions to some of the most remote regions of the world. Her work has helped to publicize the plight of displaced people and to lobby for increased international assistance. Today, she has expanded her field of humanitarian affairs to include disaster relief, environmental conservation and international law and justice effort.
– Kathryn Cassibry