American actress Angelina Jolie will be named Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the agency said today.
High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers will give the honorary title to the 26 year-old actress at a ceremony next Monday at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.
"We are very pleased that Ms. Jolie has generously agreed to give her time and energy to support UNHCR's work," Mr. Lubbers said. "She can help give a voice to refugees, many of whom live in the shadows of forgotten tragedies. We are proud to welcome her to the UNHCR family."
Several months ago, Ms. Jolie approached UNHCR saying she wanted to learn more about humanitarian action for refugees. Since March, she has made 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.
"I was shocked by what I saw," Ms. Jolie said of her field visits. "We cannot close ourselves off to information and ignore the fact that millions of people are out there suffering. I honestly want to help. I don't believe I feel differently from other people. I think we all want justice and equality, a chance for a life with meaning. All of us would like to believe that if we were in a bad situation someone would help us."
Reflecting on her time spent with humanitarian field workers, she added, "you go to these places and you realize what life's really about and what people are really going through. These people are my heroes."
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, which has won two Nobel Peace Prizes over the past 50 years, cares for some 22 million refugees and other uprooted people in some 120 countries.