Angelina Jolie Pitt – UNHCR Special Envoy

Angelina Jolie: A Special Envoy for Refugee Issues

After years of dedicated service to UNHCR and the cause of refugees, Angelina Jolie in April 2012 was appointed as Special Envoy of UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. In her new and expanded role, she will be focusing on major crises resulting in mass population displacements; undertaking advocacy and representing UNHCR and Guterres at the diplomatic level; and engaging with decision-makers on global displacement issues. Through this work, she will help contribute to the vital process of finding solutions for people displaced by conflict.

Jolie previously represented UNHCR as a Goodwill Ambassador, and in this role she conducted more than 40 field visits around the world, becoming well-versed in the phenomenon of forced displacement and a tireless advocate on their behalf.

Extraordinary Service to Refugees

Angelina Jolie’s interest in humanitarian affairs was piqued in 2000 when she went to Cambodia to film the adventure movie, “Tomb Raider.” She soon began travelling with UNHCR to the field and, ever since, her interest and determination to help the displaced, publicize their plight and lobby for international assistance has never flagged. Named a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in 2001, Jolie has carried out more than 40 field missions to some of the most remote regions of the world to highlight the plight of millions of uprooted people and to advocate for their protection.

Video highlights from Angelina Jolie’s tireless work for refugees.

In 2012, High Commissioner António Guterres recognized her years of extraordinary service with the refugee agency by appointing her as his Special Envoy. In her new and expanded role, she focuses on large-scale crises resulting in mass population displacement. She visited Ecuador in April 2012 for her first mission as Special Envoy.

In addition to her field missions for UNHCR, Jolie has made it her mission to give a voice to refugees and internally displaced people. She undertakes advocacy on their behalf, representing UNHCR and the High Commissioner at the diplomatic level and engaging with others on global displacement issues. Her work helps to facilitate lasting solutions for people displaced by conflict and has inspired others to take a more active role.

The Special Envoy’s commitment to the organization is further demonstrated through her donations to UNHCR, amounting to more than $5 million since 2001. The funds have gone towards building schools – in locations such as Kenya and Afghanistan – as well as other initiatives aimed at improving the lives of the forcibly displaced.

In addition to her work for UNHCR, Jolie continues to travel to bear witness to and support disaster relief, vulnerable children, environmental conservation, and international law and justice efforts worldwide. In 2003, she started the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation, dedicated to conservation in Cambodia, which later expanded to agriculture, education, health care, vocational training, infrastructure, rural planning and microcredit programs.

In 2005, she launched the National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children, an organization that provides free legal aid to young asylum-seekers. In 2008, she partnered with Microsoft to launch Kids in Need of Defence (KIND), a pro bono movement of law firms, corporate law departments, NGOs and volunteers committed to providing legal advice to unaccompanied immigrant children in the United States. She also co-chairs the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, which helps fund education programmes for children affected by conflict.

In 2007, Jolie became a member of the influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Jolie has since funded various CFR special reports, including the “Intervention to Stop Mass Atrocities and Genocide.” Following several visits to Haiti in 2010, she established the Jolie Legal Fellows Program to enhance government capacity around the rule of law. The program places young lawyers within the existing structures in Haiti to support the government’s child protection efforts.

Angelina Jolie refugees charity nonprofit UN

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie mets Somali refugees
during a 2011 trip to Choucha Camp, located near the Tunisia-Libya
border. © UNHCR/J. Tanner

The Jolie-Pitt Foundation, meanwhile, has provided funding in Namibia to the N/a’an ku sê Wildlife Sanctuary for the care of injured wildlife and to help minimize conflict between humans and wild animals. Jolie has funded children’s centres in Cambodia and Ethiopia which apply innovative and integrated treatment for children infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

Jolie’s devotion to 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 2007, the International Rescue Committee awarded its Freedom Award to Jolie and High Commissioner Guterres for their contributions to the cause of refugees and human freedom. In October 2011, the UN Refugee Agency paid tribute to Jolie, for her 10 years of service to the humanitarian cause as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.


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