October 4, 2011 / 4:39 PM / 8 years ago

Jolie to take on new U.N. refugee role

GENEVA (Reuters) - Angelina Jolie will be taking on a new role in the world’s most acute refugee crises, the American actress and United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said on Tuesday.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie presents the Nansen prize to Yemen's Society for Humanitarian Solidarity and its founder, Nasser Salim Ali Al-Hamairy (not pictured) at a ceremony in Geneva October 3, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Tanner/UNHCR/Handout

UNHCR sources told Reuters they expected her to be named Special Representative on the Afghan refugee situation, to help resolve the fate of 2.7 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran. But a representative for the actress said there was no final agreement.

Jolie, who has served for 10 years as goodwill ambassador for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, and donated $5 million to its aid operations, declined to be specific, telling reporters: “We are looking at a few countries in the world.

“We’re hoping to discuss it in the next few weeks but we want to research it properly and do it well,” she said after addressing a meeting of UNHCR’s Executive Committee in Geneva.

Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said Jolie would become “our special envoy mainly for the most dramatic refugee situations that require a lot of advocacy” and help mobilize strong international support.

“We will be asking you to do more and more in this regard,” he said.

The UNHCR later issued a statement saying that her expanded role had not yet been finalized. “A number of countries are under consideration and discussions are ongoing with relevant authorities regarding Ms. Jolie’s additional role,” it said.

The U.S.-based Endeavor Group, which represents Jolie, told Reuters: “There is no agreement. Nothing is final.”


The Oscar-winning Jolie said refugees whom she had met during her 40 field missions for UNHCR in hotspots from Pakistan to Kenya were “among the most vulnerable and yet the most resilient people in the world.”

“My personal experiences with UNHCR have been moving, sometimes heartbreaking, but always rewarding and unforgettable,” she said.

Jolie, who makes her directorial debut with the Bosnian wartime romance film “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” due to be released in December, has six children.

On recent UNHCR missions to Malta and Tunisia, she met families who had fled their native Somalia only to be uprooted again by fresh conflict in Libya, she said.

“I tried to imagine what it must have been like for a mother with children. To risk her life at sea trying to get to Europe from North Africa,” she said, noting that some smugglers had been known to throw women and children overboard.

During a visit in March to the Afghan village of Qala Gadu, north of Kabul, where girls’ schools and teachers remain targets of violence, a girl named Sahira pledged to complete her studies through to the age of 18 if the actress helped build a school.

“It’s not hard to say yes, knowing that as an Afghan, her word is her bond. An education is her basic human right and she should not be denied it any longer. Sahira is the future of Afghanistan.”

“After decades of displacement and many years of war, we are entering a defining moment for Afghanistan,” Jolie added.

The September 20 killing of Burhanuddin Rabbani, Kabul’s chief peace negotiator, derailed efforts to forge dialogue with the Taliban to end the 10-year war and raised fears of a widening of Afghanistan’s ethnic rifts.

Although millions of Afghans have returned home in the past decade, Pakistan and Iran still host 1.7 million and 1 million Afghan refugees, respectively, according to the agency.

Jolie made a surprise appearance on Monday night at the UNHCR’s ceremony to honor a Yemeni aid group credited with rescuing thousands of Somali refugees who arrive in Yemen each year.

Miami-based Colombian pop icon Juanes performed his hits “It’s Time to Change” and “Camisa Negra” (The Black Shirt). Norway’s Sivert Hoyem, vocalist of the rock band Madrugada, sang “Prisoner of the Road,” a ballad about fleeing violence.

Additional reporting by Ramin Mostafavi in Tehran, editing by Paul Casciato

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