"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."—Jolie on her motives for joining UNHCR in 2001
Jolie stated that she first became personally aware of worldwide humanitarian crises while filming Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) in Cambodia. She contacted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for information on international trouble spots. To learn more about the conditions in these areas, Jolie began visiting refugee camps around the world. In February 2001, she went on her first field visit, an 18-day mission to Sierra Leone and Tanzania; she later expressed her shock at what she had witnessed. In the following months, she returned to Cambodia for two weeks and met with Afghan refugees in Pakistan. She covered all costs related to her missions and shared the same rudimentary working and living conditions as UNHCR field staff on all of her visits. Jolie was named a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva on August 27, 2001.
Since then, Jolie has been on field missions around the world and met with refugees and internally displaced persons in more than 30 countries. Asked what she hoped to accomplish, she stated, "Awareness of the plight of these people. I think they should be commended for what they have survived, not looked down upon." Jolie aims to visit what she terms "forgotten emergencies," crises that media attention has shifted away from. She is noted for not shying away from traveling to areas that are at war: she visited the Darfur region of Sudan during the Darfur conflict in 2004; Chad during its civil war in 2007; Iraq during the Second Gulf War in 2007 and 2009; Afghanistan during the ongoing war in 2008 and 2011; and Libya during the Libyan revolution in 2011.
After more than a decade of service as Goodwill Ambassador, Jolie was promoted to the rank of Special Envoy of High Commissioner António Guterres on April 17, 2012. As Special Envoy, she represents the UNHCR and High Commissioner António Guterres at the diplomatic level and works to facilitate long-term solutions for people displaced by large-scale crises, such as Afghanistan and Somalia. "This is an exceptional position reflecting an exceptional role she has played for us," said a UNHCR spokesman.
In addition to her work with the UNHCR, Jolie uses her public profile to promote humanitarian causes through the mass media. Her early field visits were chronicled in her book Notes from My Travels, which was published in conjunction with the release of her film Beyond Borders (2003). She filmed a 2005 MTV special, The Diary of Angelina Jolie & Dr. Jeffrey Sachs in Africa, portraying her and noted economist Dr. Jeffrey Sachs on a trip to a remote group of villages in Western Kenya. Jolie has also regularly released public service announcements promoting World Refugee Day and other causes.
Over time, Jolie became more involved in promoting humanitarian causes on a political level. She has regularly attended World Refugee Day in Washington, D.C., and she was an invited speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2005 and 2006. She also began lobbying humanitarian interests in the U.S. capital, where she met with members of Congress at least 20 times between 2003 and 2006, during which she pushed for several bills to aid refugees and vulnerable children in the Third World and the United States. She explained in 2006, "As much as I would love to never have to visit Washington, that's the way to move the ball." In 2007, she became a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Jolie has established several charitable organizations. In 2003, she founded the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation—named the Maddox Jolie Project until 2007—which is dedicated to community development and environmental conservation in Cambodia's northwestern province Battambang. In 2006, she partnered with the Global Health Committee to establish the Maddox Chivan Children's Center, a daycare facility for children afflicted and affected by HIV in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. That same year, she and her partner Brad Pitt founded the Jolie-Pitt Foundation, to aid humanitarian causes worldwide. In 2007, Jolie and noted economist Dr. Gene Sperling founded the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, which funds education programs for children affected by man-made or natural disasters. In 2008, she collaborated with the Microsoft Corporation to establish Kids in Need of Defense, a pro bono movement of law firms, corporate law departments, NGOs and volunteers committed to providing legal counsel to unaccompanied immigrant children in the U.S. In 2010, she established the Jolie Legal Fellows Programme, which recruits lawyers to support governmental child protection efforts in Haiti.
Jolie has received wide recognition for her humanitarian work. In 2002, she received the inaugural Humanitarian Award by the Church World Service's Immigration and Refugee Program. In 2003, she was the first recipient of the Citizen of the World Award by the United Nations Correspondents Association. In 2005, she was awarded the Global Humanitarian Award by the UNA-USA. On July 31, 2005, King Norodom Sihamoni awarded Jolie Cambodian citizenship for her conservation work in the country. In 2007, Jolie received the Freedom Award by the International Rescue Committee. In 2011, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presented Jolie with a gold pin reserved for the most long-serving staff, in recognition of her decade as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.
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