GENEVA – After a decade of promoting refugee causes around the world, Angelina Jolie herself has been promoted.
The United Nations refugee agency has elevated the Hollywood star from being a goodwill ambassador to a special envoy, a role that will see her represent the organization at the diplomatic level to governments and diplomats.
It is the first time the U.N. refugee agency has named a special envoy, said its spokesman Adrian Edwards. Elsewhere in the global body such posts are usually reserved for career diplomats or retired politicians.
“Her work does go substantially beyond what we would typically see as being the normal role of a goodwill ambassador,” Edwards told reporters in Geneva. “I don’t think you need a rocket scientist to see the benefits that she is bringing in terms of the attention that she is getting for the plight of the world’s displaced.”
Jolie has jetted the world on behalf of the organization over the past ten years, making high-profile visits to refugee camps in Iraq, Haiti and Pakistan, among other places.
Apart from her time, Jolie has also given large personal donations to the organization, which relies entirely on voluntary contributions from governments, companies and individuals.
“She has donated substantially to refugees,” said Edwards, noting that the actress/director won’t receive any money for her role. “There is to my knowledge absolutely no connection between any donation of money and this role.”
Jolie’s new position will focus on the complex crises that result in the mass displacement of people, such as in Afghanistan and Somalia. In addition, on special occasions she will represent the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres.
“That can mean conveying messages to governments. It can mean conveying messages to other people and partners that we work with,” said Edwards.
UNHCR works to help almost 35 million refugees and internally displaced people around the world. It was established to aid millions of Europeans displaced during World War II and has since become one of the world’s most prominent humanitarian organizations.