Special Envoy Angelina Jolie has reaffirmed her commitment to refugees worldwide, telling staff at UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency: “I am with you for life.”
Jolie visited UNHCR headquarters during a one-day trip to Geneva, speaking to hundreds of staff members assembled in the atrium.
“This is like coming home. I was first here 16 years ago and had no idea what was ahead of me. I am sure many of you sometimes feel the same way.”
In the years she has worked with UNHCR, Jolie noted that the number of people driven from their homes by wars and persecution had surged to 65 million from 22 million, presenting a challenge to the world and in particular the UN Refugee Agency.
“You have more people under your care, you have more to be concerned with, you have more to do, and you have less support, and I can’t imagine how hard it must be for you sometimes coming to work every day,” Jolie said.
The rise in displacement comes at a moment when lasting solutions to the conflicts and other situations driving displacement remain elusive.
Speaking of the many challenges facing UNHCR and the broader humanitarian community, Jolie urged staff to “really step forward and say who we are and who we fight for and work even harder. So I am with you, not just for my contract, I am with you for life. You can’t walk away once you’ve joined UNHCR.”
During her visit to UNHCR, Jolie met with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
She also was delivering the annual lecture for the Sergio Vieira de Mello foundation, which honours the memory and work of the UNHCR staff member and diplomat, who was killed in Iraq in 2003 when the United Nations office in Baghdad was bombed by terrorists.