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Angelina Jolie steps down from UN Refugee Agency after 21 years

Angelina Jolie at the premiere of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil in 2019
Angelina Jolie announced she is stepping down from her role in the UN Refugee Agency and setting her focus elsewhere. Pic credit: ©ImageCollect.com/Keith Mayhew/Landmark Media

After 21 years of service, Angelina Jolie announced she was stepping down from her role as Special Envoy for the UN Refugee Agency (UNRA). The 47-year-old actress announced the news in a joint statement with the organization on Friday.

Jolie revealed that the reason for her departure was largely her desire to change her focus. She will still be devoted to helping refugees in any way she can but will now do so outside of the UN system.

She felt that two decades of service was more than enough time for her in the UN. Jolie also expressed her desire to work more directly with refugees and to find more local work.

Despite her departure from the system, she expressed nothing but gratitude for her time with the UNRA. She indicated that she was grateful she had the opportunity to be a Special Envoy for the UN.

In addition to thanking those she had worked with, she promised to continue the work on her own. Jolie stated, “I will continue to do everything in my power in the years to come to support refugees and other displaced people.”

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, also released a brief statement about Jolie’s departure. He detailed her success with the UNRA and indicated that he had full faith in her continued efforts for the refugee cause.

Angelina Jolie’s work in the UNRA

Jolie’s extensive history with the UNRA was detailed in her joint statement with them. She first joined the UNRA in 2001 and worked with the organization for 11 years before being named Special Envoy in 2012.

Over the combined 21 years of service, she reportedly went on over 60 field missions, traveling around the globe to bring attention to the stories of refugees. Her most recent trips were to Yemen and Burkina Faso, where she covered some of the most under-reported displacement crises in the world.

In addition to her statement with the UNRA, Jolie addressed her stepping down as Special Envoy on Instagram as well. She paired her announcement with a sweet photo of her posing with a young refugee while wearing her UNRA cap.

Jolie reiterated in her post that she believes in many of the UNRA’s values. In particular, she fully supported their goal to provide emergency relief.

She also confirmed that her work in the UNRA had instilled in her a love and admiration for refugees and that she will continue working with them for the rest of her life. However, outside of the UNRA, she will have a chance to work with local organizations and directly with those impacted by conflict.

Jolie indicated she hopes to work with agencies that will give the “greatest voice” to refugees.

Jolie humanitarian work, explained

While Jolie is most well-known for her acting career, she also has a lengthy history in humanitarian work. Her work for the UNRA and travel to war-torn countries started when she was just in her 20s.

The refugee cause caught her attention early on as she began learning from them. She stated, “I have learned more from [refugees] about family, resilience, dignity, and survival than I can express.”

In addition to the refugee cause, she has directed resources and time toward advocating for the prevention of sexual violence. In 2012, she co-founded the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative, which garnered a commitment from 150 countries to end impunity for war-zone rape.

Back in 2003, she showed her dedication to conservation with the creation of the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation. The foundation seeks to preserve the environment and wildlife of Cambodia, the country from which she adopted her son, Maddox.

She has also served for years as an ambassador for SOS Children’s Villages, which seeks to protect the rights and interests of orphaned children around the globe.

While Jolie’s humanitarian work is extensive, she has found a particular passion in advocating for refugees. It will be interesting to see what new initiatives she takes on for the refugee cause after stepping down from the UNRA.

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