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Actress Jolie Appointed UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador - 2001-08-27

American actress Angelina Jolie was Monday appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Refugee Agency during a ceremony at the agency's headquarters in Geneva. In accepting her appointment, Ms. Jolie said she hoped to bring greater awareness about the plight of refugees to people around the world.

Angelina Jolie shed her glamorous Hollywood image to accept her appointment as UNHCR's Goodwill Ambassador. She spoke of her admiration for the organization, which cares for the needs of 22 million refugees, and said she hoped to persuade people to view refugees as a potential asset to their societies and not as a burden.

"The majority of refugees, all of them, all of them, if they had a chance would like to go home," Ms. Jolie said. "They do not want to be in your country, thought of as taking your jobs. They just want to survive and they have come from very, very difficult situations. They are saving their lives and trying to survive and keep their families alive. And they come with a wealth of knowledge, their culture, their people that they will share with us and we should feel blessed."

The 26-year-old actress, who stars as Lara Croft in the Hollywood blockbuster Tomb Raider, appeared moved as the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, praised her commitment to the refugee cause. He said that as a young person, Angelina Jolie would be able to interest other young people in the need to protect refugees.

"She can blend her missions from time to time with public statements and going on record with how important it is," explained Mr. Lubbers. "This is terribly important for my refugees and that is the reason we asked her to become a goodwill ambassador."

Since March, Ms. Jolie has visited refugee camps in Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Cambodia. On Sunday, she returned from a visit to Pakistan, where, she said, she encountered hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees living in poverty.

"Since I just got back, it is still very hard to talk about it. It is the worst situation, I think, because of the amount of people," she said. "There is nothing in sight to see an end to the people, to the needs of these people from Afghanistan. It has been going on for so long, some 20 years."

Ms. Jolie said she hopes to reach out to people, to help them understand refugees and be more open-minded. She added that it feels good to focus her life on something that matters.