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Angelina Jolie ends role as UN special envoy after 20 years

December 16, 2022

The American actress will no longer serve as a special envoy for the UN's refugee agency. She plans to continue working with displaced people, in a more direct way.

Angelina Jolie listening to a local woman in Pakistan-administered Kashmir in 2005
Jolie began working for the UNHCR in 2001, the same year she starred in the film Tomb RaiderImage: J. Redden/UNHCR/Getty Images

Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie is leaving her position as a special envoy for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) after over two decades, she announced in a joint statement with the agency on Friday.

Jolie described her departure as "moving on," adding that she plans "to engage in a broader set of humanitarian and human rights issues."

Jolie began working with the agency in 2001 and became its special envoy in 2012. She has taken part in more than 60 "field missions to bear witness to stories of suffering as well as hope and resilience," the press release said.

Work with refugees 'will continue'

Jolie said she wanted to work more directly with refugees and local organizations.

"I will continue to do everything in my power in the years to come to support refugees and other displaced people," she said.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi expressed his thanks for Jolie's work.

"After a long and successful time with UNHCR, I appreciate her desire to shift her engagement and support her decision," Grandi said. "I know the refugee cause will remain close to her heart, and I am certain she will bring the same passion and attention to a wider humanitarian portfolio.''

This year alone, in her role as special envoy, Jolie has visited Yemen and Ukraine to meet displaced people. The UNHCR estimates that an unprecedented 100 million are currently displaced by violence, conflict and persecution around the world — 80% of whom are living in developing countries.

Angelina Jolie listens while meeting with volunteers during a visit to Lviv's main railway station
Jolie has said she wants to work more directly with displaced peopleImage: Ukrzaliznytsia /REUTERS

Criticism of the UN

Jolie has previously criticized the UN and the lack of progress in key areas.

In a speech in 2017, she described the organization as "imperfect," while last month she wrote that the body was faced with the same problems over and over again as it tries to tackle issues such as violence against women.

She specifically called out the abuse of veto power by members of the UN Security Council. However, she has also said that the organization as a whole should be supported.

In an interview with the Associated Press last year, Jolie said that over the past twenty years she has seen government "give up on diplomacy" while the poorest are left "doing the most to support the refugees."

ab/sms (AP, Reuters)