Angelina Jolie has ended her role and work with the UNHCR after 21 years

In 2001, Angelina Jolie became a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. Ten years later, her position with the UNHCR was elevated to the status of “special envoy.” Over the years, we’ve heard stories about Jolie’s UNHCR work, all of it good – she has the respect of the diplomats and the aid workers on the ground, she brings her own media and writes her own speeches and statements, she donates her own money and she helps with fundraising and public advocacy on behalf of the UNHCR. I thought she would be with the UN in an official position for the rest of her life, but it looks like she’s now focused on working with other organizations. Jolie has stepped down for her UNHCR position. This shocked me!

The United Nations and Angelina Jolie announced in a joint statement on Friday morning that Ms. Jolie would end her role as a special envoy for the U.N. refugee agency after 21 years of humanitarian work as one of the most famous public faces representing the organization. The statement said Ms. Jolie “was moving on” from the United Nations to expand her humanitarian work and engage with a “wider range of actors on a broader set of humanitarian issues as well as work more directly with local organizations.”

Ms. Jolie, 47, has toured the globe’s conflict zones, including Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Myanmar, making 60 field visits since 2001, first as a good-will ambassador and then, starting in 2011, as a special envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Angelina Jolie has been an important humanitarian partner of U.N.H.C.R. for very long,” Filippo Grandi, the high commissioner for the refugee agency, said in the statement. “After a long and successful time with UNHCR, I appreciate her desire to shift her engagement and support her decision.”

In May, Ms. Jolie visited Ukraine, volunteering with local nongovernment organizations in the western city of Lviv in a personal capacity and outside of an official role with the United Nations. The trip appeared to be the first sign that she was preparing to part ways with the global organization.

“After 20 years of working within the U.N. system, I feel it is time for me to work differently, engaging directly with refugees and local organizations and supporting their advocacy for solutions,” Ms. Jolie said in the statement.

[From The NY Times]

The Times also gives Jolie her flowers, describing just some of the work she did on the ground, how much she cares about the refugees she meets, how she visits the same camps multiple times so she can check in the same refugees. The Times also pointed out that Jolie seemed to be increasingly critical of the UN on the whole, perhaps because she saw it as unwieldy and perhaps wasting money which could be better spent elsewhere. It will be interesting to see if Jolie seeks an official alliance with a smaller refugee organization, or whether she just becomes a self-styled lone humanitarian, lending her support short-term to organizations on the ground at various crises.

I also think it’s worth noting that Jolie has been making a lot of visits to DC now that Joe Biden is president, including multiple trips to the Biden White House. Did she resign as UNHCR special envoy because she’s about to take a position with the Biden administration or State Dept?

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid.

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39 Responses to “Angelina Jolie has ended her role and work with the UNHCR after 21 years”

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  1. Yeha says:

    She did an amazing job !! Always grateful to her for giving refugees a voice and platform .
    UN has so many issues so it does make sense for her to go elsewhere

    • Kingston says:

      While I’ve always admired Angie in everything she does, I’ve always cringed a bit at how she spks of “refugees”…….as if it’s a nationality.

      “Refugees are the people I admire most in the world” she says, along with similar statements All. The. Time.

      But even someone whose guts you hate can become a refugee at some point in their life. Does that person then suddenly becomes someone to admire?

      However, it is true that people who become refugees are often changed by their circumstances into becoming better human beings. This is incontrovertible. And I’m sure this is wht Angie is referring to when she spks of refugees as if they’re a special breed of humans. But that’s where my cringe comes from: that she spks of people who become refugees as if they are a special breed of humans. Or as if it’s a permanent state of being.

      • kel says:

        Oh my God, she’s been working with refugees for 20 years, she’s done great things for him but you decide to highlight the way she says “refugees”

      • Peachy says:

        It does not matter where you are in the world, you’re a human being. And refugees around the world share common similarities, bound together eternally in the pain, sorrow, poverty and degradation of abuses that will scar them for the rest of their lives.. They may be fortunate and circumstances may improve, but the hardships endured do not depart simply because they have a home, food and security. It’s a form of worldwide community imo that, regardless of location or why the events occurred, means the people will all have something in common that separates them from those of us who have not undergone such trauma. Angie has traveled the world doing her best to improve the situations, save lives, educate the masses and bring attention to the plight of refugees…so that people like you can tear her down because you, personally, don’t like the how she uses the word “refugees”. I think she’s earned the right to use it any damn way she sees fit.

        Perhaps you should focus less on people whose guts you hate and more on compassion, maturity, etc.

      • Alix says:

        @Kel- thanks for calling out this comment.

        @Kingston- as an academic whose scholarship engages with the topic of refugees, I cannot state emphatically enough how utterly problematic and ignorant your comment is. I’m going to leave it at because I’m shocked that anyone could be so unsympathetic and, frankly, stupid.

      • Sonia says:

        Of course. She has same or similar simplified understanding of the geopolitics as any average person. She works in entertainment, and while that is not inevitably an obstacle to knowledge, the complexity of geopolitics, and especially of the US-led destruction of dozens of countries, requires a painstaking effort and sophisticated understanding of history, politics, philosophy, etc. that not even many academics achieve. Largely, her job was in advertising the UN work so her words will reflect the surface level of her understanding, plus continuous necessary efforts to evade most of the controversy around the UN being led by the very agent that creates humanitarian crises.

      • Tacky says:

        The role of a UN good-will ambassador isn’t to try to “budge” the institution. The UN works on a consensus basis with many, many competing interests. Getting anything done takes tremendous diplomacy, negotiation and compromise.

        The world is currently experiencing a refugee crisis the likes of which have not been seen since WWII and UNHCR is stretched well beyond its capacity. Working with local organizations is the most effective way to support refugees in some parts of the world.

      • Kingston says:

        Aaaaawwwwww you were doing so well until near the end when you suggested I was ‘tearing down” Angie. And now I have to wonder at the state of you.

        Ive been an Angie ride or die since Hackers. When hurry-come-up folks on SM were tearing her down in support of Pitt’s first wife, I was there fighting her corner. And since Angie began actively volunteering with the UN in the late ’90s/early 2000s, it was obviously such a gutsy move on her part. She doesnt sit around and discuss…..shes a results-oriented person and thats my kinda human.

        And ive not uttered a single word of criticism of Angie over the last 2 decades because my principled position has been that there were enough vultures in the world nitpicking at her spirit.

        My single publicly stated criticism has been this one I mentioned wth her reference to refugees………as if they were a homogenous group/a nationality or a particular species of human beings.

        Like I said, anyone can become a refugee thru any twist of fate, within or outside their own country. And they can be the most heinous criminal or the most productive professional member of the society they were displaced from. They come in all colors/races and socio-economic and political backgrounds. Its the same rationale at play in my refusal to refer to my ancestors as “slaves.” They were ENSLAVED Africans.

        Obviously, “enrefugeed” is not a word. Perhaps “displaced person/s” (which is also used) is a better description of the condition in which some folks, unfortunately, find themselves. Saying: “I will love refugees for the rest of my life” is a statement Angie uses that I feel strongly enough about to criticize her for. The abiding hope of displaced persons everywhere is that theyre in a temporary state of being………..not the entirety of theirs or anyone else’s life,

        And @kel…..kelly, kelly, kelly. Reading is fundamental. But I find that comprehension is often a difficult skill for some folks to grasp. Dont you?
        Ditto, @Alix.

      • Petra (Brazen Archetyped Phenomenal Woman) says:

        @Kingston, There are refugees that have been in a refugee camp for over 20 years and are still in camps. What in the world are you blabbing about? It’s ok for Angie to say she admires the strength of refugees.

      • Emma33 says:

        I’ve done years of volunteer work with people seeking asylum and this sentence of hers grated on me too. People seeking asylum are full, rounded human beings; they can be inspiring and generous or petty and selfish, just like the rest of the world’s population. The refugee/asylum seeking experience is also usually just one part of a person’s life, it isn’t something that defines a human being.

        I don’t love this ‘othering’, essentialist language that defines people through one experience, usually transitory, that they are experiencing.

      • Whitecat says:

        First if all, let me say I’ve loved Angie since girl interrupted but I agree with Kingston too.
        And I come from a culture where 80% of my people are refugees. I mean my grandfather was one, even my mom and her parents was briefly a refugee too (they had to escape a war, driving through 4 different countries to reach safety although they eventually returned). I know many refugees, I have friends who are still, and I worked with them and even had someone who was my boss (possibly the worst boss I’ve ever had who bullied me and overworked me while I was pregnant and sick with HG, threatened to fire me, etc).
        The point is they are all different well rounded people whose refugee experience is usually not their sole identity. They can be nice, they can be literally your mother, they can be friends or horrible unsympathetic bosses, even though they went throigh harsh conditions to get tk where they are. I feel empathy with everyone who was forcibly had to leave their home but that does not mean that their whole identity, character and personality is based on this.

        Just recently Germany convicted a Syrian commander who was responsible for the torture and killing of so many prisoners under Assad regime. But guess what? They only managed to find him and convict him because hes a refugee in Germany.

      • Alix says:

        @kingston— before commenting on my and others’ reading comprehension, I’d encourage you to first look at the evidence. Multiple people on this thread “misunderstood” what you wrote. To me that says the issue is your ability to clearly articulate your thoughts in writing.

  2. Tattletale says:

    If you are aware of what the UN did in Haiti, and the ongoing lack of accountability, her move makes complete sense.

    • ThatsNotOkay says:

      Yeah, she said she “believes in many the things the UN does.” That’s some shade there. Because it implies she’s got issues with a lot of it too and probably wasn’t able to get them to budge into the direction of efficiency and less bureaucracy and corruption. I wish her the best. She’s turned out pretty great.

    • TeamMeg says:

      She explicitly said in her most recent Time piece: “Because of the way the U.N. was set up, it is tipped towards the interests and voice of powerful nations at the expense of those people suffering the most from conflict and persecution whose rights and lives are not treated equally.”

      The refugee situation worldwide is far worse than when the young, idealistic Angelina Jolie first got involved. This worsening is due not to natural disasters, but to the prolonged and endless wars upon which the military-industrial complex of this country and others feeds. Angelina saw the corruption baked into the United Nations, and she is parting ways. “I am with all those who are searching for a new way,” she wrote in that same Time piece. Go Angie!

  3. Eurydice says:

    Wow, 21 years. I wish her all the best. If she’s looking for greater flexibility and autonomy, she won’t find it in the State department. I’m sure she’s developed a terrific network over the years and will do great work within her own organization.

  4. bergamot says:

    She had a good and long run with UNHCR. It will be very interesting to see what’s next for her. What is certain though is her dedication – that will never change.

  5. Amy Bee says:

    She did lot to raise the plight of refugees.

  6. kel says:

    I wonder if she will go into politics.

    • kel says:

      I wonder if she will enter politics or be appointed a position in the national government.

    • Eurydice says:

      She’s looking to expand her network. Politics is local and too much time and money are spent on getting elected.

    • Alycea says:

      I could see her do more behind the scenes kin to what she’s doing now with helping with provisions

  7. TheOriginalMia says:

    Sad to see her go. She was an amazing envoy and advocate for the refugee community. She highlighted their plights. She made sure they were not forgotten in this fast paced world. I wish UNHCR and Angie nothing but the best for the future.

  8. Julia K says:

    She and Archewell would be a good fit.

  9. Lucky Charm says:

    I know it’s probably 100% unlikely, but I would love to see her partnering or doing something with Archewell. She and Meghan (and Harry) would make a fantastic team.

    • DreamBrulee says:

      Totally. They would be a great team. Archewell and Jolie would be an unstoppable force for good, and Angelina also understands the struggle of abusive families and race.

  10. JustMe says:

    And in other news Brad may be kinda sorta dating someone but isn’t exclusive but breaking news they are planning to spend New Year’s Eve together…

    I mean Angelina continues to carry on being an actual caring person and her ex looks like the tool he really is

    • Alycea says:

      What an embarrassing PEOPLE fluff article that was. “he took her to the premiere, it means something! but wait they aren’t serious!” Pretty sure these stories were meant for Emily before she dropped him lol.

  11. Peachy says:

    Angelina is synonymous with refugee work to me so this is quite shocking. Unfortunately, most of the press she receives has to do with the divorce so her personal work gets pushed to the side by tabloid drama. Please keep us updated?

    Money is finite so am not sure how much she can do individually or how easily she’d be able to travel to these locations without the assistance of a large organization. Perhaps she’s decided it’s time to not travel so much and I suspect her children may have opinions, too, now that they’re old enough to understand the dangers. Her visit to Ukraine was quite dangerous and they had to enter a bomb shelter.

    Regardless of where she goes or how she continues her work, I wish her well!

  12. OriginalLeigh says:

    “Did she resign as UNHCR special envoy because she’s about to take a position with the Biden administration or State Dept?“

    I doubt it. I think Angelina is more of an independent than a Democrat (though I know that would not necessarily preclude her from serving in the administration). Her statement implies that she will work with smaller/independent refugee organizations and I believed her.

  13. DouchesOfCambridge says:

    Bravo Angelina Jolie for her work with the UN. Her pledge to commit her life to the cause is to be praised.

  14. ML says:

    Thank you Alix for your response above👍 No One chooses to be a refugee because life is going well, No One. I believe Angelina recently (though this might have been longer ago—I can’t find this comment) mentioned that she was frustrated by the fact that she had been working with refugees for a long time, but nothing had changed. I am glad she threw her heart into helping them and hope she finds further ways to help refugees that are a better fit for her.

  15. Emmi says:

    The UN is made up of powerful nations that often do very little to actually solve this crisis, some actually actively prevent any improvement of the refugees‘ situations. So I absolutely can see how she would need to find a different path. It’s been 21 years of work for her and there are more people fleeing conflict than ever before and again, the UN are kind of working against themselves.

  16. Kari says:

    I love that she’s moving towards working with more direct based groups. A lot of these major nonprofits while involved in great causes are so embedded in political games due to power and funding. I’ve been working with mutual aid groups these last 3 years and have so many stories of world renowned nonprofits that do some major shady stuff, some are fan favorites here on the site, so I won’t burst any bubbles 😅

  17. Doni says:

    Wow, great news. For us Angelina fans!

  18. Jasper says:

    She’s done so much good in all the years she’s worked with the UN. I CANNOT believe that it’s been 21 years already!
    I’m wishing her all the best with her next moves.