Refugees "are among the most vulnerable and yet the most resilient people on earth"
6th October 2011: UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie has urged the international community to scale up its efforts to deal with the crisis in the Horn of Africa.
Addressing the annual meeting of UNHCR’s governing Executive Committee, or ExCom, in Geneva, Ms. Jolie said the lives of hundreds of thousands of refugees depended on it.
She described the situation in Somalia and surrounding countries as "the humanitarian crisis of a generation" and said further help was urgently needed.
"Today, three-quarters of a million people are at risk of death in the next four months in the Horn of Africa," she said. "The work we are doing needs to scale up to meet the needs of these individuals. How we continue to respond to this period of malnutrition and famine is going to define the work of those NGOs, governments, and international organizations working in the Horn of Africa. It will, quite starkly, determine whether a huge number of people live or die."
Ms. Jolie also urged the Executive Committee’s member states to remain committed to helping the world’s refugees despite the global environment of increasing economic and financial pressures.
"The challenges that UNHCR confronts to provide for refugees are immense and growing. The rich countries of the world are increasingly feeling budgetary constraints at home. They face pressures to reduce rather than maintain their current and promised levels of aid funding," she said.
"Nevertheless, we hope that these governments will remain committed to the cause of the world’s most vulnerable people, while we recognize and are grateful to them for their generosity," added Ms. Jolie, who also expressed gratitude to countries hosting refugees.
The celebrated Hollywood actress praised UNHCR’s committed and dedicated staff and other humanitarian partners. "They operate in some of the world’s most dangerous places, from Somalia to Libya to Afghanistan, in order to reach and help those in need. We thank them for all that they do and the personal risks they take to do it," she said, while noting the increasing dangers that aid workers face. "We must demand greater respect for the concepts of independence, impartiality, and neutrality in order to ensure the safety and lives of humanitarian workers."
Ms. Jolie was appointed as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in August 2001 and has since conducted more than 40 field visits, including to some of the most remote refugee-hosting regions.
On 4th October, High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres recognized her 10 years of service with the refugee agency by asking her to take on an expanded role for UNHCR as a Special Envoy in some of the world’s most difficult refugee situations.
Ms. Jolie said her personal experiences with UNHCR "have been moving, sometimes heartbreaking, but always rewarding and unforgettable." And she had discovered that refugees "are among the most vulnerable and yet the most resilient people on earth."