Angelina Jolie has completed ten years of work as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, and to recognize her decade with the organization, Jolie was honored at a joint ceremony in Geneva on Monday. The joint ceremony part was because the UNHCR was also awarding their prestigious Nansen Refugee Award to the Society for Humanitarian Solidarity, a Yemeni refugee organization.
When she spoke, Angelina said of “200 government officials, diplomats, donors and aid workers” that: “It is an honor to work on behalf of refugees, and I look forward to the next 10 years… I’m so grateful to the many refugee families that I have had the honor and privilege to spend the last years with. From them I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned to become a better person, a better mother. They’ve inspired me by showing me every day the unbreakable strength of the human spirit.” Here’s more from the UNHCR press release:
The UN refugee agency paid lavish tribute on Monday night to award-winning American actress Angelina Jolie and Yemeni humanitarian aid group Society for Humanitarian Solidarity (SHS) for their outstanding work for refugees over many years.[From ]
Before an audience of 200 government officials, diplomats, donors and aid workers, Jolie was recognized for completing 10 years as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, while the founder and 290 staff of SHS received the prestigious Nansen Refugee Award for their live-saving work helping tens of thousands of desperate boat people arriving on the coast of Yemen from the Horn of Africa.
“This award motivates us to increase our effort to helping those who are in need,” said SHS founder Nasser Salim Ali Al-Hamairy, while Jolie told the audience, “It is an honour to work on behalf of refugees and I look forward to the next 10 years.”
Lauding Jolie, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said, “She is the very best of the goodwill ambassadors that exist in the humanitarian world.”
In a slick ceremony presided over by former British politician and broadcast journalist Sir Martin Bell, Norwegian musician Sivert Hoyem warmed up the audience with two songs before a tribute to Angelina Jolie and her work for UNHCR was screened in Geneva’s distinctive 19th Century Bâtiment des Forces Motrices, a former water pumping station on the River Rhone.
“I’m so grateful to the many refugee families that I have had the honour and privilege to spend the last years with. From them I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned to become a better person, a better mother,” Jolie said. “They’ve inspired me by showing me every day the unbreakable strength of the human spirit.”
The actress, who was presented with a gold pin, has visited almost 30 countries worldwide as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador over the past decade, including Tunisia, Turkey, Malta and Italy this year alone.
In the highlight of the evening, Jolie and Guterres presented the Nansen Refugee Medal to SHS founder Al-Hamairy, whose non-governmental humanitarian organization has since 1995 been helping people fleeing by smugglers’ boats across the Gulf of Aden. SHS also helps needy local communities.
“I do think they deserve the recognition of the international community,” said Guterres, while Jolie also paid tribute to the Yemeni aid workers. “The staff of SHS often risk their own lives to save others,” she said, describing their life-saving assistance as “extraordinary.”
The Nansen Refugee Award was created in 1954 in honour of Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat and politician who in the 1920s became the first international High Commissioner for Refugees.
It is given annually to an individual or organization for outstanding work on behalf of refugees and consists of a commemorative medal and a US$100,000 monetary prize donated by the governments of Switzerland and Norway. The winner can donate spend the funds on a project approved by the Nansen committee.
Past winners include Eleanor Roosevelt, Tanzania’s late President Julius Nyerere, King Juan Carlos I of Spain, Graça Machel, late Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti and last year’s winner, photographer Alixandra Fazzina. A number of humanitarian organizations, and partners of UNHCR, have also won the award, including the League of Red Cross Societies. Médecins Sans Frontières, Handicap International and the UN Volunteers. In 1986, the Nansen went to the people of Canada.
Monday’s event was supported by the Swiss and Norwegian governments, the Canton of Geneva, the City of Geneva, the IKEA Foundation and the Norwegian Refugee Council, which also helped to organize the presentation ceremony.
Oh, so she got a gold pin. I was wondering if they gave her a plaque or something, but a gold pin is nice, and look, it probably wasn‘t very big and it was probably donated, so don‘t start in on “that gold pin money could have been used to save a refugee!” She’s worked for the UNHCR for a decade, and she’s going to continue to work there for decades to come. It’s nice that she got a small token of appreciation, because she really is one of the best, most prominent ambassadors working for any UN organization - and getting attention IS the job.