Saturday, March 01, 2008

Angelina Jolie

Angelina JolieUN High Commissioner for Refugees Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie launches World Refugee Day at the National Geographic Society. (State Department photo by Michael Gross)

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A global call for the safety and protection of 17 million refugees arose from Washington June 15, echoing with tribute to the courage of people who flee war, violence or discrimination in search of safety and hope for a better future.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) opened a five-day recognition of June 20’s World Refugee Day with a Washington ceremony, bringing both diplomatic and cinematic star power to the event.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and film star Angelina Jolie shared a stage during a ceremony hosted by the National Geographic Society. Rice came to the event as chief diplomat for a nation that offers resettlement to more refugees each year than any other – 53,000 in 2004, and a projected 55,000 in 2005. Jolie serves as goodwill ambassador for UNHCR and, in that role, has traveled to remote areas in more than 15 nations, meeting and encouraging refugees and the people who assist them.

Rice said the United States has a “deep and abiding” commitment to the protection and assistance of refugees. “Communities across our country have opened their doors and their hearts to refugees helping them to begin new lives in safety and in freedom,” she said.

The United States provided almost $700 million for overseas assistance to refugees and conflict victims in 2004. It provided additional hundreds of millions of dollars in global food aid, much of which flowed to refugees and displaced persons.

In recognition of World Refugee Day, Rice said the United States renews its pledge “to keep the hope of the world’s refugees alive.”

Jolie, who has represented the cause of refugees for almost four years, noted the more than 50,000 refugees resettled in the United States in 2004. “I’m certain among these 50,000, you’ll also find some of the best and brightest of America’s future," she said.

While acknowledging those success stories, Jolie also said, “There are 17 million whose futures are still uncertain. Refugee Day is the day we make sure they aren’t forgotten.”

The official Web page for World Refugee Day is posted on the UNHCR Web site.

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