Angelina Jolie’s Influential Humanitarian Impact Over the Last Two Decades

Angelina Jolie, who started her career in the spotlight as an actress, has over the last two decades shown remarkable humanitarian work since she joined the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).


Her passion for helping refugees and children whose lives are affected by war birthed after her trip to war-torn Cambodia to film the 2001 movie “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.” After witnessing the living conditions, she immediately wanted to help and contacted the UNHCR to learn more about refugees and how to help. She joined the UNHCR team on an 18-day field trip to Sierra-Leone and Tanzania, and a few months later, made her first donation to the UNHCR of one million dollars. In late 2001, at the young age of 26, she joined the UNHCR as a Goodwill Ambassador. Jolie has made a massive impact in her involvement with the refugee team within her first decade as a Goodwill Ambassador, completing over 40 field missions. In 2012, she was promoted from Goodwill Ambassador to a Special Envoy for the UNHCR, and has since continued to visit countries whose citizens have been affected by war or natural disasters.


In addition to her work for the UNHCR, Jolie and her then husband, Brad Pitt, launched the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation, named after their son Maddox, whom they adopted from Cambodia in 2002. Launched in 2003, the foundation’s vision is to alleviate extreme rural poverty while protecting the environment and wildlife in rural northwestern Cambodia. Their projects include conservation, education, health, economic growth, agriculture, and women empowerment.


Jolie is also an advocate for human rights and against sexual violence. She has joined and donated to several foundations and causes addressing these issues. In 2011, she launched the Jolie Legal Fellowship where she has attorneys from different countries who are sponsored to advocate for human rights in their respective countries. In 2012, she joined the Preventing Sexual Violence In Conflict initiative aimed at raising awareness around sexual violence against children and adults, and in 2014, launched the Draw Me to Safety campaign with fashion designer Stella McCartney, to help end sexual violence and aid children living in countries affected by war. In 2015, Jolie, along with Brad Pitt, Chloe Dalton, and Arminka Helic, collaborated and founded a partnership called “Jolie Pitt Dalton Helic,” dedicated to women's rights and international justice.


More recently, in March 2022, she visited Aden, the capital city of Yemen, to support refugees in light of the country’s ongoing civil war since 2015. In a recent Instagram post on her visit to Aden, she highlights that the situation in Yemen is one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world with one civilian killed or injured every hour in 2022.


Jolie has received multiple awards for her humanitarian work and continues to be the change she wants to see in the world through her selfless actions.