Stronger need than ever, to "stay true" to UN ideals: Angelina Jolie

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Angelina Jolie. Screen grab from UN Web TV.

There's a stronger need than ever before to "stay true" to the ideals of the UN, the actor and Special Envoy Angelina Jolie said on Wednesday.

Speaking in Geneva, the Hollywood star and UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) envoy delivered a speech honouring the former head of the UN Mission in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who died in the 2003 bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad.

She criticized what she called a "rising tide of nationalism, masquerading as populism."

Matthew Wells has more.

Ms Jolie, who served as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador for more than 10 years before being appointed Special Envoy in 2012, strongly defended the UN, and decried the election of some politicians "partly on the basis of dismissing international institutions and agreements."

She said they had to recognize the damage caused when the UN was undermined, pointing to the fact that there wasn't a "single humanitarian appeal anywhere in the world" that was even half-funded to the level required.

She praised the tireless humanitarian work of the Brazilian envoy and former Human Rights chief, who died serving the UN in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

"Fourteen years since his death, there is a stronger need than ever before for us to stay true to the ideals and purposes of the United Nations. That is what I hope his memory holds for us today. We cannot all be Sergios. But I hope all of us can determine that we shall be a generation that renews its commitment to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security and to promote social progress and better standards of life and larger freedom."

Ms Jolie also renewed her contract to serve as UNHCR Special Envoy, telling staff in Geneva "I am with you for life."

She urged staff to step forward and "say who we are and who we fight for, and work even harder for them."

She pointed out that since she first started working for the agency, the number of people driven from their homes by war and persecution had risen from 22 million, to 65 million worldwide.

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 1’32″

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