Newly engaged United Nations Ambassador Angelina Jolie was in Ecuador over the weekend speaking with both Colombian refugees who now reside in the country and Ecuador’s Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patino.
The 36-year-old was recently in the news for recently getting engaged to long-time partner and father of her children, Brad Pitt. The family was in the Galapagos Islands reportedly celebrating the engagement. However, Jolie did not celebrate for long before she headed over to Ecuador.
In 2001, Jolie was name a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Goodwill Ambassador. She reportedly became personally aware of worldwide humanitarian crises while filming in Cambodia and soon after contacted the UNHCR to learn about ways to assist the organization.
On April 17, 2012, after more than 10 years service as a Goodwill Ambassador, Jolie was promoted to Special Envoy of High Commissioner António Guterres. As Special Envoy, she represents the UNHCR and High Commissioner António Guterres at the diplomatic level and works to facilitate long-term solutions for people displaced by large-scale crises.
Jolie’s two-day visit began on Saturday in Lago Agrio, capital of Sucumbios province in the north of the country. She visited the oil town’s San Valentin neighbourhood, where she met young Colombian refugees and Ecuadoreans who were part of a youth group supported by UNHCR. They told her about their tough lives in an area where the young are often targets for recruitment by armed groups and traffickers.
Jolie was in Ecuador to assess the situation in urban and rural areas for refugees from Colombia, where almost 50 years of conflict have also left some 4 million people internally displaced.
Ecuador hosts 56,000 refugees and 21,000 asylum-seekers and receives 1,300 new applications for protection each month from people fleeing neighbouring Colombia’s continuing violence. Many live in the remote and poor northern areas of the country close to the border.
Jolie’s trip marks her third trip to meet Colombian refugees in Ecuador. Also on Sunday, the Special Envoy met with Patiño (and senior government officials) to discuss the protection situation for refugees in Ecuador on behalf of UNHCR. She urged the Minister to ensure his government maintains Ecuador’s long history of protecting refugees and that people in need of protection can access their rights.
She said UNHCR would recognize Ecuador’s contribution to refugee protection in a new awareness campaign entitled, “Gracias Ecuador” (“Thanks Ecuador”).