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Iraq/Syria: Angelina Jolie Shames UN Leaders For Lack Of Protection

By Alistair Reign, March 30, 2016. Alistair Reign News Blog.

UPDATED on November 17, 2016: United Nations Special Ambassador for Children, Angelina Jolie is both an involved and outspoken supporter of refugees, women and child rights in war zones.

Please take a moment to sign our petition, asking Ambassador Jolie to intervene, stand up to the UN, and demand humanitarian aid be delivered to the Yemenis. To date 10,000 children have died by slow, agonizing starvation, while 7.2 million more children face imminent death by disease and malnutrition if aid does not arrive soon.

Sign our petition on Change.org: Ambassador Angelina Jolie Please Help Yemen’s Children.

The following video has been added of speeches Ambassador Jolie made after this post was published, and includes the speech referenced in the article below.

March 30, 2016: Angelina Jolie visited the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon earlier this month in her capacity as a special envoy for the United Nations’s refugee agency, pleading with world leaders to step up to help the millions of people displaced.

During the trip, which included an emotional press conference, (Angelina) reunited with the family of a Syrian girl named Hala, whom she first met during a trip for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2014.

They sat on the floor together, ate together, and colored while talking, the source says. Hala shared her dreams of returning to Syria. Mostly, however, Hala told the actress that she wants to return to the country to place flowers on her mother’s grave.

Below is a summary of key points from Angelina’s speech:

I want to thank the Lebanese people for helping to save the lives of over 1 million Syrians. It is not easy for a country to take in the equivalent of a quarter of its own population in refugees.

You are setting an example to the world of generosity, humanity, resilience and solidarity. On behalf of UNHCR, and on my own behalf, shukran, thank you.

There are 4.8 million Syrian refugees in this region, and 6.5 million people displaced inside Syria. On this day, the 5th anniversary of the Syria conflict, that is where I had hoped I would be: in Syria, helping UNHCR with returns, and watching families I have come to know be able to go home.

It is tragic and shameful that we seem to be so far from that point.

I have seen on this visit just how desperate the struggle to survive now is for these families. After five years of exile, any savings they had, have been exhausted. Many who started out living in apartments now cluster in abandoned shopping centers, or informal tented settlements, sinking deeper into debt.

The number of refugees in Lebanon living below the minimum threshold for survival– unable to afford the food and shelter they need to stay alive – has doubled in the last two years, in a country where 79 percent of all Syrian refugees are women and children.

The number of refugees is now higher than the last time we had a World War.

We are at an exceptionally difficult moment internationally, when the consequences of the refugee crisis seem to be outstripping our will and capacity and even our courage to respond to it.

But with 60 million people displaced, as there are today, there is no way that the governments of the world– no matter how rich or willing they are – can prop up the UN enough to care for all these people permanently and expect that to address the problem.

  • We cannot manage the world through aid relief in the place of diplomacy and political solutions.
  • We cannot discuss this as if it were a problem confined to the situation of tens of thousands of refugees in Europe.
  • We cannot improve this reality by partial responses, by responding to some crises and not others, or by helping some refugees and not others – for instance, by excluding Afghan refugees, among other groups – or by making a distinction between refugees on grounds of religion. The result would be more chaos, more injustice and insecurity, and ultimately more conflict, and more refugees.

We have to focus on the absolute root causes, and that takes a certain amount of courage and leadership. And in my view, leadership in this situation is about doing more than simply protecting your borders or simply putting forward more aid, it means taking decisions to ensure we are not heading towards an even greater refugee crisis in the future.

  • It is not wrong to feel unsettled faced by a crisis of such complexity and such magnitude.
  • But we must not let fears get the better of us.
  • We must not let fear stand in the way of an effective response that is in our long-term interests.

My plea today is that we need governments around the world to show leadership: to analyze the situation and understand exactly what their country can do, how many refugees they can assist and how, in which particular communities and to what time frame; to explain this to their citizens and address fears.

I appeal to all governments to uphold the UN Convention on Refugees and basic human rights law, because it is both necessary and possible to protect people fleeing persecution and death and protect citizens at home. It should not be reduced to a choice between one or the other.

The reason we have laws and binding international agreements is precisely because of the temptation to deviate from them in times of pressure. We know from recent history that when we depart from fundamental laws and principles we only create worse problems for the future.

I spent time this morning with a mother who was paralyzed after being shot by a sniper’s rifle in a besieged area of Syria.

  • She lies in one room, where she lives with her whole family, in a small, cold, makeshift settlement here in the Bekaa Valley. Never once during our discussion did she ask for anything, did she stop smiling, or talk of anything other than her desire for her children to have the chance to go to school and have a better life.

When I saw her beautiful smile, and her dedicated husband and children looking after her, I was in awe of them.

They are heroes to me. And I ask myself, “what have we come to when such survivors are made to feel like beggars?“”

Source: People Magazine [01]
Angelina Jolie Pitt returned to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon on Tuesday in her capacity as a special envoy for the United Nations's refugee agency, pleading with world leaders to step up to help the millions displaced.

Angelina Jolie Pitt returned to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon in her capacity as a special envoy for the United Nations’s refugee agency.

Angelina Jolie Pitt, special envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has continued to appeal to the world’s nations on behalf of refugees.

Ms. Jolie Pitt held a media conference on September 7, 2015.

Families fleeing war must be prioritized over economic migrants to get a grip on this crisis,” Angelina Jolie Pitt.

Below is a transcript from her speech: 

“At no time in recent history has there been a greater need for leadership to deal with the consequences and causes of the global refugee crisis.

Nothing brings home this truth more than the sight of columns of refugees marching across European borders, from countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. The Syria conflict has created a wave of human suffering that has rolled out across the region and now reached the shores of Europe.

Syrians are fleeing barrel bombs, chemical weapons, rape and massacres. Their country has become a killing field.

It should come as no surprise that people who have endured years of war, or who have been living in refugee camps on dwindling rations, are taking matters into their own hands. How many of us could honestly say that in their shoes we would not do the same, confronted by fear, lack of hope, and a glaring lack of international political will to end the conflict.

We identified with Syrians when they called for political and economic freedom in their country.

We were outraged by the images of their families bombed in their homes, children being dug out of the rubble, and cities overrun by extremists. Whether in Europe or elsewhere, Syrian refugees deserve our compassion.

Over the past few weeks we have seen many members of the public and growing numbers of political leaders take a moral stand, groups of refugees being welcomed, and new commitments of assistance made. For the first time in years, refugees are leading the news and are at the forefront of debate.

  • We need to build on this and make it a turning point in people’s understanding not just of the Syria conflict but of the global refugee crisis. It requires us to use not just our hearts but also our heads and not just aid but also diplomacy, and to focus our efforts not just this year, but for years to come.
  • We must face some hard truths. The first is that the responsibility to help is not determined by the accident of geography, but by adherence to universal human rights and values. It transcends religion, culture and ethnicity.
  • We should not be reaching for the lowest common denominator in our response to the refugee crisis, but striving to live up to our highest ideals.

Every country in the world – not just in Europe, must be a part of the solution.”

Source: The Times [02]


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