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Angelina Jolie: Fighting for Women and Justice Are Crucial

angelina jolie
Actor and UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie addresses a U.N. ministerial meeting on peacekeeping at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., March 29, 2019

Actress and activist Angelina Jolie says promoting equality for women, combating injustice, and helping refugees are the most important parts of her life, after her six children.

Off camera, the 43-year-old Oscar-winner is focused on trying to help millions of people caught up in the world's crises and conflicts, a passion that began in 2001 when she started working for the United Nations refugee agency, and travelling to camps for displaced people often in developing countries, as reported by AP.

In the search for solutions, Jolie in 2012 launched the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative with former British foreign secretary William Hague. It is now supported by 156 countries.

Jolie said the initiative's work helped produce the first international protocol on how to document and investigate sexual violence, and national action plans to combat the scourge adopted by some of the worst-affected countries, including South Sudan, Congo and Colombia.

She said "We tried to move the needle and we have ... because we are working with many governments, non-governmental organizations, civil society around the world and we are listening."

She also stated that sexual violence is important for her because it is seen as "a weapon of war. It costs less than a bullet. It is something that is done systematically, not only to destroy the individual but their family, their community."

During a whirlwind day Friday, March 29th, in which she gave a keynote address to a ministerial meeting on UN peacekeeping, this was one major issue she raised at high-level meetings, including with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the general assembly’s president, Germany's foreign minister, Canada's defence minister and campaigners against sexual violence.

As part of another campaign to promote the importance of women's participation to peace, Jolie is teaching a master's degree course at the centre for women, peace and security at the London School of Economics, where she is a visiting professor.

Jolie said she is also working with ministers of defence and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, on changing military doctrine and training practices, to make the prevention of sexual violence a priority, and to increase the number of women in peacekeeping operations.

Looking at the world today, Jolie said: "there is such an imbalance, when certain conflicts are addressed, and certain peoples are cared for and other peoples are dismissed, their rights denied, the fight for justice and accountability for the crimes against them not even in discussion."

Despite the world being richer and more technologically advanced than ever before, she reiterated that "we seem incapable of upholding minimum standards of humanity in many parts of world."

As examples she pointed to missile strikes on schools and hospitals, families bombed in their homes, chemical weapons dropped on neighbourhoods and mass rapes of women, children and men. She noted the sharp rise in displaced people from less than 20 million when she started working for the refugee agency, United Nations High Commission for Refugees, to 65 million today and rising.

Jolie said this generation is more connected "than we ever were," and despite possible complications "the more we know each other, the more connected the world is, and the more aware we are of what is happening and what is needed, I believe people will step up. I believe people are fundamentally good."

For her flight back to Los Angeles on Saturday, March 30th, Jolie said her reading material includes the 20-page UN Security Council resolution adopted Friday March 29th, to extend the UN's biggest peacekeeping force in Congo, which is still plagued by fighting in the mineral-rich east and sexual violence.