Besides being a successful actress and married to Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie works passionately for humanitarian causes. She first encountered the effects of a humanitarian crisis while filming Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) in war-torn Cambodia, an experience she later credited with having brought her a greater understanding of the world. Upon her return home, she contacted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for information on international trouble spots. To learn more about the conditions in these areas, she began visiting refugee camps around the world. In February 2001, she went on her first field visit, an 18-day mission to Sierra Leone and Tanzania; she later expressed her shock at what she had witnessed.
In the following months, she returned to Cambodia for two weeks and met with Afghan refugees in Pakistan, where she donated $1 million in response to an international UNHCR emergency appeal, the largest donation UNHCR had ever received from a private individual. She covered all costs related to her missions and shared the same rudimentary working and living conditions as UNHCR field staff on all of her visits. Jolie was named a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva on August 27, 2001.
Over the next decade, she went on field missions around the world and met with refugees and internally displaced persons in more than 30 countries. In 2002, when asked what she hoped to accomplish, she stated, "Awareness of the plight of these people. I think they should be commended for what they have survived, not looked down upon." To that end, her 2001-02 field visits were chronicled in her book Notes from My Travels, which was published in October 2003 in conjunction with the release of her film Beyond Borders. She aimed to visit what she termed "forgotten emergencies," crises that media attention had shifted away from, and she became noted for going "where real bullets fly," traveling to such war zones as Sudan's Darfur region during the Darfur conflict, the Syrian-Iraqi border during the Second Gulf War, where she met privately with U.S. troops and other multi-national forces, and the Afghan capital Kabul during the war in Afghanistan, where three aid workers were murdered in the midst of her first visit.
On April 17, 2012, after more than a decade of service as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Jolie was promoted to the rank of Special Envoy to High Commissioner António Guterres, the first to take on such a position within the organization. In her expanded role, she represents UNHCR and Guterres at the diplomatic level to facilitate lasting solutions for people displaced by major crises. In the months following the promotion, she made her first visit as Special Envoy—her third over all—to Ecuador, where she met with Colombian refugees, and she accompanied Guterres on a week-long tour of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq, to assess the situation of refugees from neighboring Syria.
In an effort to connect her Cambodian-born son with his heritage, Jolie purchased a house in his country of birth in 2003. The traditional home sat on 39 hectares in the northwestern province of Battambang, adjacent to a national park infiltrated with poachers who threatened the dwindling populations of Asian black bears, Asian elephants, and Indochinese tigers. She purchased the surrounding 60,000 hectares and turned the area into a wildlife reserve named for her son, the Maddox Jolie Project. In recognition of her conservation efforts, King Norodom Sihamoni awarded her Cambodian citizenship on July 31, 2005.
In 2006, Jolie expanded the scope of the project—renamed the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Project (MJP)—to create Asia's first Millennium Village, in accordance with UN development goals. She was inspired by a meeting with the founder of Millennium Promise, noted economist Jeffrey Sachs, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where she was an invited speaker in 2005 and 2006. Together they filmed a 2005 MTV special, The Diary of Angelina Jolie & Dr. Jeffrey Sachs in Africa, which followed them on a trip to a Millennium Village in Western Kenya. By 2007, some 6000 villagers and 72 employees—some of them former poachers employed as rangers—lived and worked at MJP, in ten villages previously isolated from one another. The compound includes schools, roads, and a soy milk factory, all funded by Jolie. Her home functions as the MJP field headquarters.
In addition to the facilities at MJP, Jolie has built at least ten other schools in Cambodia, and funds the Maddox Chivan Children's Center, a care facility for children affected by HIV, in the capital Phnom Penh. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the birthplace of her daughter, she funds the Zahara Children's Center, which treats children suffering from HIV or tuberculosis. Both centers are run by the Global Health Committee. She has also built schools elsewhere in the world, including a school and a boarding facility for girls at Kakuma refugee camp in north-western Kenya, a school for girls in Tangi, Afghanistan, and another girls-only school in the Afghan capital Kabul. These facilities and other projects are funded through the Jolie–Pitt Foundation, which Jolie and her partner Brad Pitt established in September 2006.
Jolie became more involved in promoting humanitarian causes on a political level from 2003 onwards. She began lobbying humanitarian interests in the U.S. capital, where she had met with senators and representatives of Congress at least 20 times by 2006. She has been involved in child and women protection efforts, pushing for legislation to aid child refugees and other vulnerable children in both developing nations and the U.S., and fronting an international campaign against sexual violence in military conflict zones. She explained in 2006, "As much as I would love to never have to visit Washington, that's the way to move the ball."
Since its founding at the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative, Jolie has co-chaired the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, which funds education programs for children affected by disaster.In its first year, the partnership supported education projects for Iraqi refugee children, youth affected by the Darfur conflict, and girls in rural Afghanistan, among other affected groups. The partnership has worked closely with the Council on Foreign Relations' Center for Universal Education—founded by the partnership's co-chair, noted economist Gene Sperling—to establish education policies, which resulted in recommendations made to UN agencies, G8 development agencies, and the World Bank. Jolie joined the Council on Foreign Relations in June 2007.
Jolie also co-chairs Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), which provides free legal aid to unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings across the U.S. She founded KIND in October 2008, in a collaboration with the Microsoft Corporation and 25 leading U.S. law firms. She had previously, from 2005 to 2007, funded a similar initiative, the then-newly launched National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children. In the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, she established the Jolie Legal Fellowship, whose member attorneys—the first of whom was appointed in January 2011—assist and support government officials and other organizations in their efforts to secure the legal protection of Haiti's most vulnerable children.
In May 2012, Jolie joined UK Foreign Secretary William Hague in a campaign against sexual violence in military conflict zones, the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative. To highlight the problem, Jolie and Hague subsequently travelled to eastern DR Congo, where rape has been frequently used as a weapon of war by rebel groups and soldiers. In 2013, she spoke at a G8 foreign ministers meeting, where ministers pledged $36 million in funding to go toward developing international standards for the investigation and prosecution of war rape, and before the UN security council—the UN's most powerful body—which responded by adopting its broadest resolution on the issue to date.