Filippo Grandi became the 11th United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on 1 January 2016.
Before being elected High Commissioner, Grandi was engaged in international cooperation for over 30 years, focusing on refugee and humanitarian work.
He served as Commissioner-General of the UN Agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, from 2010 to 2014, after having been the organization’s Deputy Commissioner-General since 2005.
Grandi previously served as Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Afghanistan, following a long career first with NGOs, and later with UNHCR in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and at the organization’s Geneva headquarters.
Born in Milan in 1957, Grandi holds a degree in modern history from the State University in Milan, a BA in Philosophy from the Gregorian University in Rome, as well as an honorary Doctorate from the University of Coventry.
It was while filming “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” in war-torn Cambodia that Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie first witnessed the dire conditions faced by refugees.
Working with UNHCR, she began visiting refugees in Sierra Leone and Tanzania.
Responding to an emergency appeal from UNHCR, she donated $1 million to the organization, the largest donation UNHCR had ever received from a private individual.
Jolie was named a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in August 2001.
Jolie has been working tirelessly since, meeting with refugees and internally displaced persons in over 30 countries.
In 2003, Jolie released Notes from My Travels, describing her extensive travels to war zones in Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2012, Jolie was named Special Envoy to the UNC High Commissioner, and now represents
UNHCR at the diplomatic level for matters relating to major refugee crises.
She’s is also active in conservation and community development, and is a vocal advocate for causes such as the rights of child immigrants and vulnerable children worldwide, children education, human rights, sexual violence and women rights.
Having received numerous awards in recognition of her humanitarian work, with years of dedicated service to UNHCR and the cause of refugees, Angelina Jolie in April 2012 was appointed as Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
International Goodwill Ambassadors
Goodwill Ambassadors are the public faces of the UN Refugee Agency, each using their celebrity, influence and hard work to help promote UNHCR in unique ways.
Global figures such as Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani and American actress Angelina Jolie have a truly universal reach, while others such as Turkish singer Muazzez Ersoy, Spanish TV presenter Jesus Vazquez, Argentinian soap star Osvaldo Laport and Julien Clerc of France have a loyal national and regional following.
Meanwhile Greek musician George Dalaras and Egyptian stage and screen star Adel Imam continue to straddle the international and national arenas, while acclaimed soprano Barbara Hendricks continues to bring enormous influence and experience as UNHCR’s only Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador.
Past UNHCR Goodwill Ambassadors include actors Richard Burton and James Mason, Italian screen legend Sophia Loren, Princess Märtha Louise of Norway, and musician Riccardo Muti.
Each use their unique talents to help UNHCR, either by raising funds, spreading awareness, lobbying governments or going into the field to shine a light on the suffering of refugees and to let them know that they are not forgotten.
UNHCR relies on a global network of supporters and collaborators, ranging from royalty and celebrities to students, academics and ordinary members of the public.
Supporters often emerge from nowhere, united by an ideal: a desire to help those forcibly displaced.
Some are former refugees themselves, like best-selling author Khaled Hosseini who joined World Refugee Day events and travelled to his native Afghanistan and to Chad to raise awareness.
Or Chicago Bulls star basketball player Luol Deng who, remembering how he fled his native South Sudan as a child before settling as a refugee in England, now supports UNHCR’s ninemillion.org campaign, which raises funds to provide education and sports activities for young people.
Others contribute their talents, like American actor Ben Affleck, who directed a short film about uprooted Congolese civilians for UNHCR’s “Gimme Shelter” campaign, accompanied by the classic Rolling Stones track of the same name, courtesy of Sir Mick Jagger and ABCKO Records.
In South Korea, UNHCR even went virtual, joining forces with animated cartoon character Robot Taekwon V to spread awareness about the forcibly displaced.
But for the most part, our supporters are ordinary people: volunteers, students, academics, former refugees and concerned citizens who contributed their care and donations to UNHCR.