Angelina Jolie has made a strong defence of the United Nations, saying the world body needs reform but also support.
The American actress and special envoy for the UN refugee agency decried a “rising tide of nationalism masquerading as populism, and the re-emergence of policies encouraging fear and hatred of others” during a speech at the UN in Geneva.
She didn’t mention President Trump, amid concerns his administration could cut crucial funding for the UN, but few could fail to hear the message between the lines of her speech.
“We have to recognise the damage we do when we undermine the UN, or use it selectively, or not at all,” Jolie said.
She said “there is not a single humanitarian appeal anywhere in the world that is funded by even by half of what is required.”
Jolie was addressing a ceremony honouring Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN envoy to Iraq who died with 21 others in a 2003 bombing attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad.
Jolie said she spoke as a UN supporter but also “as a citizen of my country – the United States.
“I believe all of us who work with the UN preserve this duality. The United Nations is not a country, it is a place where we come together as nations and people to try to resolve our differences and unite in common action.
“As a citizen, I find myself looking out on a global environment that seems more troubling and uncertain than at any time in my lifetime. I imagine many of you may feel the same.
“We are grappling with a level of conflict and insecurity that seems to exceed our will and capabilities: with more refugees than ever before, and new wars erupting on top of existing conflicts, some already lasting decades.
“We see a rising tide of nationalism, masquerading as patriotism, and the re-emergence of policies encouraging fear and hatred of others.
“We see some politicians elected partly on the basis of dismissing international institutions and agreements, as if our countries have not benefited from cooperation, but actually been harmed by it.
“We hear some leaders talking as if some of our proudest achievements are in fact our biggest liabilities – whether it is the tradition of successfully integrating refugees into our societies, or the institutions and treaties we have built rooted in laws and human rights.”
She clearly targeted the US when she said, “We see nations that played a proud role in the founding of the International Criminal Court withdrawing from it, on the one hand; and on the other, we see arrest warrants for alleged war crimes issued but not implemented, and other crimes ignored altogether.”
She criticised the world’s treatment of South Sudan, “ushered by the international community into independence, then largely abandoned… without the massive support they needed to make a success of sovereignty.
“And we see resolutions and laws on the protection of civilians and the use of chemical weapons, for instance, flouted repeatedly, in some cases under the cover of Security Council vetoes, as in Syria.
“Many of these things are not new – but taken together – and in the absence of strong international leadership, they are deeply worrying.”
Jolie asked: “When we consider all this and more, as citizens, what is our answer?
“Do we withdraw from the world where before we felt a responsibility to be part of solutions?
“I am a proud American and I am an internationalist. I believe anyone committed to human rights is an internationalist.
“It means seeing the world with a sense of fairness and humility, and recognising our own humanity in the struggles of others.
“It stems from love of one’s country, but not at the expense of others – from patriotism, but not from narrow nationalism.
“It includes the view that success isn’t being better or greater than others, but finding your place in a world where others succeed too.
“And that a strong nation, like a strong person, helps others to rise up and be independent.”
She called for citizens “to challenge the idea that the strongest leaders are those most willing to dismiss human rights on the grounds of national interest. The strongest leaders are those who are capable of pursuing both.
“Having strong values and the will to act upon them doesn’t weaken our borders or our militaries – it is their essential foundation.”