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Celebrities in Human Trafficking, Part II

In Part II of this posting I begin to detail the involvement of particular celebrities in human trafficking activism, policy making and general influence.

1. Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie was recently promoted from Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, to Special Envoy. Inspired to become an “ardent, persistent and well-briefed humanitarian activist” after filming Tomb Raider in Cambodia, her humanitarian travels for UNHCR to places like Sudan, Sri Lanka, Ecuador, Chad, and Pakistan, receive tremendous press coverage. Asked what she hoped to accomplish meeting with refugees and internally displaced persons in more than 20 countries, she stated, “Awareness of the plight of these people. I think they should be commended for what they have survived, not looked down upon.”

Now considered a power player among celebrity humanitarians, she has morphed into a celebrity diplomat of sorts, speaking to world leaders at the Davos World Economic Forum, before Congress, and becoming a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Jolie’s interest in and relationship to the issue of human trafficking comes through her work with refugees and displaced persons, a population very vulnerable to human trafficking. Jolie partnered with Microsoft to create Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), an NGO on a mission to provide pro bono legal counsel to unaccompanied immigrant children in the United States, ensuring that they are treated fairly and compassionately in the immigration system. KIND also specializes in assisting trafficked children in the U.S. in obtaining immigration status.

On the whole, Jolie’s involvement in human trafficking is measured and intelligent. She made an early misstep by hiring Trevor Nielson as her advisor, but she has since fired him and made better decisions.  Although she does not claim expertise on human trafficking, in creating and funding KIND, Jolie identified a need gap (legal assistance to unaccompanied minors, a group vulnerable to trafficking) and has attempted to apply a nuanced solution that builds capacity within the legal community. Furthermore, Jolie claims to cover her own travel expenses when doing humanitarian work, uses her wealth to support her causes, and does not appear to use her activism to sell movies or augment her celebrity status. 

Related posts:

  1. Daphna Hacker and Orna Cohen. “The Shelters in Israel for Survivors of Human Trafficking.” US Department of State (2012).
  2. The Celebrification of Human Trafficking, Part 1 (in a Six Part Series)
  3. The Eye of the Beholder: How Bad Data, Scrambles for Funding and Professional Bias Shape Human Trafficking Law and Policy, Dina Francesca Haynes
  4. Used, Abused, Arrested and Deported: Extending Immigration Benefits to Protect the Victims of Trafficking and to Secure the Prosecution of Traffickers by Dina Haynes
  5. Human Rights and Human Trafficking: Quagmire or Firm Ground? A Response to James Hathaway by Anne Gallagher