Angelina Jolie delivered an impassioned speech about women in peacekeeping after making a surprise appearance at the major UN summit in London. Dressed demurely in a black dress, the 41-year-old actress was greeted by UK Vice Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Gordon Messenger as she arrived at Lancaster House on Thursday (Sept. 8).
She then addressed a gathering of delegates from 80 countries calling for more female peacekeepers amid growing allegations of sexual abuse by international troops sent to help those in areas of conflict.
"We all know that the credibility of UN peacekeeping has been sadly undermined by the actions of a few intolerable cases of women and children being sexually exploited by the very people in charge of protecting them," she told the summit.
Calling for the prosecution of those who commit abuses, Angelina said a new approach to peacekeeping was needed, that has the "rights and protection and involvement of women at its heart", the Guardian reports. She also stressed that adding more women, who currently account for less than five per cent of UN peacekeepers, is essential to reshaping the UN's efforts.
"Peacekeeping forces only gain and keep the trust of local populations if they are able to engage with women as well as men in that community," she said.
Sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers was one of the key themes at the summit following allegations of assault in countries including Haiti and Central African Republic. Angelina said she was moved by the desire to seek justice for refugee women she had met who had themselves been abused.
The Oscar-winner has been involved with the UN since 2001, and in April 2012 was promoted from Goodwill Ambassador to UN Special Envoy. In her expanded role, Angelina focuses on major crises that result in mass population displacements, and engages with decision-makers on global displacement issues to help find solutions for people forced to flee their homes.