The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Do-gooder derby at Davos
- With stars around, the state of the world is secure

Imagine the world without Angelina Jolie, the actor.

Well, Davos wouldn't be Davos, for one, not to speak of the tragedy that there wouldn't be a Tomb Raider sequel.

The rest of the world's loss could be Africa's gain, though, since Darfour may see more of her and maybe not Davos, where she was last week for the World Economic Forum meeting.

Every year, world and business leaders gather at the Swiss resort for the conference that calls itself 'Committed to Improving the State of the World'.

This year, the haloed presence of the likes of Bill Gates and N.R. Narayana Murthy was overshadowed by actors Jolie, Sharon Stone and Richard Gere ' the AIDS and human rights crusader recently in India ' and musicians Bono and Lionel Richie.

In the breathtaking Alpine setting, supplemented by some extraordinary food and wine that are served at the conference, Jolie said she found humanitarian work with the UN refugee agency more fulfilling and interesting than her erstwhile day job of a Hollywood star.

'I can't find anything that interests me enough to go back to work,' she said. 'I'm simply not excited about anything. I'm not excited about going to a film set,' said the award-winning star of Girl, Interrupted and Tomb Raider.

Jolie has had a few months off work.

She has spent four years as a goodwill ambassador for the UNHCR, carrying out field missions to 20 countries, including Cambodia, Ecuador, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Her visit to Darfour in Sudan attracted much publicity last October when she called the humanitarian crisis there 'unbelievably horrible'.

In that same month, the celebrity magazine Esquire named her the 'sexiest woman alive', highlighting the apparent conflict between Jolie's two roles.

There may not, however, be any contradiction, at all, between an activist fighting poverty and a sex symbol, as Jolie herself said.

'I'm finding my time at home with my son and taking him around, and travelling to UNHCR programmes '. And I know it's more important.'

All the same, she added, keeping near the spotlight is crucial to continued aid for people helped by the UN agency.

It was a point that did not go unnoticed at Davos, where never before have so many stars stirred up so much fuss to plead the cause of humanitarian aid.

In recognition, amid the panel discussions on global crises, technology and management, there was a seminar yesterday on 'Star power and social change'.

The literature for the seminar said: 'Celebrities have become powerful advocates for social, political and economic causes.'

A question followed: 'What accounts for this trend'

The New York Times replied in a report from Davos: 'For executives who do not want to shell out $37,600 in annual membership fees and charges to attend next year's panel, here is one possible four-word answer: Because they are sexy.'

Who would deny that Sharon Stone, who raised $1 million in five minutes from business tycoons, and Jolie are sexy. That four-letter word is rarely, if at all, applied to humanitarian causes, but Jolie cautioned against celebrity grandstanding in relation to a dressed-down Stone's effort when she popped up during a session with a cry for generous help to buy mosquito nets for Africans.

'I think you can do damage,' Jolie said.

'Celebrities have a responsibility to know absolutely what they're talking about, and to be in it for the long run,' she added.

The 29-year-old, also in the news recently for an alleged affair with Brad Pitt who has broken with wife Jennifer Aniston, did not relate that statement to her four-year stint with the UN.

She did say, though, that in the first year she didn't open her mouth on her work because 'I wanted to have at least a solid year to know that I really supported UNHCR, and to know what I was talking about'.

Gere certainly did, as he gave the gathering's most informed and passionate speeches on AIDS.

'Just being an actress doesn't help me sleep well at night. When I do something for other people, then I feel my life has value,' Jolie said.

Not everybody has her perseverance, but the 'sleep-well' sentiment is not unique.        

Doing humanitarian work 'is the best thing that ever happened to me', said Chris Tucker, star of Rush Hour. 'If I can help somebody, that's better than any movie I could ever do.'

Maybe Stone ' in the twilight of her career ' felt that way, too. Many thought she was The Show at Davos, but far be it for anybody to suggest competitive do-gooding.

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