United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Increase text size Make text smaller Printable version
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
 Mandate and Objectives
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people.

Brief Overview of Main Activities Protection: The protection of millions of uprooted (Refugees, asylum seekers, IDPs) or stateless people is UNHCR's core mandate. Emergency Response: UNHCR is committed to increasing its ability to respond to complex emergency situations. Assistance: From life-saving aid to help with shelter, health, water, education and more. Durable Solutions: Voluntary repatriation, local integration, resettlement, are the three key solutions. Environment: How UNHCR and its partners seek to minimize the environmental impact of refugee operations. Millennium Development Goals

Geographical Scope World wide

Working Languages: English and French
 Origins and Process of Creation
 Predecessor agencies:

On 20 August 1921 the Council of the League of Nations appointed Dr. Fridtjof Nansen as the High Commissioner for Refugees.

The International Nansen Office for Refugees was created by the League of Nations Resolution of 30 September 1930, which specified that its work was to be concluded by 31 December 1938.

From mid-World War II through 1946, European refugee issues were addressed by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (UNRRA). The International Refugee Organization (IRO) operated primarily between 1946 and 1951. Its records were placed in the Archives nationales de France in Paris when the IRO closed.

Creation of UNHCR:
UNHCR emerged in the wake of World War II to help Europeans displaced by that conflict. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly with a three-year mandate to complete its work and then disband. The following year, on July 28, the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees—the legal foundation of helping refugees and the basic statute guiding UNHCR's work—was adopted.  

Creation date and Birthplace: UNHCR was established by the United Nations General Assembly on 1 January 1951.

Chronology of Highligts in the History of the Organization By 1956 UNHCR was facing its first major emergency, the outpouring of refugees when Soviet forces crushed the Hungarian Revolution. In the 1960s, the decolonization of Africa produced the first of that continent's numerous refugee crises needing UNHCR intervention. Over the following two decades, UNHCR had to help with displacement crises in Asia and Latin America. By the end of the century there were fresh refugee problems in Africa and, turning full circle, new waves of refugees in Europe from the series of wars in the Balkans. The start of the 21st century has seen UNHCR helping with major refugee crises in Africa, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia, and Asia, especially the 30-year-old Afghan refugee problem. At the same time, UNHCR has been asked to use its expertise to also help many internally displaced by conflict. Less visibly, it has expanded its role in helping stateless people, a largely overlooked group numbering millions of people in danger of being denied basic rights because they do not have any citizenship. In some parts of the world, such as Africa and Latin America, the original 1951 mandate has been strengthened by agreement on regional legal instruments. In 2003, the General Assembly extended the organization's mandate "until the refugee problem is solved”. In 1954, the new organization won the Nobel Peace Prize for its groundbreaking work in helping the refugees of Europe. More than a quarter century later, UNHCR received the 1981 award for what had become worldwide assistance to refugees, with the citation noting the political obstacles facing the organization.In more than five decades, the agency has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives. Today, a staff of some 6,600 people in more than 110 countries continues to help about 34 million persons.
 Governing Bodies
UNHCR is governed by the UN General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The UNHCR Executive Committee, composed of 79 members, approves the agency's biennial programmes and the corresponding budget. These are presented by the High Commissioner who is appointed by the UN General Assembly.

The High Commissioner reports annually to ECOSOC and the General Assembly on the work of UNHCR.

As head of the organization, the High Commissioner is responsible for the direction and control of UNHCR. He/she directs the work of UNHCR with the assistance of a Deputy High Commissioner and Assistant High Commissioners for Protection and Operations.

Organizational Chart Executive Direction and Management (EDM) Division of External Relations (DER) Division of Emergency, Security and Supply (DESS) Division of Financial and Administrative Management (DFAM) Division of Human Resources Management (DHRM) Division of Information Systems and Telecommunications (DIST) Division of International Protection (DIP) Division of Programme Support and Management (DPSM) Bureau for Africa Bureau for the Americas Bureau for Asia and the Pacific Bureau for Europe Bureau for the Middle East and North Africa

Field Offices UNHCR staff operates in some 120 countries around the world, from major capitals to remote, difficult locations. About 80 percent of staff are in the field. The largest portion of staff are based in Asia and Africa. Among UNHCR’s biggest operations are Afghanistan, Chad, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Iraq and surrounding countries, and the Sudan.