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Gerrit Jan van Heuven Goedhart (Netherlands) 1951–56


Before his appointment as the first United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Gerrit van Heuven Goedhart was a lawyer and journalist. During the Second World War, he was active in the Dutch resistance and its government-in-exile in London. As High Commissioner, van Heuven Goedhart put much of his energy into securing funds for the estimated 2.2 million refugees still displaced after the Second World War. By the time of his sudden death in 1956, he had put UNHCR on a much sounder financial footing than five years earlier. He shifted the focus of the organization's work from resettlement abroad to local integration within Europe, and his achievements on behalf of refugees were acknowledged in 1954, when UNHCR was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.