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Protect human rights

What we do

Protect human rights

People forced to flee are often deprived of their fundamental human rights.

UNHCR advocates and works with governments to strengthen laws and ensure displaced and stateless people can access basic rights and services.
A woman with two young children speaks with a UNHCR staff member, in Colombia.

Advocating for the rights of people forced to flee and those denied a nationality 

Citizens normally look to their own governments to guarantee their human rights and physical security.

When people are forced to flee, it is often because they can no longer rely on their government to protect them – or because their own government is persecuting them. They can be deprived of their fundamental human rights in their homeland, during their flight to safety and while displaced from home. 

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, works to improve, laws, regulations, policies and practices to ensure displaced and stateless people are treated fairly and are able to access rights and services in dignity, including the right to seek safety, the right to health care and the right to a nationality. 

A UNHCR staff member writes on a clipboard while men and women queue for a bus.

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Protection underpins all UNHCR activities aimed at ensuring the rights of refugees, displaced and stateless people are recognized.

We promote accession to the 1951 Refugee Convention which outlines the international standards of treatment for refugees. We also support States to register displaced people and provide them with documentation, and support refugee status determination, which is the administrative process that decides if a person seeking international protection is considered a refugee under international, regional or national law.

Learn more about Protection 

Men, women and children wait by the side of the road in Greece

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We advocate for and work with governments to change laws and practices to better protect displaced people, creating change on national, regional and global levels. This helps ensure refugees, asylum-seekers and other forcibly displaced persons can access support and services, get documents, go to school, work and exercise other rights.

Bringing about positive changes on national, regional and global levels can take years, but we accomplish it with the help of lawyers, judges, civil society organizations, politicians and students.

Learn more about Advocacy

Close up of a woman's hands holding her invalid Uzbeck passport.

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Ending statelessness

We also work to secure nationality for people who are stateless by advocating for change in laws and practices. One of the most important ways to achieve this is through nationality laws that allow children to become citizens of the country where they were born if they would otherwise be stateless. Birth registration is also critical. Likewise, we make sure people do not lose their nationality through changes to laws, when new states emerge or when there are changes to national borders.

Learn more about Ending statelessness 


Visit Global Focus, UNHCR's main operational reporting portal, for more updates and publications on forced displacement.


Visit Global Focus

A woman restocks medicines in a pharmacy

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Access to health care

Good health is an essential requirement for refugees to be able to rebuild their lives. UNHCR works with governments and partners to provide emergency health care, improve local health services accessed by refugees and host communities, and advocate for refugees to be included in national health systems and plans.

Learn more about Public health 


Protect human rights

A woman carries her belongings towards a truck taking refugees and returnees from the border in South Sudan
Five things to know about the crisis in Sudan

South Sudanese returnees and Sudanese refugees who fled the conflict board trucks at the Joda border point near Renk, South Sudan.

South Sudanese children sit in the bush with their mother standing in the background
Briefing notes
Sudan requires a huge response as needs mount and rains loom
UNHCR workers speak to refugees from Ukraine inside a public buiding.
Ukrainian UNHCR workers in Poland offer help and solace to refugees

UNHCR protection monitors Svitlana Lokian (left) and Dmytro Popsui (right) talk to a refugees from Ukraine inside the Slavic Mission building in Kraków, Poland.

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Advocating for laws, policies and practices that protect displaced and stateless people.
Nepal, 2015
Upholding the basic human rights of people forced to flee and stateless people.

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Your gift can help protect someone forced to flee their home due to conflict or persecution.