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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.

Working to ensure people forced to flee and those denied a nationality can access their human rights

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.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, works to ensure that displaced and stateless people can access their rights, including the right to seek safety, the right to health care and the right to a nationality.


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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 


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Strengthening laws

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, 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


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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 


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Safeguarding individuals

Displaced and stateless communities are made up of diverse groups of people. Age, gender, social or legal status, disability and other characteristics can exacerbate inequality and limit opportunities.

We engage with refugees and host communities to understand the different needs and protection risks within communities. We aim to make sure the most vulnerable, such as children on their own, or people who have survived torture or sexual and gender-based violence, can access the extra protection and specialized services they need.  

Learn more about Safeguarding individuals



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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 


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Advice on mixed-migration movements 

Refugees and forcibly displaced people often flee conflict and persecution using the same routes and means of transport as other people on the move, such as migrants. 

As they can face the same rights violations and dangers in their journeys, UNHCR engages with and advises on broader mixed-migration issues that affect refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people, along with migrants and other people on the move. This can include advice on topics such as human trafficking, protection at sea and people smuggling.

Learn more about Asylum and migration 


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Tackling sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment

In all our programming, UNHCR aims to provide a safe, trusted, respectful and inclusive environment where the people we serve and those who work for the organization feel safe, heard, equipped and empowered to speak up for themselves and others and where sexual misconduct does not happen. 

Learn more about Tackling sexual abuse


Please consider donating today

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