News comment: Death of former High Commissioner Jean-Pierre Hocké

Mr. Jean-Pierre Hocké, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (1986-1989).

Mr. Jean-Pierre Hocké, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (1986-1989).   © UNHCR/E.Knüsli

Former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Jean-Pierre Hocké, who led the UN Refugee Agency from 1986 to 1989, passed away on Monday in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Prior to becoming UNHCR’s sixth High Commissioner in 1986, Mr. Hocké, a Swiss national, served as Director of Operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross for nearly two decades.

“The passing of Mr. Hocké is a loss for the humanitarian community worldwide. He was a tireless advocate of international cooperation and solidarity in finding solutions to the great refugee crises of his time,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“In safeguarding the principles and values of international refugee protection he championed the critical importance of the collective conscience of nations.” 

As High Commissioner, Mr. Hocké played a pivotal role in launching the ‘CIREFCA process’ in Central America, helping to bolster the fragile peace in the region by extending assistance to returnees and war-affected populations. CIREFCA, the Spanish acronym for International Conference on Central American Refugees, was a highly successful international effort that during the 1980s and 1990s, after nearly 20 years of war, violence and widespread human rights abuses in Central America, spelled hope for hundreds of thousands of refugees, returnees, and other displaced people in seven Latin American countries .

During his time in office, the Indochinese refugee crisis escalated and UNHCR, led by Mr. Hocké, worked hard to provide for the voluntary return of Vietnamese refugees. The UN Refugee Agency also began establishing and managing large camps for Ethiopian refugees in Sudan and for Somali refugees in Ethiopia under Mr. Hocké’s leadership.

In recognition for his work and role as High Commissioner, Mr. Hocké received the Balzan Peace Prize in 1986 for promoting “humanity, peace and brotherhood among peoples”.

We at UNHCR extend our sincere condolences to Mr. Hocké’s family for their great loss.