UNHCR turned 70 on 14 December 2020. Since our establishment, we have been saving lives, defending rights and building better futures for millions of people who have been forced to flee their homes around the world.
Today, we have more than 17,000 colleagues working in 135 countries all over the globe. This includes our team in Hong Kong, where we opened an office in 1979. Together with donors like you – who have shown a constant, sincere desire to contribute in order to help when it is most needed – we have made a difference to many lives.
The year 2020 was an extraordinarily challenging year as the number of forcibly displaced people rose dramatically. As United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi remarked: “UNHCR at 70 is an uncomfortable birthday that we are not in the mood to celebrate.” For an organization that should have ceased to exist after three years of its founding, we now face a record-high number of displaced people that has reached 1% of the world population. Marking our 70 years, more than anything, serves to remind us that we have much more work to do.
In 2021, UNHCR faces new and more complex situations. Our work is needed now, more than ever.
• Surging numbers of forcibly displaced:
Seven decades since the formation of UNHCR, the number of forcibly displaced people has now surpassed 80 million.
• New displacements in multiple regions:
Violence in Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Somalia, and Yemen drove new displacements in the first half of 2020. Significant new displacements were also registered across Africa’s Central Sahel region.
• The prevailing COVID-19 pandemic:
As an emergency on top of an emergency for those displaced, the pandemic’s impact on refugees’ precarious existence – and on their hosts – has been devastating. The virus has disrupted every aspect of human life and severely worsened existing challenges for stateless and forcibly displaced people. Many of them live in poverty.
Despite all these challenges, we are constantly inspired by how so many individuals showed their kindness, compassion and solidarity. We wish to thank our supporters for staying with refugees during this most difficult year and our colleagues and partners who, far from their home and families, have been working tirelessly to protect refugees. We also salute the resilience of the refugees we serve all over the world; they too contributed what they could to fight the pandemic.
Times have changed, but our mission hasn’t. Today, thanks to the generosity of people like you, we remain more committed than ever to helping refugees thrive, not just survive.
UNHCR Acting Representative in China
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee issues. It strives to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to voluntarily return home when conditions are conducive for return, integrate locally or resettle to a third country. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1954 for its ground-breaking work in helping the refugees of Europe, and in 1981 for its worldwide assistance to refugees.