Senior Executive Team

The SET comprises the High Commissioner, the Deputy High Commissioner, the Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, the Assistant High Commissioner for Operations and the Chef de Cabinet. Additional senior staff members may be invited to join the SET to share their expertise on a particular topic of relevance. The High Commissioner chairs the SET and may request that it convene in his absence to deliberate on specific issues and to provide their collective advice for his final decision.

Kelly T. Clements, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees

Kelly T. ClementsKelly T. Clements joined UNHCR as Deputy High Commissioner on 6 July 2015. Clements has been closely involved with refugee and displacement issues throughout her three decade career.

Before joining UNHCR, Clements was a member of the Senior Executive Service, serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) where she was responsible for humanitarian issues in Asia and the Middle East and global policy and budget.  In 2014, she was Acting Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon.

From 1993 to 1996, Clements served at the U.S. Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on a Foreign Service appointment. She was Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs in 1997-1998. Clements served as a Senior Emergency Officer for Europe, the Newly Independent States, and the Americas, and later as Balkans Assistance Coordinator; she was deployed to Albania in 1999. She worked for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangladesh in 1992.

Clements holds a B.A. in International Studies and an M.A. in Urban Affairs from Virginia Tech, USA. She is a national of the United States of America.

Statements by the Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees

George William Okoth-Obbo, Assistant High Commissioner for Operations

George William Okoth-ObboGeorge Okoth-Obbo is UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Operations. He was appointed to this position on February 12. 2015. Okoth-Obbo is a lawyer educated for his Bachelor’s Degree in Law at Uganda’s Makerere University; for his Diploma in Legal Practice at the Law Development Centre in the same country; and for his Masters in Law at the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

Before joining UNHCR, Okoth-Obbo was a Lecturer in Law at, respectively, the above-mentioned Law Development Centre and the Faculty of Law at Makerere University. Okoth-Obbo joined UNHCR in 1984 as an Associate Protection Officer in Botswana (1984-1987). He then served as Protection Officer in Swaziland (1987) and Lesotho (1987-1989) before being reassigned to UNHCR headquarters, where he first worked as Senior External Relations Officer in the Secretariat (1989-1991) and later as Senior Legal Advisor for the Regional Bureau for Africa (1991-1995). From August 1995 to July 1998, he served as Assistant Representative for Protection in Ethiopia. His next tour of duty was at the Regional Directorate for Southern Africa in Pretoria, South Africa, first as Senior Policy Officer (1998-1999) and then as Deputy Regional Director until 2001. For the first half of 2001, he was Representative on mission in Zambia before going on to become the Representative for Kenya from July 2001 until August 2006. In the latter month, he returned to UNHCR headquarters to become the Director of the organization’s Division of International Protection Services. He held this position until being appointed as the Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa, also at UNHCR headquarters, a position he took up on July 1, 2009.

He served in this position until his latest appointment as Assistant High Commissioner for Operations. Okoth-Obbo is a national of Uganda. He was born on April 24, 1956, and is married to Esther Okoth-Obbo, with whom he has two children.

Statements by the Assistant High Commissioner for Operations

Volker Türk, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection

Volker TürkVolker Türk is the Assistant High Commissioner (Protection) for UNHCR, leading UNHCR’s global protection activities and overseeing the development and implementation of protection and solutions policy with governments and other actors and in UNHCR’s operations around the world. He acts as legal counsel for UNHCR and in multilateral fora on UNHCR’s mandate and all aspects of international law relating to forced displacement. Most recently, on behalf of the High Commissioner, Mr. Türk led the development of the Global Compact on Refugees, together with UN Member States and key stakeholders, bringing to fruition a strong commitment from the international community to share the responsibility for refugees and to ensure more predictable, sustained support for the communities that host them. 

Mr. Türk previously served as the Director of the Division of International Protection from September 2009 to February 2015, where he positioned the Division as the key actor in the progressive development of international law, standards, and protection policy relating to forced displacement and statelessness, as well as in the provision of protection support to UNHCR operations and emergencies worldwide. He was also pivotal to the development of the Ministerial Intergovernmental Event on Refugees and Stateless Persons, which culminated in significant pledges for policy change, support, and other actions to strengthen the protection of refugees and stateless persons around the world; and he further spearheaded the #IBelong Campaign to end Statelessness.

Prior to this time, from April 2008 to September 2009, Mr. Türk was Director for Organizational Development and Management, leading UNHCR’s structural and management change process. He played a central role in the development of UNHCR’s Global Strategic Priorities, as well as the Global Management Accountability Framework and the Global Needs Assessment methodology, which were both firsts in the history of the organisation.  He further served as Chief of the Protection Policy and Legal Advice Section from 2000 to 2004, and was instrumental in the Global Consultations process and the development of the Agenda for Protection. In addition to these key positions at Headquarters, Mr. Türk occupied various roles with UNHCR in many parts of the world, including as Representative in Malaysia; Assistant Chief of Mission in Kosovo (S/RES/1244 (1999)), Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kuwait; as well as Regional Protection Co-ordinator in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Mr. Türk completed his doctoral thesis on UNHCR and its mandate (published in 1992) at the University of Vienna (Austria), and was research assistant at the University’s Institute of International Law as well as the University of Linz’s Institute of Criminal Law.  He has published widely on international refugee and human rights law.

Statements by the Assistant High Commissioner for Protection