The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is mandated by the United Nations to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees worldwide and resolve their problems. One of UNHCR's primary purposes is also to safeguard the rights of refugees and others of concern.

In situations where protection staffing needs increase temporarily beyond UNHCR's capacity to respond with its current staffing levels, the Department of International Protection (DIP), through the Protection Operations Support Section (POSS), has developed a response capacity across a broad range of UNHCR's protection interventions. The areas of intervention include voluntary repatriation, returnee monitoring, local integration, physical security of refugees, arrest and detention, border monitoring, registration, refugee women, refugee children, the prevention of sexual and gender based violence, statelessness, and internally displaced persons. This response capacity is known as the Protection Surge Capacity Project, or SURGE (Supporting UNHCR Resources on the Ground with Experts on mission).

The project is funded by the Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission (ECHO) and the U.S. State Department's Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration. UNHCR signed a Framework Agreement in July 2001 with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to implement this project together. SURGE became operational with the first deployment taking place on January 14, 2002. To date, the project has been very successful and has organized 134 deployments to 37 countries and in 86 field locations in support of UNHCR's operations around the world.

Under the UNHCR/IRC Framework Agreement, IRC maintains an active roster. IRC will deploy qualified people with experience in refugee protection to UNHCR operations where UNHCR has identified increased temporary protection staffing needs. The recruitment is done directly by IRC, in consultation and with the approval of the applicant's candidature by DIP. Successful candidates sign a Nil/Nil Consultancy contract with UNHCR through which they hold the status of "Experts on Mission" for the United Nations. They also carry UN certificates.

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