The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. In its efforts to achieve this objective, the Office strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, and to return home voluntarily. By assisting refugees to return to their own country or to settle permanently in another country, UNHCR also seeks lasting solutions to their plight.
UNHCR’s Executive Committee and the UN General Assembly have authorized involvement with other groups. These include former refugees who have returned to their homeland, internally displaced people, and people who are stateless or whose nationality is disputed.
The Office seeks to reduce situations of forced displacement by encouraging States and other institutions to create conditions which are conducive to the protection of human rights and the peaceful resolution of disputes. In all of its activities, it pays particular attention to the needs of children and seeks to promote the equal rights of women and girls.
The Office works in partnership with governments, regional organizations, international and nongovernmental organizations. It is committed to the principle of participation, believing that refugees and others who benefit from the organization’s activities should be consulted over decisions which affect their lives.
The UN refugee agency emerged in the wake of World War II to help Europeans displaced by that conflict and was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. Since its foundation, UNHCR has been aiding and protecting people forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict and persecution.
With the growing number of crises and protracted displacement situations around the world, UNHCR will seek to maintain and improve the protection space for people of concern. Together with its partners, UNHCR provides shelter, food, water, medical care and other life-saving assistance to refugees. While UNHCR’s primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees, its ultimate goal is to help find durable solutions that will allow refugees to rebuild their lives in dignity and peace.
There are three solutions open to refugees where UNHCR can help: voluntary repatriation; local integration; or resettlement to a third country in situations where it is impossible for a person to go back home or remain in the host country. UNHCR helps achieve one or other of these durable solutions for refugees around the world every year. But for several million refugees and a greater number of internally displaced people, these solutions are nowhere in sight. UNHCR has been highlighting these protracted situations in a bid to get movement towards solutions.
In alomost seven decades, the agency has helped millions of people restart their lives. Today, a staff of more than 17,324 people in 135 countries provides protection and assistance to 79.5 million refugees, returnees, internally displaced and stateless people.
UNHCR’s work is entirely humanitarian and non-political. It has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize.
*UNHCR’s work is humanitarian, social and non-political. Its Statute and subsequent UN resolutions mandate the agency to provide international protection and seek durable solutions for refugees and other people of concern.