The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was created in 1950, during the aftermath of the Second World War, to help millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes. We had three years to complete our work and then disband.
Today, over 67 years later, our organization is still hard at work, protecting and assisting refugees around the world.
In 1954, UNHCR won the Nobel Peace Prize for its groundbreaking work in Europe. But it was not long before we faced our next major emergency.
In 1956, during the Hungarian Revolution, 200,000 fled to neighbouring Austria. Recognising the Hungarians as ‘prima facie’ refugees, UNHCR led efforts to resettle them. This uprising and its aftermath shaped the way humanitarian organisations would deal with refugee crises in the future.
During the 1960s, the decolonisation of Africa produced the first of that continent’s numerous refugee crises. We also helped uprooted people in Asia and Latin America over the following two decades. In 1981, we received a second Nobel Peace Prize for what had become worldwide assistance to refugees.
The start of the 21st century has seen UNHCR help with major refugee crises in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. We have also been asked to use our expertise to help many internally displaced by conflict and expanded our role in helping stateless people. In some parts of the world, such as Africa and Latin America, the 1951 Refugee Convention has been strengthened by additional regional legal instruments.
UNHCR now has more than 16,765 personnel. We work in a total of 138 countries and our budget, which in its first year was US$ 300,000, grew to US$ 6.54 billion in 2016.
In 2015, we celebrated our 65th anniversary. During our lifetime, we have helped well over 50 million refugees to successfully restart their lives.