United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

UNHCR logo
English name United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
French name Haut Commissariat des Nations unies pour les réfugiés
Organization type Intergovernmental Organization
status active
Seat of the organs Geneva , Switzerland
Chair ItalyItaly Filippo Grandi (Commissioner)

December 14, 1950

UNHCR headquarters in Geneva ( Garage des Nations )

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the High Commissioner of the United Nations for Refugees ( english United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees , UNHCR ) is a personal office of the United Nations (UN). The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees , also The UN Refugee Agency, reports to him . It is tasked with protecting refugees and stateless persons ( refugee law ) and is also active in the field of humanitarian aid .

As a subsidiary body of the United Nations, the Geneva-based organization is accountable to the General Assembly.


The High Commission was founded on December 14, 1950 by the General Assembly and began its work on January 1, 1951. The agency is the successor organization to the League of Nations refugee commissioner founded by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and polar researcher Fridtjof Nansen after the First World War (and headed by him until 1927) . After his death, the Office international Nansen pour les réfugiés was established.

It was initially intended to support people who were abducted or displaced as a result of the Second World War. Originally it was supposed to exist for three years and then, if the displaced were helped, it would be dissolved again. Instead, the flow of refugees continued to increase over the decades.

In 2015, the UNHCR employed around 9,300 people in 125 countries, with 89 percent of the staff working outside of Geneva headquarters. The German department based in Berlin has existed since the 1950s, as well as an office in Vienna . The refugee agency protects and supports refugees and is mandated to do so by Articles 2 and 35 of the Agreement on the Status of Refugees (1951) and its Protocol (1967). The prerequisite for this is that the respective host country has signed these legal instruments. At the request of a government or the UN General Assembly , the UNHCR also advocates protection for internally displaced persons in numerous countries. The High Commissioner also helps refugees and displaced persons with voluntary return, integration or resettlement.

In addition to legal protection, humanitarian aid for refugees, which the UNHCR primarily provides in countries in Asia and Africa, is increasingly represented. After the refugee drama on Cap Anamur in July 2004 off the Italian coast, the UNHCR called on the European Union to further develop its refugee law. A common European asylum application must be developed. In 2006, the UNHCR looked after those displaced during the Lebanon crisis, among other things . In addition, Chad / Darfur , South Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq were among the largest missions of the High Commissioner for Refugees. The UNHCR has been responsible for refugee camps, for example Zaatari in Jordan, since the beginning of the civil war in Syria .

In order to draw the attention of the broadest possible audience to the work of the UNHCR, the High Commission works with so-called special ambassadors , including actress Angelina Jolie .

In 1954 and 1981 the refugee commissioner was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and in 1986 the Balzan Prize for humanity, peace and brotherhood among the peoples.


The UNHCR's budget rose from US $ 0.3 billion for 1950 to US $ 7 billion for 2015. In order to cover the expenditure, the UNHCR is almost entirely dependent on voluntary payments from organizations and individuals, so it has to raise its funds mainly through fundraising recruit. Most donations come from states and state associations such as the European Union , others from non-governmental organizations , as well as from companies , business associations , foundations and individuals. The UNHCR is in competition with other humanitarian organizations, including those of the UN such as the Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP) . On the other hand, the UNHCR only receives a small subsidy from the UN to cover administrative costs. The information published by the UNHCR shows donations that vary greatly according to time and origin. In January 2015, the UNHCR stated that the German government had supported it with over 139 million US dollars in 2014. In addition, UNHCR's private donation partner in Germany, the UN Refugee Aid, achieved a record donation of over 14 million US dollars for UNHCR aid missions in 2014. This means that Germany is one of the five largest donors on the UNHCR donor list for the first time, along with the USA (around 1.3 billion US dollars), the European Commission (271 million), Great Britain (203 million) and Japan (182 million) who fund over 60 percent of UNHCR's aid programs worldwide. In contrast, the UNHCR published for the year 2015 up to and including June 23, 2015 that the 10 states and state associations with the highest donations to the UNHCR were the USA (about 992 million US dollars), then by far Japan (167), Kuwait ( 122), the EU (119), Sweden (104), Norway (72), Denmark (66), Canada (64), the Netherlands (55) and the United Kingdom (54). In the first half of 2015, Germany was therefore not one of the 10 countries with the highest donations.

Underfunding: Consequences and Demands

The effect of the UNHCR has been impaired for years by the fact that the grants for its programs are well below the amount published as necessary. The funds available in 2014 amounted to 3.6 billion US dollars, which is only 55% of the required amount. Many of the needs of the UNHCR's target group could not be satisfied in this way (“leaving many of the needs of people of concern to UNHCR unmet”). From January to September 2015, only 37 percent of the 4.5 billion dollars requested by the UN at the beginning of the year were transferred to care for the Syrian refugees in the region. At the beginning of November 2015, Guterres, High Commissioner for Refugees, reported to the United Nations Human Rights Committee that the resources of his organization as well as the Red Cross and other aid organizations were no longer sufficient to care for the 60 million displaced people around the world. As a result, UNHCR has had problems distributing money and materials for housing to the growing number of families in need. The world hunger program also had to cut its support by 30 percent. This triggered the refugee crisis in Europe in 2015 . Guterres concluded that there was an urgent need to review the way in which emergency aid is funded.

The high commissioners

The office of High Commissioner was exercised by:

No Commissioner nationality time
x Fridtjof Nansen NorwayNorway Norway 1922–1927 (High Commissioner of the League of Nations )
1 Gerrit Jan van Heuven Goedhart NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands 1951-1956
2 August R. Lindt SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland 1956-1960
3 Felix Schnyder SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland 1960-1965
4th Sadruddin Aga Khan Iran 1964Iran Iran 1965-1977
5 Poul Hartling DenmarkDenmark Denmark 1978-1985
6th Jean-Pierre Hocké SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland 1986-1989
7th Thorvald Stoltenberg NorwayNorway Norway January to November 1990
8th Sadako Ogata JapanJapan Japan 1991-2000
9 Ruud Lubbers NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands 2001-2005 (resignation due to internal investigation)
10 Wendy Chamberlin United StatesUnited States United States February to June 2005 (ad interim)
11 Antonio Guterres PortugalPortugal Portugal 2005-2015
12 Filippo Grandi ItalyItaly Italy since 2016


The reports published by the UNHCR include the UNHCR Global Report , published annually in June, with an overview of the challenges and results of the UNHCR, the annual UNHCR Global Trends Report with worldwide refugee figures compiled by governments and non-governmental partner organizations as well as the UNHCR authority , the Asylum Trends report with figures on asylum seekers in industrialized nations, the Global Appeal with a general overview of current goals and financial concerns of the UNHCR, the annual financial report of the UNHCR and numerous other thematic or region-specific reports.

Campaigns, events, price

The main areas of responsibility of the UNHCR are opinion-forming and public relations work in the target countries. The World Refugee Day , campaigns like #WithRefugees or documentary photo project No Stranger Place of Aubrey Wade should appreciate efforts to integrate the one hand, on the other hand promote. There are also priority activities , such as the Long Day of Refugees in Austria , which takes place at the end of September and on which more than a hundred events in all federal states draw attention to the fate and needs of refugees.

Since 1955, the UNHCR has awarded the Nansen Refugee Prize, which is worth 100,000 dollars. The prize money is donated by the governments of Norway and Switzerland and is usually fully used for international refugee protection.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b About Us. In: unhcr.org, accessed on October 31, 2015 (English; self-presentation by the UNHCR).
  2. Clemens Höges, Raniah Salloum, Samiha Shafy: Das Hilfs-Werk . In: Der Spiegel . No. 29 , 2018, p. 76-81 ( online ).
  3. UNHCR: UNHCR - Staff Figures. In: unhcr.org. Retrieved April 25, 2015 .
  4. On the role of the UNHCR and the orientation function of its statements see also: Andreas Fischer-Lescano , Johan Horst: The ban on penalization from Art. 31 I GFK. To justify criminal offenses when refugees enter the country. In: Journal for immigration law and immigration policy . 3/2011, pp. 81-90.
  5. UNHCR: Development of the budget from 1950 to 2013.
  6. UNHCR: Budget for 2015.
  7. Source of the UNHCR funds , information on the UNHCR website, accessed October 31, 2015.
  8. Germany provided record amounts for UNHCR aid programs. (PDF; 171 kB) In: unhcr.de. UNHCR, January 30, 2015, archived from the original on December 21, 2015 ; accessed on January 4, 2019 (UNHCR: Germany supported the fifth highest amount in 2014).  -
    Germany provided record amounts for UNHCR aid programs. In: unhcr.de. UNHCR, January 30, 2015, archived from the original on December 21, 2015 ; accessed on January 4, 2019 .
  9. UNHCR: 2015 Top 10 government donors. As of June 23, 2015, accessed October 31, 2015.
  10. UNHCR Germany: so far received from the German federal government 65 million US dollars. Communication dated November 2, 2015 on request.
  11. UNHCR: The revenues from 2012 to (planned) 2015 no longer meet the growing requirements.
  12. There is a lack of funds in the Middle East , report by Austrian Broadcasting Corporation, online September 17, 2015, accessed October 31, 2015.
  13. Romana Beer: Waiting for urgent resources. Report. Austrian radio. September 17, 2015, accessed October 31, 2015.
  14. Guterres: Lack of humanitarian funds for Syria has triggered the refugee crisis. In: deutschlandfunk.de. Deutschlandfunk, November 4, 2015, archived from the original on November 5, 2015 ; accessed on January 4, 2019 .
  15. Former refugee high commissioners. In: unhcr.ch. UNHCR Switzerland, 2015, archived from the original on May 29, 2015 ; accessed on January 4, 2019 .
  16. ^ Publications. UNHCR, accessed November 22, 2014 .
  17. ^ The Global Report and Funding Reports. UNHCR, accessed November 22, 2014 .
  18. Global forced displacement tops 50 million for first time in post-World War II era. (PDF; 404 kB) In: amazonaws.com. UNHCR, June 20, 2014, accessed November 22, 2014 (press release).
  19. a b Numbers and Statistics. UNHCR, 2014, archived from the original on November 29, 2014 ; Retrieved November 22, 2014 .
  20. What is the Long Day of Escape? In: langertagderflucht.at. Accessed December 31, 2018 .
  21. Long Flight Day , September 30, 2016, accessed on September 29, 2016.
  22. Do you stand together #WithRefugees? In: unhcr.org. UNHCR (German website), accessed September 29, 2016 .
  23. Events. In: unhcr.at. UNHCR (Austrian website), 2016, archived from the original on September 29, 2016 ; accessed on September 29, 2016 .
  24. ^ Nansen refugee award. In: unhcr.at. UNHCR (Austrian website), 2016, archived from the original on September 29, 2016 ; accessed on September 29, 2016 .