What is UNHCR?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provides protection and assistance to the world's refugees.

When first created by the United Nations General Assembly in 1951, UNHCR was charged primarily with resettling 1.2 million European refugees left homeless in the aftermath of World War II. Today, 22.7 million people in over 140 countries fall under UNHCR's concern. At the outset, UNHCR was envisioned as a temporary office, with a projected lifespan of three years. Today, 45 years later, it has become one of the world's principal humanitarian agencies, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, and offices in 122 countries. More than 80 percent of UNHCR's 5,617-member staff work in the field, often in isolated, dangerous and difficult conditions. UNHCR has twice been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work.

The current High Commissioner for Refugees is Sadako Ogata, a former Japanese diplomat and academic who assumed her post in February 1991. She reports annually to the U.N. General Assembly through the Economic and Social Council. The High Commissioner's programs are approved and supervised by the UNHCR Executive Committee, currently composed of 53 member countries.

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