ORGANIZATION: THE UNHCR

STUDENT: HAMAD SULTAN

EVENT: TIMUN 2000,

ALTERNATIVE ASSIGNMENT  

 

 

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An appropriate song
(A Door's Anthem
"People are Stangers
When You're a Stranger")

 

 

The United Nations High Commission on Refugees






FUNCTION


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established by the U.N. General Assembly in 1950, one of several attempts by the international community during the 20th century to provide protection and assistance to refugees. The League of Nations, the forerunner of the U.N. had named Norwegian scientist and explorer Fridtjof Nansen to the post of High Commissioner as early as 1921. World War II provided the impetus for several new organizations, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency, the International Refugee Organization and subsequently UNHCR.

The new agency was given a limited three-year mandate to help resettle 1.2 million European refugees left homeless by the global conflict. But as refugee crises mushroomed around the globe, its mandate was extended every five years. Today, UNHCR is one of the world’s principal humanitarian agencies, its staff of more than 5,000 personnel helping 22.3 million people in more than 120 countries. During its half century of work, the agency provided assistance to at least 50 million people, earning two Nobel Peace Prizes in 1954 and 1981.

UNHCR’s programs, its protection and other policy guidelines, are approved by an Executive Committee of 57 member states which meets annually in Geneva. A second ‘working group’ or Standing Committee meets several times a year. The High Commissioner reports on the results of the agency’s work annually to the U.N. General Assembly through the Economic and Social Council.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established by the U.N. General Assembly in 1950, one of several attempts by the international community during the 20th century to provide protection and assistance to refugees. The League of Nations, the forerunner of the U.N. had named Norwegian scientist and explorer Fridtjof Nansen to the post of High Commissioner as early as 1921. World War II provided the impetus for several new organizations, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency, the International Refugee Organization and subsequently UNHCR.

The new agency was given a limited three-year mandate to help resettle 1.2 million European refugees left homeless by the global conflict. But as refugee crises mushroomed around the globe, its mandate was extended every five years. Today, UNHCR is one of the world’s principal humanitarian agencies, its staff of more than 5,000 personnel helping 22.3 million people in more than 120 countries. During its half century of work, the agency provided assistance to at least 50 million people, earning two Nobel Peace Prizes in 1954 and 1981.

UNHCR’s programs, its protection and other policy guidelines, are approved by an Executive Committee of 57 member states which meets annually in Geneva. A second ‘working group’ or Standing Committee meets several times a year. The High Commissioner reports on the results of the agency’s work annually to the U.N. General Assembly through the Economic and Social Council.

Refugees are legally defined as people who are outside their countries because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group, and who cannot or do not want to return home. As a humanitarian, non-political organization, UNHCR has two basic and closely related aims – to protect refugees and to seek ways to help them restart their lives in a normal environment.

International protection is the cornerstone of the agency’s work. In practice that means ensuring respect for a refugee’s basic human rights and ensuring that no person will be returned involuntarily to a country where he or she has reason to fear persecution – a process known as refoulement.

UNHCR promotes international refugee agreements and monitors government compliance with international refugee law. Its staff work in a variety of locations ranging from capital cities to remote camps and border areas, attempting to provide the above mentioned protection and to minimize the threat of violence, including sexual assault, which many refugees are subject to, even in countries of asylum.

The organization seeks long-term or ‘durable’ solutions by helping refugees repatriate to their homeland if conditions warrant, by helping them to integrate in their countries of asylum or to resettle in third countries.

UNHCR's first mandate was of limited geographical scope and time – a three-year program to help principally European refugees. In the intervening decades the problem of displaced people became both more complex and took on a global dimension. UNHCR changed along with the problem. It expanded from a relatively small, specialized agency to an organization with offices in 120 countries, a $1 billion annual budget, the capacity to provide not only legal protection but also material relief in major emergencies, and the ability to help increasingly diverse groups of dispossessed people.

The term refugee is a very specific definition covering only people who have fled their homeland and sought sanctuary in a second country. However, there are millions of people in similar desperate circumstances but who do not legally qualify as refugees and are therefore not eligible for normal relief or protection. Increasingly, UNHCR has provided assistance to some of these groups.

Globally, there are an estimated 20-25 million so-called internally displaced persons (IDPs), people who have fled their homes, generally during a civil war, but have stayed in their home countries rather than seeking refuge abroad. UNHCR helps 5.4 million of these internally displaced, but as the new millennium began an international debate was underway on how the humanitarian community could provide more sustained and comprehensive assistance to this group.

UNHCR assists people who have been granted protection on a group basis or on purely humanitarian grounds, but who have not been formally recognized as refugees and assists and monitors the reintegration of refugees who have returned to their own countries.

Protection and material relief are interrelated. UNHCR can only offer effective legal protection if a person’s basic needs – shelter, food, water, sanitation and medical care – are also met. The agency therefore coordinates the provision and delivery of such items and has designed specific projects for vulnerable women, children and the elderly who comprise 80 percent of a ‘normal’ refugee population. Makeshift tents made from UNHCR blue plastic sheeting became immediately recognizeable symbols in major emergencies which in the last decade included operations to help millions of people in Kosovo, Timor, Africa’s Great Lakes region, the Balkans and in the aftermath of the Gulf War.

In Central America, and later in other parts of the world, UNHCR developed the concept of quick impact projects or QIPs. These projects, usually small-scale programs to rebuild schools and clinics, repair roads, bridges and wells, were designed to bridge the gap between emergency assistance provided to refugees and people returning home and longer-term development aid undertaken by other agencies.


The UNHCR is an organ of the United Nations General Assembly. It was created for the purpose of providing international legal protection for refugees and finding solutions to their problems, which often include homelessness, sickness or other medical disorders. The office was established on January 1, 1951, by a resolution of the General Assembly. Before its establishment, the identification, registration, classification, care, legal protection, repatriation, and resettlement of refugees and were the responsibility of the International Refugee Organization, a former UN specialized agency.

UNHCR is run by a high commissioner, who is elected by and reports to the General Assembly, with the aid of an executive committee consisting of representatives of 46 nations. The UNHCR’s Headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland. The commission is supported by financial contributions, mainly from the Western industrial nations. In 1992 UNHCR spent more than $1 billion on the help of refugees  

PURPOSE



UNHCR provides protection and assistance to refugees on a purely social, humanitarian, and nonpolitical basis. It has a global mandate, covering all refugees, with the exception of those receiving assistance from other UN agencies and of people displaced within their own country through civil wars or other disturbances. When the office was founded, it was concerned mainly with problems of European refugees.

Since the mid-1950s, however, problems have arisen in Africa, Asia, and Latin America that have led to an increasing number of refugees from these areas, in addition to Europe. During the 1990s situations in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Somalia created millions of people in need of help. When war broke out in the former Yugoslavia in 1991, UNHCR led the effort to provide supplies of food and medicine to refugees and displaced persons. The UNHCR aided as many as 4 million people, establishing safe areas intended to protect civilians from military fighting.

From 1992 to 1994 UNHCR was among the humanitarian groups providing assistance to people in Somalia threatened with starvation and malnutrition. When fighting broke out between ethnic groups in Rwanda in 1994, UNHCR was part of a team of organizations that helped over 2 million people. Refugee camps were established on the borders between Rwanda and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Without these camps, Zaire would have been severely damaged by the influx of people. In 1995 UNHCR was assisting approximately 19 million refugees worldwide.

In recognition of its humanitarian activities, UNHCR was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1954 and again in 1981. It has also won numerous other international prizes.