Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Written by vallentine on August 7, 2009
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people.
In more than five decades, the agency has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives. Today, a staff of some 6,600 people in more than 110 countries continues to help about 34 million persons.
With a Little Help from Our Friends
The UN refugee agency is lucky to be able to call on a small group of VIP friends who have reached the top in their chosen professions and who use their influence and popularity to help spread awareness about UNHCR's work, raise funds for its operations and lobby governments. They complement the work of UNHCR's most valuable asset - our national and international staff around the world.
UNHCR's high-profile supporters are relatively few in number compared to some other major humanitarian organizations and they come from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds. But they share a singular determination to help the world's displaced and to help raise world awareness about the suffering and needs of the vulnerable.
They include royalty, musicians, actors of stage and screen, authors, sports stars, academics, style icons, photographers, aid workers and students. Some are former refugees, while others have come from privileged backgrounds but felt a calling to help others in need.
They range from International Goodwill Ambassadors Angelina Jolie and Adel Imam to National Goodwill Envoy Khaled Hosseini and valuable supporters like basketball star Luol Deng, photographer Zalmaï and lighting artist Gerry Hofstetter.
They help in various ways to promote the work of UNHCR, raise funds and spread awareness about the world's millions of displaced people. Some give free concerts, others use their influence to lobby governments, while many go into the field to shine a bright light on the suffering of refugees and internally displaced people and to let them know that people care. Without them, UNHCR would have a much harder job.
Millions of Vulnerable People Around the World
UNHCR's primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. To this end, we strive to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another country, and to return home voluntarily. By helping refugees go back home or to settle in another country, UNHCR also seeks lasting solutions to their plight. UNHCR also has a mandate to prevent and reduce statelessness and protect stateless persons. In support of its core activities on behalf of refugees, UNHCR's Executive Committee and the UN General Assembly have authorized involvement with other groups. These include former refugees who have returned home and internally displaced people.
UNHCR 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, the refugee agency pays particular attention to the needs of children and seeks to promote the equal rights of women and girls.
Flowing Across Borders
The practice of granting asylum to people fleeing persecution in foreign lands is one of the earliest hallmarks of civilization. References to it have been found in texts written 3,500 years ago, during the blossoming of the great early empires in the Middle East such as the Hittites, Babylonians, Assyrians and ancient Egyptians.
Over three millennia later, protecting refugees was made the core mandate of the UN refugee agency, which was set up to look after refugees, specifically those waiting to return home at the end of World War II.
The 1951 Refugee Convention establishing UNHCR spells out that a refugee is someone who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country."
Since then, UNHCR has offered protection and assistance to tens of millions of refugees, finding durable solutions for many of them. Global migration patterns have become increasingly complex in modern times, involving not just refugees, but also millions of economic migrants. But refugees and migrants, even if they often travel in the same way, are fundamentally different, and for that reason are treated very differently under modern international law.
Migrants, especially economic migrants, choose to move in order to improve the future prospects of themselves and their families. Refugees have to move if they are to save their lives or preserve their freedom. They have no protection from their own state - indeed it is often their own government that is threatening to persecute them. If other countries do not let them in, and do not help them once they are in, then they may be condemning them to death - or to an intolerable life in the shadows, without sustenance and without rights.
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Vallentine is a girl who is 22 that lives in United Kingdom. She joined Dipdive on May 31, 2009. The last time she logged in was on June 6, 2012.