The UNHCR has helped millions of refugees all over the world
The UNHCR has helped millions of refugees all over the world

There is an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. It takes many more to assist refugees fleeing for their lives.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is one of the most important organizations for refugees around the world. The organization assists refugees and stateless people in repatriation, local integration and resettlement.

How the organization was founded

After the devastation of World War II, millions of people from all over the world, especially in Europe, found themselves without a home. The recently formed United Nations (UN), which also came out of the devastation, initially started the International Refugee Organization (IRO) in 1946, which assisted people across Europe who had been displaced due to the war. This organization was eventually succeeded by the UNHCR in the 1950's, which eventually expanded the IRO's mission around the world.

How it helps

The UNHCR has assisted refugees in the 1956 uprising in Hungary, African decolonization in the 1960's, and internal conflicts throughout the following decades.

The organization primarily works in certain areas:

  • Protection: The UNHCR works with local governments to assist with integration and voluntary repatriations, if needed.
  • Shelter: It provides refugees materials to create small shelters for themselves and sets up larger refugee camps or shelters should need be.
  • Advocacy: The organization works to protect the rights of refugees throughout the world.

The organization also works with many other non-government organizations (NGOs), including the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

It also offers the opportunity for resettlement. The UNHCR submitted more than 75,000 applications for resettlement on refugees' behalfs in 2017. Over 65,000 people were resettled that same year with the help of the agency to the UNHCR.

How it functions

The UNHCR has nearly 11,000 staff members and works in 130 countries. Its budget was $6.54 billion in 2016. It claims to have assisted over 50 million refugees since its inception.

The organization receives donations from many UN member states. The United States gave the UNHCR more than $1.45 billion in 2017, Germany donated about $477 million and the rest of the European Union donated $436 million.

The UNHCR also receives funding from several private donors. Organizations such as Espana con ACNUR in Spain, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the United States, and Tadashi Yanai (one of the richest men in Japan), along with many other private donors, combined for more than $400 million in donations to the UNHCR in 2017.

For its work, the organization received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1954 and 1981. The UNHCR was given the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development in 2015. And the UNHCR presents the Nansen Refugee Award to recognize service to refugees and other displaced people every year.


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