United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the UN refugee agency that is governed by the UN General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The UNHCR Executive Committee, composed of 85 members, approves the agency's biennial programmes and the corresponding budget. These are presented by the High Commissioner (currently António Guterres), who is appointed by the UN General Assembly.


The UN refugee agency's mandate is defined by the 1950 UNHCR Statute. In 2003, the General Assembly extended the organisation's mandate "until the refugee problem is solved." The High Commissioner reports annually to ECOSOC and the General Assembly on the work of UNHCR.

As head of the organisation, the High Commissioner is responsible for the direction and control of UNHCR. He/she directs the work of UNHCR with the assistance of a Deputy High Commissioner and Assistant High Commissioners for Protection and Operations.

The agency has a national and international staff of more than 7,685 working in 126 countries.

Most UNHCR operations are in the field. The worldwide operation has become highly complex, ranging from recruitment of new staff and ensuring their security in dangerous situations to the procurement of everything from medical supplies and bulk food shipments to aircraft charters. Specific departments, mostly based in the Geneva headquarters, oversee key areas, such as operations, protection, external relations, human resources and finances. A number of regional bureaux liaise between overseas offices and headquarters.

In the field, UNHCR's core work is managed from a series of regional offices, branch offices, sub-offices and field offices. The High Commissioner's representatives head operations in the countries where the agency works, while there are also a number of regional representatives.


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