The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 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. As of November 2018, 148 States are parties to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and/or to its 1967 Protocol.
The mandate of the UNHCR was further expanded by its Executive Committee (102 Member States as of October 2019) and the UN General Assembly to include other groups, namely stateless persons, asylum-seekers and returnees, as well as to conduct operations under certain circumstances to protect and provide humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs). As of October 2019, 94 States are parties to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and 75 to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
As of October 2019, UNHCR is employing 16,803 people, of whom around nearly 90 per cent are based in the field. The agency is working in 134 countries, helping the displaced and specializing in a wide range of disciplines, including legal protection, administration, community services, public affairs and health.
According to UNHCR’s statistics, 70.8 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 41.3 million IDPs, 25.9 million refugees and 3.5 million asylum seekers. There are also an estimated 3.9 million stateless people.
UNHCR is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions, with 86% from governments and the European Union. 3% comes from other inter-governmental organizations and pooled funding mechanisms, while a further 10% is from the private sector, including foundations, corporations and the public. Additionally, the agency receives a limited subsidy (1%) from the UN budget for administrative costs, and accepts in-kind contributions, including items such as tents, medicines and trucks.
UNHCR is based in Geneva, Switzerland. Filippo Grandi is the 11th United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He was elected by the UN General Assembly on 1 January 2016 to serve a five-year term and re-elected for a second term, extending his mandate from 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2023. His predecessor was Mr. António Guterres.
UNHCR has been working in Ukraine since 1994. In accordance with its mandate, UNHCR Ukraine cooperates with state authorities and, with the support of NGOs, participates in the development of national legislation relating to the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons, and also provides humanitarian assistance.
Since 2014, UNHCR has been supporting the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian civil society in responding to the forced displacement of IDPs from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Donbas in eastern Ukraine. UNHCR Ukraine provides legal, material and social assistance to them directly or in partnership with international and local organizations. UNHCR focuses its activities on strengthening IDP rights and freedoms, improving their living conditions and providing long-term solutions.
UNHCR in Ukraine operates from a Country Office in Kyiv, a Sub-office in Sloviansk, as well as Field Offices in Donetsk, Luhansk, Mariupol and a Field Unit in Sieverodonetsk, counting 126 employees (106 - national and 20 - international). UNHCR Representative in Ukraine is Mr. Pablo Mateu.
Ukraine acceded to the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees and the 1967 Protocol in 2002. In 2013, Ukraine acceded to the two UN Conventions relating to the status of stateless persons (1954) and on the reduction of statelessness (1961).