Home > About UNHCR > Our Mandate

Our Mandate


UNHCR helped more than 50 million people worldwide

UNHCR was established in 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly to lead and co-ordinate international action aimed at protecting refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. 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. The agency has come a long way since its creation in 1950, winning two Nobel Peace Prizes. So far, UNHCR helped more than 50 million people worldwide, and employs 6, 650 people, operating in 118 countries.

The UN refugee agency's mandate is defined by the 1950 UNHCR Statute. In 2003, the General Assembly extended the organization'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 organization, 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 6,600 staff working in more than 110 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.