Refugees

There are an estimated 50 million refugees and displaced persons worldwide affecting almost every continent and country. The causes of the refugee crisis are complex including external and internal conflicts, human rights violations, searing poverty and famine, racial hatred and ethnic violence.

Instruments for protection and humanitarian assistance

The United Nations system for the protection and humanitarian assistance to refugees rests on two pillars:

  1. The Geneva Convention from 1951, Convention relating to the Status of Refugees with its additional Protocol relating to the Status of Refugeesfrom 1967.
  2. The Statute of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide with the primary concern to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. In the course of time, however, the UNHCR has been called upon, to concern itself with longterm solutions, such as voluntary repatriation and reintegration. UNHCR works in close cooperation with a number of actors including UN programmes and agencies, international and regional organizations, NGOs and governments and local authorities.

World Refugee Day

As proclaimed by the General Assembly, World Refugee Day is observed annually on 20 June. 

The UN General Assembly, on 4 December 2000, adopted resolution 55/76 where it noted that 2001 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and that the Organization of African Unity (OAU) had agreed to have International Refugee Day coincide with Africa Refugee Day on 20 June.

UN programmes, funds, agencies and committees involved in refugee and disaster relief

UN body

Full name

More information in DagDok

FAO

Food and Agriculture Organization

FAO

IASC

Inter-Agency Standing Committee

IASC

OCHA

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

OCHA

Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict

Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict

Children in armed conflict

UNDP

United Nations Development Programme

UNDP

UNFPA

United Nations Population Fund

UNFPA

UN-HABITAT

United Nations Human Settlements Programme

UN-HABITAT

UNHCR

United Nations High Comissioner for Refugees

UNHCR

UNICEF

United Nations Children's Fund

UNICEF

UNISDR

International Strategy for Disaster Reduction

UNRWA

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees

UNRWA

WFP

World Food Programme

WFP

WHO

World Health Organization

WHO

More on UN and refugees

  • The convention and its protocol are also available at the UNHCR website. There you can access information about signatures, ratifications, reservations and preparatory work, so called 'travaux préparatoires'. The website also provides background information, news, statistics, country surveys and full text reports and documents.

The United Nations has adopted several instruments for the protection of refugees:

Websites and research guides

UN documents and publications in catalogues and databases

  • United Nations Digital Library offers UN documents and open access publications, UN voting data and speeches, UN maps, Content in 6+ languages. Replaces the traditional online catalogue UNBISnet.
  • UN iLibrary UN publications online covering different topics.
  • ODS full-text UN documents published from 1993 onward and scanned documents published between 1946 and 1993 in the official languages of the UN.
  • Daily list of documents (ODS). Documents published for the day, with full text links, can be found in the United Nations full text database ODS.
  • UNBIS Thesaurus a multilingual database of the controlled vocabulary used to describe UN documents.
  • Index to proceedings is an annual bibliographic guide to the proceedings and documentation of the major UN organs. The index includes:
    • a list of all documents
    • a comprehensive subject index
    • an index to speeches
    • a voting chart of resolutions
  • United Nations Documents Index (United Nations Digital Library) References to all documents by subject area are published. A collection of indexes is held by the Dag Hammarskjöld and Law Library, Uppsala, and the Libraries at UN Headquarters in New York and Geneva.