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The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The rules, agreements and institutions, which have been established by the international community to regulate and solve refugee problems, are often referred to as The International Refugee Regime. The central organization in this regime is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

UNHCR was established in 1951 by the United Nations General Assembly. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and welfare of refugees and to find lasting solutions to their problems. The statutory bases for this work are the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention and its Protocol.

UNHCR works in 128 countries under the humanitarian principles of neutrality, independence and impartiality which are essential for preserving humanitarian space.

The organization offers wide-ranging humanitarian assistance, in particular to countries with refugee populations. Activities consist of securing protection and assistance for the refugees.

At the same time, UNHCR is doing important work establishing norms and standards for international protection of the displaced and for the international asylum system, including technical assistance to national refugee and asylum legislation.

In addition to its mandate to provide refugees with protection and assistance, UNHCR has since 2005 strengthened its role to provide a more consistent and predictable response to needs of internally displaced persons.

UNHCR has also engaged actively with other organizations, including the World Bank, and UNDP, to strengthen support and action by the international community in the transition phase from humanitarian relief and development, in order to ensure that longer term needs are covered.

At the beginning of 2018 there were approximately 22.5 million refugees 17.2 million of these refugees are under UNHCR mandate. According to the latest statistics, there are globally approximately 65.6 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. More than half of these, approximately 68 %, are hosted in Africa and The Middle East. As of the end of 2016, 40.3 million people were living in internal displacement because of conflict and violence.

On September 19, 2016 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a set of commitments to enhance the protection of refugees and migrants. These commitments are known as the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (New York Declaration). It paves the way for the adoption of two new global compacts in 2018: the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The New York Declaration calls upon UNHCR to develop and initiate the application of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) in particular situations, in close coordination with relevant States, other UN agencies and stakeholders. The CRRF specifies key elements for a comprehensive response to any large movement of refugees. The practical application of the CRRF will also inform the consultations and negations of a Global Compact on Refugees to be presented by UNHCR and adopted by the General Assembly in November 2018.

Denmark’s cooperation with UNHCR
UNHCR is an important partner for Denmark with respect to humanitarian policy and assistance to displaced persons.

Denmark works to actively ensure that the organization carries out its work at the highest level of efficiency and in constructive cooperation with other United Nations Organizations and NGOs. Denmark participates actively in UNHCR’s Governing Body (ExCom), where Denmark has been a member since its establishment in 1958. This active engagement and continuous dialogue with UNHCR provides a broad base of information and influence both on the work of the organization as well as on international cooperation in view of solutions for displaced persons. 


High Commissioner for Refugees    Filippo Grandi, Italy (from 2016)  

Governing body:
Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme (ExCom)

  101 members
 Denmark’s contribution in 2017  
   DKK 320,5 million (of which DKK 160 million is a non-earmarked general contribution)



High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, Portugal (from 2005)  

Governing body :
Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme (ExCom)

72 members
 Denmark’s contribution in 2008 DKR 307 million (of which DKR 130 million is a non-earmarked general contribution)