The Nobel Peace Prize was presented to the UNHCR in the following year (1955) due to the Foundation’s statue regulations. The UNHCR was established in 1951, initially for three years until December 1953, but its mandate was extended by a vote. The UNHCR replaced the International Refugee Organisation (IRO) that operated in 1947–1952 and succeeded the operations of the UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) in years 1943–1947.
The mandate of the UNHCR precisely defines the term “refugee” as a person who, because of fear of persecution arising from his race, creed, or political philosophy, is living outside his former home country and is unable or unwilling to avail himself of that country’s protection.
Seated in Geneva, the UNHCR, supported by a global network of around 30 separate offices and special representatives and correspondents, is not a specialised agency but an integral part of the United Nations. The High Commissioner for Refugees is nominated by the Secretary General and approved by the General Assembly.
UNHCR’s task is to coordinate international action for refugees, establish liaisons with governments, with other specialised UN agencies, non-governmental and intergovernmental organisations. It seeks to find permanent solutions for the problem of refugees through voluntary repatriation, emigration and integration in the host country.
After 1962, the attention of the UNHCR shifted from Europe to Africa and Asia where the number of refugees has been increasing. By 1969, Africa had around one million of refugees, a quarter of which received material assistance for a year. UNHCR assistance was also given to Chinese refugees in Macao and Tibetans in India and Nepal.
In 1955 when the UNHCR received its first Prize, the number of refugees was around 2.2 million, of which more than a half were located in Europe. At the beginning of the 1990s, there were already 11 million refugees, and at the beginning of 1995 – 14.5 million, and the number of people served by the UNHCR reached 28 million.
With a surging number of humanitarian crises around the world, the number of refugees has been on a constant rise since 2000. For example, 1.8 million Iraqi Kurds fled to Iran and to the border zones of Turkey, movements of people were observed in East Africa, parts of West Africa, Transcaucasia, exodus from Rwanda and refugees from the former Yugoslavia, a total of 4 million people. The problem will also soon occur in Syria, currently stricken by civil war. At the beginning of April, UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) announced that if the current pace of movement of refugees from Syria is maintained, the number of refugees in Jordan alone would reach 1.2 million by the end of the year.