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Established in 1950, UNHCR (the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) leads and coordinates international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Canada has a long-standing relationship with UNHCR, dating back to Canada's initial involvement in the negotiation of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (PDF, 97 KB, 12 pages) and active participation in the UNHCR Executive Committee since 1958.
Besides CIDA, several Canadian government departments, including Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, work with UNHCR. CIDA manages the administrative and financial aspects of Canada's relations with UNHCR, guides operational policy, and supports protection and assistance activities in developing countries.
Canada, through CIDA, is an important contributor to UNHCR. UNHCR uses funding from CIDA to protect and assist refugees, internally displaced persons and those who are stateless, while searching for lasting solutions to their plight.
Even though UNHCR is a humanitarian organization, it has integrated many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) into its operations and works to ensure that refugees and internally displaced persons benefit from, and contribute to, initiatives aimed at achieving the MDGs in their country of refuge.
At the end of 2011, about 42.5 million people, including 15.2 million refugees and 26.4 million internally displaced persons were of concern to UNHCR.
UNHCR's objectives align closely with CIDA's humanitarian assistance mandate to save lives, alleviate suffering, and help those affected by conflicts and natural disasters maintain their dignity.
CIDA's Strategy for Working with UNHCR
CIDA's work with UNHCR focuses on five strategic objectives:
Helping UNHCR continue to find solutions for refugees and internally displaced persons, especially those in drawn out refugee situations. This includes:
- Increasing livelihood opportunities for refugees
- Re-integrating returnees and guaranteeing their political, social and economic rights
- Promoting strategic resettlement
- Ensuring that protection of women, children and groups with specific needs remain a priority for UNHCR, with a special focus on preventing and responding to sexual and gender-based violence, sexual exploitation, and abuse
- Supporting UNHCR's efforts to strengthen protection and assistance for refugees and internally displaced persons
- Assisting UNHCR's continued efforts to rapidly mobilize staff, equipment and relief items to respond to humanitarian emergencies
- Supporting UNHCR in become a learning organization by systematically integrating evaluation findings and recommendations into the development of improved policies, strategies and practices
In 2011, with the support of CIDA and other donors, UNHCR:
- Provided protection or assistance to 25.9 million people throughout the world—10.4 million refugees and 15.5 million internally displaced persons
- Assisted close to 62,000 refugees in resettling to third countries
- Provided life-saving assistance to some 1.7 million people affected by the floods in Pakistan
- Distributed some 70,000 emergency assistance packages containing kitchen sets, sleeping mats and plastic sheeting and water purification tablets to more than 400,000 people in Mogadishu and southern Somalia
- With the International Organization for Migration, helped more than 300,000 third-country nationals return to their homelands from Egypt and Tunisia
- Helped more than 78,000 internally displaced persons in 31 spontaneous settlements in North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, by providing security, protection and documentation
- Helped some 38,000 South Sudanese return home by providing food, water and shelter; monitoring their protection and making transportation available for those with specific needs
- Helped more than 68,200 refugees voluntarily return home to Afghanistan, including 49,200 from Pakistan, 18,900 from the Islamic Republic of Iran, and 100 from other countries
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