UNHCR partnering with UN Volunteers


Since 1976, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been partnering with the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme to deliver vital humanitarian assistance, "seeking permanent solutions for the problem of refugees by assisting Governments and private organizations to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of such refugees [and] their assimilation within new national communities". Some 3,778 UN Volunteers, more than half of whom are women, have served with UNHCR in 102 countries over the past ten years, contributing to UNHCR’s goal to "ensure that everybody has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge, having fled violence, persecution, war or disaster at home".

Edouard Palogo (Burkina Faso), UN Volunteer Refugee Registration Officer, with the family of Adama Ag Boubacar, his wife Fadimata Wallet Agah and children Kadija (2 years old), and Hamed (5 years old), in Sag Nioniogo refugee camp, Burkina Faso. (Eric St-Pierre, UNV 2014)

UN Volunteers are experienced personnel available to support UNHCR’s mandate. UN Volunteers contribute to the UNHCR goal of refugee protection and humanitarian assistance. They support UNHCR’s efforts to protect refugees and internally displaced people, including the ability to bring diaspora and stateless persons to volunteer in their countries of origin and their own communities. UN Volunteers commonly serve within camps in refugee status determination, registration, repatriation, resettlement, protection and family reunification. UN Volunteers often act as the operational link between refugee populations and UNHCR administration.

UN Volunteers make an invaluable contribution to addressing the needs of refugees, and we are fortunate to have a large number in our operation. The experiences of volunteerism make an impact for a lifetime. That has certainly been the case in my own career, as I began as a volunteer. --Elizabeth Tan, UNHCR Representative in Egypt

UNV provides UNHCR with a roster of specialists of diverse backgrounds and nationalities at both national and international levels. Today, UN Volunteers constitute around 15% of UNHCR’s global workforce and form a vital component of UNHCR’s operations related to the crisis in Syria, and refugee camps in Greece and Mauritania. They assist with refugee reception, camp administration and infrastructure, delivering support to case assessments and determination of protection issues. UN Volunteers are also involved in helping refugees on the road to recovery and self-reliance.

Common UN Volunteer assignments with UNHCR include experts in the fields of personal protection, community social services, public health, education, and logistics. Whether through international or national assignments, UN Volunteers promote participatory approaches to community-based relief, rehabilitation and recovery, delivering large returns in meeting the needs of people on the margins of peace and development.

The first UN Volunteer assignment dealing with refugees dates back to 1974, when refugees from Rwanda were recruited as UN Volunteers. Shortly after, another mission followed for which UNHCR requested the recruitment of a UN Volunteer for its activities in Sudan. Since then, UN Volunteers have been delivering humanitarian assistance for UNHCR across all regions of the world, for both short-term emergencies and long-term operations.

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