Canada and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) leads the global effort in responding to the protection needs of refugees and finding lasting and dignified outcomes for refugees and other forcibly displaced peoples. UNHCR also has a mandate from the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to identify stateless persons, prevent and reduce statelessness and to protect the rights of stateless people.
UNHCR is an important humanitarian partner for Canada and we have a long-standing relationship with the agency. UNHCR is the second-largest recipient of Canada’s humanitarian assistance support. Canada’s relationship with the Agency dates back to Canada's initial involvement in the negotiation of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. We have participated in the UNHCR Executive Committee since 1958, and in 2017 Canada’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva was the Chairperson of the Executive Committee Bureau.
Canada’s support for the UNHCR
Canada's current engagement with UNHCR focuses on the following objectives:
- support efforts to strengthen protection and assistance for refugees and other forcibly-displaced persons
- advocate for gender-responsive humanitarian action, in line with Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, ensuring the assistance and protection needs of women, men, girls and boys are better understood and addressed in all stages of refugee responses, including highlighting the importance of the following:
- principled, needs-based, gender-responsive, timely and coordinated humanitarian initiatives that meet the basic human needs of forcibly-displaced populations
- humanitarian initiatives that aim to fulfill the unmet needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized while protecting their rights
- support and promotion of the empowerment of vulnerable and marginalized women, men, girls and boys, who have been forcibly-displaced, and recognize their knowledge and abilities in UNHCR policies and operations
- highlight the importance of strengthening prevention of and response to sexual and gender-based violence, sexual exploitation, and abuse in humanitarian settings
- encourage continued improvements in policies, strategies and practices in line with World Humanitarian Summit and Grand Bargain commitments, including on localization and meaningful participation of women and girls in decision-making that affects their lives
- offer strong support to UNHCR in its leadership of the development of the Global Compact on Refugees and advocate for a gender-sensitive Global Compact that reinforces international legal commitments and results in more comprehensive refugee responses
- support to UNHCR and member states in the application of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework with the focus on the following four pillars:
- support for host countries
- increase self-reliance of refugees
- expand resettlement and complementary pathways for refugees
- foster conditions for voluntary returns
In 2016, UNHCR and the Agency’s partners, provided assistance and protection for close to 50 million people (12.9 million refugees and 36.6 million internally displaced persons) in 130 countries.
Below are some examples of assistance provided by UNHCR with the support of Canada and other donors:
In the Middle East region, UNHCR and partners strengthened protection services in 2016 by building a network of 250 community centres and 900 community workers worked with support committees and mobile teams to strengthen protection responses to address sexual and gender based violence concerns.
In the Middle East and North Africa Region, close to 700,000 girls and boys benefited from UNHCR’s child protection, psychological and social support programs. Approximately 131,500 survivors of sexual and gender based violence, including men and boys, were given access to multi-sectoral services.
In Mauritania, UNHCR assisted more than 46,000 Malian refugees and provided emergency assistance to more than 4,000 fleeing violence in Mali.
In Greece, UNHCR and partners provided emergency winterized shelter to more than 20,000 people in 16 sites and core relief items to at least 300,000 crisis-affected people, with particular attention to those with specific needs, including women and girls.
In Malaysia, UNHCR increased women refugee leadership by increasing the participation of female leaders in management and decision-making roles in UNHCR refugee leadership meetings, workshop and trainings on leadership and gender awareness.
In 2016, UNHCR supported the voluntary repatriation of more than 5,500 Rwandan refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo and more than 20,000 Ivorian refugees.
In total, UNHCR supported the voluntary return of 552,200 refugees from countries of asylum.
In Nigeria, UNHCR trained internally displaced persons and host community members in peacebuilding and conflict resolution strategies, reaching over 3,000 people.
In Kenya, UNHCR provided trainings to 77 community leaders on addressing the prevalence of sexual and gender based violence within their communities.
In the Central African Republic, UNHCR and partners provided emergency shelter for 39,000 crisis-affected people and a further 10,000 people received support for reconstruction and rehabilitation of destroyed homes.
Further, with UNHCR’s support, Canada resettled close to 46,300 refugees in 2016.
- UNHCR in Canada
- UNHCR donor profiles
- Canada’s 2016 record high level of resettlement praised by UNHCR
- Ripples of kindness in Canada
- They come from different countries, but have both found safety as refugees in Canada. This is Thuy and Narjes' story (X (Twitter)).
- Child refugee grows up to become family doctor in Canada
- UNHCR Canada video (X (Twitter))
- High Commissioner Grandi’s Canada 150 message
- UNHCR chief hails Canada as “champion” of refugees
- Convention relating to the status of refugees (PDF, 97 KB)
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