Migration Policy Institute
How UNHCR Is Facing a World of New Protection Challenges
Volker Türk, Director of International Protection, UNHCR
Kathleen Newland, MPI Co-Founder and Director of the Refugee Policy and Migrants, Migration, and Development Programs, MPI
Since its founding in 1950, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives. Today, the agency has a staff of some 7,700 people working in more than 125 countries to help 33.9 million displaced persons. Over the course of its more than six decades of work, the urgency of helping refugees in need is undiminished, but the difficulties in providing assistance have become more interconnected and complex.
Today millions of people are obliged to flee their countries because of conflict exacerbated by rapid population growth and urbanization, climate change, and water, food, and energy insecurity. The distinctions between refugees and migrants and voluntary and involuntary movements are becoming blurred, and decisions based on them are at times difficult to make. The ever more complex factors affecting cross-border displacement are exposing gaps in the international protection regime.
This discussion on the current global challenges of protecting refugees was organized around three main themes: protection gaps, burden-sharing, and reducing statelessness.