Statute of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner
Adopted by General Assembly resolution 428
(V) of 14 December 1950
Chapter I. General Provisions
1. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, acting under the
authority of the General Assembly, shall assume the function of providing
international protection, under the auspices of the United Nations, to
refugees who fall within the scope of the present Statute and of seeking
permanent solutions for the problem of refugees by assisting governments
and, subject to the approval of the governments concerned, private organizations
to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of such refugees, or their assimilation
within new national communities.
In the exercise of his functions, more particularly when difficulties
arise, and for instance with regard to any controversy concerning the international
status of these persons, the High Commissioner shall request the opinion
of an advisory committee on refugees if it is created.
2. The work of the High Commissioner shall be of an entirely nonpolitical
character; it shall be humanitarian and social and shall relate, as a rule,
to groups and categories of refugees.
3. The High Commissioner shall follow policy directives given him by
the General Assembly or the Economic and Social Council.
4. The Economic and Social Council may decide, after hearing the views
of the High Commissioner on the subject, to establish an advisory committee
on refugees, which shall consist of representatives of States Members and
States non-members of the United Nations, to be selected by the Council
on the basis of their demonstrated interest in and devotion to the solution
of the refugee problem.
5. The General Assembly shall review, not later than at its eighth regular
session, the arrangements for the Office of the High Commissioner with
a view to determining whether the Office should be continued beyond 31
Chapter II. Functions of the High Commissioner
6. The competence of the High Commissioner shall extend to:
A. (i) Any person who has been considered a refugee under the Arrangements
of 12 May 1926 and 30 June 1928 or under the Conventions of 28 October
1933 and 10 February 1938, the Protocol of 14 September 1939 or the Constitution
of the International Refugee Organization;
(ii) Any person who, as a result of events occurring before 1 January
1951 and owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of
race, religion, nationality or political opinion, is outside the country
of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear or for reasons
other than personal convenience, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection
of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the
country of his former habitual residence, is unable or, owing to such fear
or for reasons other than personal convenience, is unwilling to return
Decisions as to eligibility taken by the International Refugee Organization
during the period of its activities shall not prevent the status of refugee
being accorded to persons who fulfil the conditions of the present paragraph.
The competence of the High Commissioner shall cease to apply to any
person defined in section A above if:
(a) He has voluntarily re-availed himself of the protection of the country
of his nationality; or
(b) Having lost his nationality, he has voluntarily re-acquired it;
(c) He has acquired a new nationality, and enjoys the protection of
the country of his new nationality; or
(d) He has voluntarily re-established himself in the country which he
left or outside which he remained owing to fear of persecution; or
(e) He can no longer, because the circumstances in connection with which
he has been recognized as a refugee have ceased to exist, claim grounds
other than those of personal convenience, for continuing to refuse to avail
himself of the protection of the country of his nationality. Reasons of
a purely economic character may not be invoked; or
(f) Being a person who has no nationality, he can no longer, because
the circumstances in connection with which he has been recognized as a
refugee have ceased to exist and he is able to return to the country of
his former habitual residence, claim grounds other than those of personal
convenience for continuing to refuse to return to that country.
B. Any other person who is outside the country of his nationality or,
if he has no nationality, the country of his former habitual residence,
because he has or had well-founded fear of persecution by reason of his
race, religion, nationality or political opinion and is unable or, because
of such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of the government
of the country of his nationality, or, if he has no nationality, to return
to the country of his former habitual residence.
7. Provided that the competence of the High Commissioner as defined
in paragraph 6 above shall not extend to a person:
(a) Who is a national of more than one country unless he satisfies the
provisions of the preceding paragraph in relation to each of the countries
of which he is a national; or
(b) Who is recognized by the competent authorities of the country in
which he has taken residence as having the rights and obligations which
are. attached to the possession of the nationality of that country; or
(c) Who continues to receive from other organs or agencies of the United
Nations protection or assistance; or
(d) In respect of whom there are serious reasons for considering that
he has committed a crime covered by the provisions of treaties of extradition
or a crime mentioned in article 6 of the London Charter of the International
Military Tribunal or by the provisions of article 14, paragraph 2, of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
8. The High Commissioner shall provide for the protection of refugees
falling under the competence of his Office by:
(a) Promoting the conclusion and ratification of international conventions
for the protection of refugees, supervising their application and proposing
(b) Promoting through special agreements with governments the execution
of any measures calculated to improve the situation of refugees and to
reduce the number requiring protection;
(c) Assisting governmental and private efforts to promote voluntary
repatriation or assimilation within new national communities;
(d ) Promoting the admission of refugees, not excluding those in the
most destitute categories, to the territories of States;
(e) Endeavouring to obtain permission for refugees to transfer their
assets and especially those necessary for their resettlement;
(f) Obtaining from governments information concerning the number and
conditions of refugees in their territories and the laws and regulations
(g) Keeping in close touch with the governments and inter-governmental
(h) Establishing contact in such manner as he may think best with private
organizations dealing with refugee questions;
(i) Facilitating the co-ordination of the efforts of private organizations
concerned with the welfare of refugees.
9. The High Commissioner shall engage in such additional activities,
including repatriation and resettlement, as the General Assembly may determine,
within the limits of the resources placed at his disposal.
10. The High Commissioner shall administer any funds, public or private,
which he receives for assistance to refugees, and shall distribute them
among the private and, as appropriate, public agencies which he deems best
qualified to administer such assistance.
The High Commissioner may reject any offers which he does not consider
appropriate or which cannot be utilized.
The High Commissioner shall not appeal to governments for funds or make
a general appeal, without the prior approval of the General Assembly.
The High Commissioner shall include in his annual report a statement
of his activities in this field.
11. The High Commissioner shall be entitled to present his views before
the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and their subsidiary
The High Commissioner shall report annually to the General Assembly
through the Economic and Social Council; his report shall be considered
as a separate item on the agenda of the General Assembly.
12. The High Commissioner may invite the co-operation of the various
Chapter III. Organization and Finances
13. The High Commissioner shall be elected by the General Assembly on
the nomination of the Secretary-General. The terms of appointment of the
High Commissioner shall be proposed by the Secretary-General and approved
by the General Assembly. The High Commissioner shall be elected for a term
of three years, from I January 1951.
14. The High Commissioner shall appoint, for the same term, a Deputy
High Commissioner of a nationality other than his own.
15. (a) Within the limits of the budgetary appropriations provided,
the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner shall be appointed by
the High Commissioner and shall be responsible to him in the exercise of
(b) Such staff shall be chosen from persons devoted to the purposes
of the Office of the High Commissioner.
(c) Their conditions of employment shall be those provided under the
staff regulations adopted by the General Assembly and the rules promulgated
thereunder by the Secretary-General.
(d) Provision may also be made to permit the employment of personnel
16. The High Commissioner shall consult the governments of the countries
of residence of refugees as to the need for appointing representatives
therein. In any country recognizing such need, there may be appointed a
representative approved by the government of that country. Subject to the
foregoing, the same representative may serve in more than one country.
17. The High Commissioner and the Secretary-General shall make appropriate
arrangements for liaison and consultation on matters of mutual interest.
18. The Secretary-General shall provide the High Commissioner with all
necessary facilities within budgetary limitations.
19. The Office of the High Commissioner shall be located in Geneva,
20. The Office of the High Commission~- shall be financed under the
budget of the United Nations. Unless the General Assembly subsequently
decides otherwise, no expenditure, other than administrative expenditures
relating to the functioning of the Office of the High Commissioner, shall
be borne on the budget of the United Nations, and all other expenditures
relating to the activities of the High Commissioner shall be financed by
21. The administration of the Office of the High Commissioner shall
be subject to the Financial Regulations of the United Nations and to the
financial rules promulgated thereunder by the Secretary-General.
22. Transactions relating to the High Commissioner's funds shall be
subject to audit by the United Nations Board of Auditors, provided that
the Board may accept audited accounts from the agencies to which funds
have been allocated. Administrative arrangements for the custody of such
funds and their allocation shall be agreed between the High Commissioner
and the Secretary-General in accordance with the Financial Regulations
of the United Nations and rules promulgated thereunder by the Secretary-General.