United Nations Refugee Agency turned 70

December 14th marked the 70th anniversary since UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, was given its mandate by the UN General Assembly to protect people forced to flee persecution, provide humanitarian assistance and work to find solutions for millions of refugees around the world. Since 14 December 1950, the UN Refugee Agency has been at the forefront of the global humanitarian response to those whose lives have been uprooted by conflict and persecution. It has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize twice and has 17,000 staff working in 135 countries.

“For more than 70 years, our actions have saved lives and offered hope to those who have been forced to flee their homes because of violence, conflict and persecution,” said Rema Jamous Imseis, UNHCR’s Representative in Canada. “With over 80 million forcibly displaced persons around the world today, this anniversary is no cause for celebration. Rather, it is a reminder that we must redouble our efforts to tackle the root causes of displacement. If the factors driving mass displacement were resolved in just half a dozen countries, millions of refugees could go home, as could millions more internally displaced people.”

“This has been a particularly tough year for refugees. COVID-19’s impact on the already precarious existence of displaced persons and on the communities that welcome them has been devastating. And despite a global call for peace as the world began to battle the pandemic in March, we have seen conflicts continue.” “With all the difficulties we have faced in 2020, there is hope on the horizon for 2021,” said Jamous Imseis. “COVID-19 has also shown us countless examples of human solidarity and generosity. In Canada and globally, we have seen countless refugees and asylum-seekers put their own lives on the line to work on the front lines of COVID-19 in their communities.”

“Throughout our 70 years, Canada has provided strong and steadfast support for the work that the UN Refugee Agency have been doing around the world. Despite the difficulties of COVID-19, we have also seen continued generosity from Canada – and Canadians – in welcoming and supporting refugees in our communities. This is something truly worth celebrating.”

To mark the occasion, UNHCR Canada is offering a window into the worlds – and kitchens – of refugees who now call Canada home, with the release of a free e-cookbook, Tastes from Home: Recipes from the Refugee Community. The cookbook invites readers to experience the food that has special meaning and memory for 14 former refugees who have resettled to Canada, including Hon. Ahmed Hussen, federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, and former Governor General the Right Hon. Adrienne Clarkson. Download UNHCR Canada’s cookbook at unhcr.ca/cookbook.

UNHCR Canada is also participating in the One World Refugee Film Festival. Find more information about the One World Refugee Film Festival at owrff2020.eventive.org.