Skip to content

Denmark nominates Mrs. Helle Thorning-Schmidt to the position as new UN High Commissioner for Refugees

04.09.2015  10:59

The Danish government has decided to nominate former PM Mrs. Helle Thorning-Schmidt as Denmark’s official candidate to the position as new UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The position will be available when the mandate of the current High Commissioner Antonio Guterres, former PM of Portugal, expires at the end of 2015.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Kristian Jensen states:

“With the huge global challenges created by the heavy migration and large refugee flows, there is more than ever a need for a strong UNHCR lead by an experienced person that can find solutions. Mr. Antonio Guterres has done an excellent job in the past ten years. It is important that his successor is able to pick up where he left and contribute to unifying the global community around solutions and support to the refugees – and to the regional countries which carry a great burden. The world needs a strong UNHCR led by a strong High Commissioner. Denmark is able to present such a candidate in former PM Mrs. Helle Thorning-Schmidt and the government is very pleased that Helle Thorning-Schmidt has agreed to be Denmark’s official candidate. With the current crises and a humanitarian summit in Istanbul, Turkey, next year there is plenty of work ahead”.     

The UN Secretary General has announced that the position as UN High Commissioner for Refugees will be filled during the autumn. The new High Commissioner is expected to take up office on January 1st 2016. The current High Commissioner, Antonio Guterres, was appointed in the spring of 2005. The High Commissioner for refugees is formally appointed by the UN General Assembly after being nominated by the UN Secretary General.

The UN Refugee Agency was established in 1950 with a mandate from the Refugee Convention from 1951, which obliges the countries to provide protection for refugees and not returning those who arrive with a ‘wellfounded fear of persecution’ on the basis of race, religion, nationality and membership of a particular social group or political opinion. The Convention thus offers protection for ‘refugees’ who cross state borders because of individual persecution and not to individuals, who migrate due to poverty, natural disasters, climate change or the desire for a better life elsewhere. Since then the UNHCR’s mandate has in practice expanded to include major transnational refugee flows resulting from war, conflict and internal displacements where people flee for the same reasons, but without crossing borders. The UNHCR is a global organisation with approximately 9.300 employees in 132 countries and an annual budget of approx. 3 billion USD. The global refugee pressure is increasing. At the end of 2014 nearly 60 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced; the highest figure since WW2. Out of these, nearly 40 million were internally displaced, while 14.4 million were refugees under the UNHCR’s mandate. The Syrian crisis alone has in the past four years resulted in 4 million refugees in the neighbouring countries and approximately 7 million internally displaced persons in Syria. Denmark has over the years been a reliable partner for the UNHCR and was the UNHCR’s 11th largest donor in 2014 with a contribution of almost DKK 400 million.

For further information please contact:
Dorte Mikkelsen, press advisor, phone: 50778698