Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees


Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
The Nobel Peace Prize 1954

Founded: 14 December 1950 in Geneva, Switzerland

Residence at the time of the award: Geneva, Switzerland

Role: An international aid organization established by the UN

Prize motivation: "for its efforts to heal the wounds of war by providing help and protection to refugees all over the world."

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees received the Nobel Prize one year later, in 1955.

Prize share: 1/1

Also awarded: The Nobel Peace Prize 1981

Twice Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

1954 Prize: UNHCR was the first UN organization to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The prize to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) followed in the tradition of rewarding humanitarian work in the spirit of Fridtjof Nansen. A second purpose was to show support for the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. At the same time, the Nobel Committee wanted to draw the world's attention to the fact that international aid work for refugees was in danger of a financial crisis, because UN member countries had not granted enough funding for the purpose. The 1954 Peace Prize was thus an appeal to all the world's governments to give more financial support to a vulnerable group.

In the first half of the 1950s, the highest numbers of refugees were to be found in Western Europe and the Middle East, and the UNHCR concentrated its aid on three kinds of measure: voluntary repatriation to one's country of origin, emigration, or permanent residence in the countries where the refugees were at the time.

1981 Prize: When the Nobel Committee rewarded the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) with the Nobel Prize a second time in 1981, the world's refugee problem was still greater than ever before. Having been chiefly a European concern early in the 1950s, the issue had now become important to the third world, particularly Africa. That was where about half of the ten million refugees were for whom the UNHCR had a responsibility at the time.

Once again, the Nobel Committee adhered to the tradition going back to Fridtjof Nansen by which aid to refugees was defined as fundamental work for peace. The 1981 Prize recognized the UNHCR's great efforts to repatriate refugees in Asia, Africa and Latin America in the 1970s. At the same time, it was an expression of support for the United Nations and for the principles laid down in the international Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention). Its provisions gained special currency in the early 1980s owing to the harsh fate suffered by thousands of Vietnamese refugees in the South China Sea.

The UNHCR resolved to place the prize money in a fund for the benefit of functionally disabled refugees.

To cite this section
MLA style: The First UN Organization to Be Awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2021. Tue. 26 Oct 2021. <>

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'Lost and Found'

Watch the documentary ‘Lost and Found’

The film follows Kamal Hussein, a Rohingya refugee in the world’s largest refugee camp who has dedicated his life to reuniting children with their parents, with the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. This National Geographic Documentary Film is the result of a partnership between the Nobel Prize and Academy Award-winning director Orlando von Einsiedel (‘The White Helmets’).

The video is available all over the world, apart from in the following countries: Spain, Australia, India, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, South Sudan, Tunisia, Mauritania, all of the Middle East.