Established on 14 December 1950, UNHCR is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. UNHCR’s mandate has gradually been expanded to include protecting and providing humanitarian assistance to whom it describes as other persons “of concern,” including internally displaced persons (IDPs).
UNHCR has been operating in the Philippines for over 30 years. For many years, its presence was limited to Manila to address the concerns of asylum seekers, refugees, broader asylum-migration issues and statelessness. In 2010, UNHCR established a presence in Mindanao by opening a Field Office in Cotabato City. In Mindanao, UNHCR addresses issues related to internal displacement to operationalize the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. It also addresses the issue of statelessness in the context of mixed migration. UNHCR also co-chairs the Protection Cluster in Mindanao together with the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
The Philippines became a party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol in July 1981. In May 2011, it became the first country in Southeast Asia to ratify the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. Additionally, the Philippines is a party to core international human rights treaties.