New refugee High Commissioner begins term

15 June 2005

António Guterres started his term today as the head of the United Nations refugee agency by pledging his commitment to the protection of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons (IDPs) around the world.

Addressing the staff of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, Mr. Guterres said he had assured Secretary-General Kofi Annan that he would be "firm in asserting the core values of the office and that refugees and states alike should expect a principled, effective and committed UNHCR."

He plans to go on his first field mission next week to Uganda, where he will spend World Refugee Day on 20 June with refugees in a camp in the north of the country.

Formerly Prime Minister of Portugal and a founding member of the Portuguese Refugee Council, Mr. Guterres, 56, succeeds Ruud Lubbers of the Netherlands, who resigned on 20 February amid a media furore over allegations against him of sexual harassment, which he denied.

In his five-year term as the tenth High Commissioner, Mr. Guterres will head a staff of 6,000 people who assist more than 17 million refugees and other vulnerable people in 115 countries.

 

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