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Key legal documents

Since its establishment in 1950, UNHCR is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees. In 1995 the agency has also been mandated to protect the rights of stateless people and to work to reduce statelessness. 

Over the past decades, UNHCR’s efforts have been underpinned by three key legal instruments. 

The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, together with its 1967 Protocol, is the cornerstone of today’s international refugee protection. Indeed, the Convention is the only international agreement that covers the most important aspects of the life of a refugee.

The 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness are key legal instruments for the protection of stateless people around the world and in the prevention and reduction of statelessness. While the two Conventions are complemented by regional treaties and international human rights law, they are the only global conventions of their kind.

Learn more about these three important legal instruments below.

1951 Refugee Convention

A cornerstone of refugee protection for 60 years.

1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions

The only global conventions to protect the stateless and to reduce statelessness. 



50th, 60th and 150th – learn what anniversaries UNHCR celebrated in 2011.

International Refugee Law

A comprehensive collection of international refugee law and related human rights instruments.

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