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Poul Hartling (Denmark) 1978–85

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Mr Poul Hartling, UN High Commissioner for Refugees 1977-1982

Poul Hartling served first as foreign minister and then as prime minister of Denmark before becoming High Commissioner in 1978. During his eight years in office, refugee problems became highly politicized with an intensification of the Cold War. The sustained mass exodus in Indochina and the large-scale international response thrust the organization into a lead role in a complex, highly politicized and large-scale humanitarian operation. During his time as High Commissioner, the organization set up other large-scale emergency relief operations in the Horn of Africa and Central America, and for Afghan refugees in Asia. UNHCR was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for a second time in 1981, largely because of its key role in helping to manage the Vietnamese refugee crisis.

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