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Ex-head of UN refugee agency dies at 83

Published on July 29, 2021

Jean-Pierre Hocké, a Swiss humanitarian official who headed the United Nations’ refugee agency in the late 1980s, has died. He was 83.

Hocké died in Lausanne on Monday, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Thursday. The current high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, described him in a statement as “a tireless advocate of international cooperation and solidarity in finding solutions to the great refugee crises of his time”.

Hocké served as the director of operations at the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for nearly two decades before becoming the sixth head of the UNHCR in 1986.

The UNHCR said he played a pivotal role in launching the International Conference on Central American Refugees (CIREFCA), which aimed to help people displaced and otherwise affected by nearly 20 years of war and violence in the region.

Under Hocké the UN agency also worked to provide for the voluntary return of Vietnamese refugees and began setting up large camps for Ethiopian refugees in Sudan and Somali refugees in Ethiopia.

“In safeguarding the principles and values of international refugee protection he championed the critical importance of the collective conscience of nations,” the organisation said.

In recognition for his work, Hocké received the Balzan Peace Prize in 1986 for promoting “humanity, peace and brotherhood among peoples”.

Hocké resigned in October 1989 amid an investigation focusing on his alleged use of UN money for first-class air travel. He denied any impropriety.

Reuters/ts