Definitions

Commissioner,

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Office of the (UNHCR)

Office established in 1951 to give legal, social, economic, and political aid to refugees. The UNHCR is the successor of the International Refugee Organization. Its first efforts focused on Europeans displaced by World War II; it has since assisted refugees in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Yugoslavia. It is based in Geneva and is financed by voluntary government contributions. The office won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1954 and 1981.

Learn more about United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Office of the (UNHCR) with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Office established in 1951 to give legal, social, economic, and political aid to refugees. The UNHCR is the successor of the International Refugee Organization. Its first efforts focused on Europeans displaced by World War II; it has since assisted refugees in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Yugoslavia. It is based in Geneva and is financed by voluntary government contributions. The office won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1954 and 1981.

Learn more about United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Office of the (UNHCR) with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Commissioner is a designation that may be used for a variety of official positions, especially referring to a high-ranked public (administrative or police) official, or an analogous official in the private sector (e.g. the highest executive position of many North American sports leagues).

Domestic public official

A Commissioner within a modern state generally holds his office by virtue of a commission from the head of state or a Council of Elected Representatives (or appointed by non-elected officials in the case of dictatorships).

Imperial China

Senior Public Servants, Commissioners and other high ranking bureaucrats referred to collectively as Mandarins.

Canadian territories

A Commissioner is the formal head of one of the territories of Canada (i.e. those areas within the country without the constitutional status of a province). Unlike the Governor General or a Lieutenant-Governor, who are representatives of the Queen of Canada, Commissioners are not vice-regal representatives, although they too perform duties akin to such including reading the Speech from the Throne at the opening of the territorial Legislature. They are appointed by the federal government as a delegate of cabinet. Under the federal statutes governing the territories, the Commissioners act in accordance with written instructions from cabinet or the minister responsible (currently the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development). While commissioners used to have a direct day-to-day role in administration and government and chaired the Executive Council of the territory, today they are under instruction to act more like a provincial Lieutenant-Governor, as territorial assemblies have taken on more responsibility.

A Commissioner of a Territory is eligible to present the Vice-Regal Commendation to any Canadian Forces Members as any Lieutenant-Governors for long-term or outstanding service to the Office of a Lieutenant-Governor or Commissioner.

Current Canadian commissioners

Territory Current commissioner Commissioner since Website
Northwest Territories The Honourable Tony Whitford April 29, 2005 Website
Nunavut The Honourable Ann Meekitjuk Hanson April 21, 2005 Website
Yukon The Honourable Geraldine Van Bibber December 1, 2005 Website

Police

Scotland

Prior to the Acts of Union 1707, an elected member of the Estates (parliament) of Scotland held the office of Commissioner, representing a constituency (the equivalent of a Member of Parliament in the contemporaneous Parliament of England). There were Burgh Commissioners and Shire or Stewartry Commissioners.

United States

In many U.S. states, the legislative and executive decision-making bodies of counties are called the board of commissioners or county commission. In Minnesota, Alaska, New York and Tennessee, the heads of statewide cabinet-level departments are called "commissioners". In California, commissioners are subordinate judicial officers.

International public and colonial context

British and Commonwealth overseas possessions

The title of Commissioner, as such, was used by the (gubernatorial) chief British official in:

European Union

The European Commissioners are the members of the European Commission, the highest executive organ of the European Union, which is the closest EU equivalent to a government. Each Commissioner is assigned a portfolio, but they make most important decisions collegially, often subject to approval by the European Parliament and/or the Council of the European Union.

French colonies

The French equivalent, Commissaire, was used for various officials employed at different levels of the colonial administration in several French-ruled countries.

Russian Empire

After on 17 April 1914 Tannu Tuva (ethnically Mongolian) was declared a Russian 'protected' area (Uryanhay [Urjanhaj] kray), two subsequent Russian Commissioners for the Affairs of Urjanhai Kray (1914 - 1915 A.P. Cererin (Tsererin) and 1915 - 1917 Yu.V. Grigoryev) were appointed, alongside the last native tribal Paramount chief (title Ambyn-noyon), followed by a single Commissar of the Provisional Government (October 1917 - 16 March 1918 Aleksey Aleksandrovich Turchaninov) until czarist rule collapsed for good, giving way to the Soviet regime

United Nations administration

A UN Commissioner appointed in 1949 supervised the transition of the UN Trust territory of Libya (a former Italian colony; actually Tripolitania and Cyrenaica each were under a British Administrator, in 1949 restyled Resident, Fezzan under a French Military Governor, in 1950 also restyled Résident) to independence as a united monarchy in 1951

Sports

In many North American sports leagues, including nearly all professional leagues, the commissioner is the highest executive position. The exact powers of the commissioner depend on the constitution and/or rules of the league. Commissioners are elected by the owners of the league's clubs, and handle matters such as discipline, arbitration of disputes between the clubs, etc.

The title was first used in 1920, when Kenesaw Mountain Landis was appointed Commissioner of Baseball in the aftermath of the Black Sox Scandal. Landis was titled "Commissioner" partly to distinguish his office from that of the "President" of the American and National Leagues. Landis' title derived from the National Commission, the ruling body for baseball established in 1903, which were largely autonomous organizations at the time. Eager to restore public confidence in their sport's integrity, baseball owners gave Landis absolute power and a lifetime contract, which permitted the former judge to assume more power over the sport than a commissioner in any sport has held since.

The other major professional sports leagues of North America followed suit, replacing their positions of league president with that of commissioner. The National Football League appointed its first commissioner in 1941, the National Basketball Association in 1967, and the National Hockey League in 1993. However, the commissioners' powers and responsibilities in these leagues are not substantially different from those of the presidents that preceded them. Although baseball's subsequent commissioners have not had the absolute power that Landis did, current Commissioner Bud Selig has succeeded in centralizing authority over Major League Baseball in the commissioner's office, relegating the position of league president to an honorary title and giving baseball's commissioner competencies similar to those of his colleagues in the other major sports.

Many minor professional and amateur leagues throughout the United States and Canada have also appointed commissioners. The title has not caught on outside North America. In addition to Selig, the other current commissioners of the North American major professional leagues are Roger Goodell in the NFL, David Stern in the NBA and Gary Bettman in the NHL.

References

Compound titles

In many cases the term Commissioner is part of a more specific title, including English renditions of such titles in other languages. Examples (in some cases there are further compounds) include:

See also

External links

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