Raphael Cilento made a significant contribution to the lives of refugees through his association with the United Nations during the closing stages of the Second World War and in the immediate post war years.
In 1945-1946, with the rank of Major-General, Cilento was a United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration zone director attached to the British Army of the Rhine. He was appointed Director for Refugees and Displaced Persons for the United Nations in 1947. In his capacity as a director of the Division of Social Activities of the United Nations he reported on the plight of refugees in Palestine during the Arab-Israel War, working to alleviate the conditions endured by 330,000 people by addressing the lack of food and shelter and the need to inoculate against disease.
Cilento held a range of positions, reflecting his status as an eminent specialist in tropical medicine, and was knighted in 1935 at the young age of 42 years. Most of his professional life was spent in Queensland and in retirement he served as President of the National Trust of Queensland.