The Executive Committee's Origins and Mandate

The UN's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) established the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme (ExCom) in 1958 [Resolution 672 (XXV)] and the governing body formally came into existence on January 1, 1959.

A UN General Assembly resolution [1166 (XII)] had requested ECOSOC to establish an Executive Committee consisting of representatives of UN member states or members of any of the specialized agencies. It specified that these representatives should "be elected by the Council on the widest possible geographical basis from those states with a demonstrated interest in, and devotion to, the solution of the refugee problem."

Although established by ECOSOC, ExCom functions as a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly and its documentation is issued in a General Assembly series. ExCom's report is submitted directly to the General Assembly for consideration in the Third Committee.

UNHCR's Statute [Article 3] directs that the High Commissioner "shall follow policy directives given him by the General Assembly or the Economic and Social Council." ExCom does not substitute for the policy making functions of the General Assembly or ECOSOC but has its own executive and advisory functions.

These include:
    •    to advise the High Commissioner in the exercise of his/her functions
    •    to review funds and programmes
    •    to authorize the High Commissioner to make appeals for funds
    •    to approve proposed biennial budget targets

The Executive Committee holds one annual session. This usually takes place in Geneva during the first half of October and lasts one week. ExCom's Rules of Procedure are contained in document A/AC/96/187/Rev.8.

Executive Committee Information

Executive Committee Documentation

ExCom Officers

The Executive Committee Bureau comprises four office holders: the Chairperson, two Vice-Chairpersons and the Rapporteur. The Bureau is elected at the end of the annual plenary session in October. By tradition, the chair is held in alternating years by donor and non-donor representatives.

Current Officers:

  • Chairperson: H.E. Ambassador Ms. Rosemary MCCARNEY (Canada)
  • 1st Vice-Chairperson: [Deferred]
  • 2nd Vice-Chairperson: H.E. Ambassador Mr. Boudjemâa DELMI (Algeria)
  • Rapporteur: Ms. Anh Thu DUONG (Switzerland)

Composition of the Executive Office and ExCom Bureau Representation (1959 - 2017)

Executive CommitteeAdministrative and Financial Matters

Conclusions on International Protection

International protection is included as a priority theme on the agenda of each session of the Executive Committee. The consensus reached by the Committee in the course of its discussions is expressed in the form of Conclusions on International Protection (ExCom Conclusions).

Although not formally binding, they are relevant to the interpretation of the international protection regime. ExCom Conclusions constitute expressions of opinion which are broadly representative of the views of the international community. The specialist knowledge of ExCom and the fact that its Conclusions are taken by consensus add further weight.

The Executive Committee Members

Executive Committee members and Standing Committee observers for the period October 2016 – October 2017

ExCom currently consists of 98 members.

Executive CommitteeAdministrative and Financial Matters

ExCom membership

EXCOM membership by admission of members

Executive CommitteeAdministrative and Financial Matters

How to Apply for ExCom Membership

The three explicit criteria for membership to be found in the General Assembly and ECOSOC resolutions that established the Executive Committee are:
    •    demonstrated interest in and devotion to the solution of refugee problems;
    •    widest possible geographical representation;
    •    membership of the United Nations or its specialized agencies.

At the time of its establishment the Executive Committee consisted of 25 members. With the increase in the volume and geographical spread of the activities of the Office to cover almost all regions of the world, ExCom membership has grown with successive resolutions of the General Assembly and ECOSOC.

  1. A state makes an application for admission to the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme in writing, usually by Note Verbale, to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. In this Note Verbale, the state outlines its credentials for becoming a member of the Executive Committee in accordance with the criteria for membership to be found in the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) resolutions that established the Executive Committee, notably (a) demonstrated interest in and devotion to the solution of refugee problems (for example, adherence to the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol as well as to any applicable regional instruments); (b) widest possible geographical representation; and, (c) membership of the United Nations or its specialized agencies.
  2. This request is passed by the Secretary-General to ECOSOC.
  3. The requesting state submits a draft decision to the Secretary of ECOSOC, usually in July so it can be considered during the General Segment at ECOSOC's substantive session under UNHCR's agenda item.
  4. ECOSOC refers the matter to the General Assembly, requesting the Assembly to enlarge the number of Executive Committee members.
  5. The requesting state then submits a draft resolution to the Secretary of the Third Committee of the General Assembly (by early November at the latest).
  6. The General Assembly would then resolve to increase the number of slots available for membership in the Executive Committee. The Assembly then refers the matter back to ECOSOC requesting it to elect the members to fill the newly created slots.
  7. ECOSOC elects the state which has applied for membership to the Executive Committee.

Note: The process normally takes at least one year.

Standing Committee Meetings

Consult the on-line collection of Standing Committee documents from 1st to 67th meeting. View all documents (All meetings) or select by meeting.

Standing Committee Secure Site

Pre-meeting Standing Committee documents, inspection reports and summaries from the UNHCR Inspector General's Office and UNHCR independent reports. Access restricted to authorized users.

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