Observer Status

At the annual plenary session of the Executive Committee

Annual sessions of the Executive Committee (ExCom) are held in October. In addition to government members of the committee, they are attended by observers: representatives of other UN member States, UN agencies, and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations (NGO) wit consultative status. The ExCom chairperson can allow non-members to speak. Traditionally, observer States are permitted to speak after ExCom members. Observers are not entitled to vote on any decisions (to date, all decisions and conclusions adopted by ExCom have been by consensus).

At Standing Committee meetings

Meetings of the Standing Committee are open to non-member States which request observer status. In 1996, the Executive Committee authorized the High Commissioner to draw up a list of intergovernmental and international organizations to be invited to Standing Committee meetings, and a year later the Standing Committee adopted a decision admitting NGO observers (while reaffirming that consultations on decisions and conclusions should be restricted to ExCom members).

How to apply for observer status

Observer status is only valid for one year of inter-sessional meetings, starting in October. It is decided upon under the relevant agenda item during the annual plenary session and a list of observers is included in the report of the session. Requests for observer status received after the adoption of the report of the Executive Committee are submitted for decision at the following meeting of the Standing Committee.

(a) Governments

States wishing to participate as observers in the inter-sessional meetings of the Standing Committee should send written applications by fax - +41 022 739 7348 - to the UNHCR Secretariat.

(b) Intergovernmental and international organizations

At its plenary session, the Executive Committee approves a list of intergovernmental and international organizations to be invited by the High Commissioner to participate as observers in meetings of the Standing Committee.

(c) Non-governmental organizations

Non-governmental organizations wishing to attend Standing Committee meetings should contact UNHCR's Inter-Agency Unit as soon as possible following the ExCom plenary session.

Standing Committee Observers: October 2016 - October 2017

  • Angola
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Iraq
  • Jamaica
  • Lithuania
  • Malaysia
  • Mali
  • Nepal
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Zimbabwe