UNHCR relaunches research tool on refugee issues

News Stories, 29 April 2003

© UNHCR/Electronic Publishing Unit
Refworld CD cover logo

GENEVA, April 29 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency today released the newest edition of its Refworld CD-ROM, a comprehensive research tool on refugee issues. Refworld 2003 contains over 80,000 refugee-related documents, including legislation and jurisprudence, UN documents, maps, speeches, policy guidelines, information on refugees' countries of origin, as well as statistics.

"This extremely powerful tool is a one-stop shop which allows refugee specialists to find all the most pertinent, relevant and credible information on refugee themes with minimal effort," said Oldrich Andrysek, chief of UNHCR's Protection Information Section. "It brings together in one easily-accessible place information from UNHCR and many governmental and non-governmental sources and websites."

First published in January 1996, Refworld was produced twice yearly until 2000, when it was discontinued due to financial constraints. When donor governments came through with additional funding in 2002, UNHCR was able to revive the project for this year.

The four-CD set just released represents major advances and improvements over previous versions in terms of user-friendliness and ease of access to information. It is easier to install, is full-text searchable, and contains easy-print features to enable refugee specialists to quickly find and print key documents to help decision-making in refugee cases. An improved search engine provides clearer results while on-screen guides make navigating through the information quicker and easier.

"Refworld also offers advantages in terms of speed and mobility," explained Andrysek. "It can go anywhere and can be used on your laptop computer. You can access information quickly without having to rely on sometimes slow Internet connections, which can be a crucial advantage for refugee experts working in often remote field locations."

The information provided on Refworld is up to date, in many cases through early 2003. The CDs include documents from UNHCR's recent Global Consultations process, along with hundreds of other public-domain UNHCR policy and position papers and guidelines. Also featured is a completely revamped database with international instruments relating to refugees and human rights, together with the most recent lists of States Parties to some key conventions. More than 300 previously unavailable pieces of Spanish-language legislation and jurisprudence are included, as is an updated database with refugee-related national legislation. Refworld provides a wealth of country-specific human rights information.

© UNHCR/Electronic Publishing Unit
The full Refworld CD set.

UNHCR expects some 2,000 subscriptions to Refworld this year. As many subscribers are libraries, bar associations, and other organisations, it is estimated that the number of individuals with access to the information will be much higher.

Recognising that software and user needs are constantly evolving, UNHCR's protection information and electronic publishing teams plan to continue to improve Refworld. Current improvements under consideration include providing more interactive, layered maps, and possibly issuing a version of Refworld on DVD, once more people have access to DVD technology. New features will also include revamped databases on jurisprudence and on UNHCR agreements with governments and other organisations, as well as a new collection of topical questions and answers on UNHCR legal and country of origin positions. New sources of information and new ways of classifying data are also being looked at.

Refworld can be ordered by downloading the subscription form from the Refworld page on UNHCR's website and faxing or emailing the completed form to the refugee agency. A year's subscription costs $150 for governments, libraries, bar associations, UN agencies and academic institutions, and $75 for non-governmental organisations, legal clinics and individuals working with refugees and asylum seekers. A 30-percent discount applies to orders of five or more sets. The fee includes the initial four CDs plus an update to be issued in the fall of 2003.