EXCOM Conclusions, 8 October 2004
The Executive Committee,
(a) Welcomes the information on implementation of the Agenda for Protection by UNHCR, States and non-governmental organizations contained in this year's Note on International Protection1; notes that the Agenda for Protection was welcomed by the General Assembly of the United Nations2; emphasizes its continuing importance; and encourages all concerned actors to provide timely information on their own follow-up activities to enable UNHCR to comply with the Executive Committee's request to be kept informed, through its Standing Committee, of the progress achieved and initiatives taken to implement the Agenda for Protection;
(b) Encourages States, UNHCR, other inter-governmental as well as non-governmental organizations to identify opportunities particularly at the national and regional level to cooperate and to consider their respective contributions to the implementation of the Agenda's Programme of Action;
(c) Welcomes the accession of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the 1967 Protocol; appeals to States which have not acceded to the 1951 Convention and/or the 1967 Protocol to consider doing so and to States which have made reservations to these instruments to consider lifting them; and reiterates the central place of these instruments in the international refugee protection regime and the importance of their full implementation;
(d) Notes with appreciation the sustained efforts by UNHCR to address concerns relating to the protection needs of refugee women and children, including through a range of measures which aim to assure the implementation of the High Commissioner's five commitments to refugee women, as well as the translation into concrete action of the five global concerns for refugee children; and calls on UNHCR to report on the results of its implementation of these initiatives;
(e) Recognizes that some countries of asylum, in particular developing countries and countries in transition which host large numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers, carry a heavy burden; and reiterates in this regard its strong commitment to international solidarity and burden and responsibility sharing;
(f) Recalls its Conclusion No. 91 (LII) on registration of refugees and asylum-seekers; reiterates the fundamental importance of early registration as a key protection tool and the critical role of material, financial, technical and human resources in assisting host countries in registering and documenting refugees and asylum-seekers, particularly developing countries confronted with large-scale influxes and protracted refugee situations; welcomes in this context the significant progress achieved in the area of registration as evidenced by the ongoing roll-out of registration and documentation activities under the auspices of Project Profile; and encourages States and UNHCR to continue their work in this regard with the assistance of other relevant actors as appropriate;
(g) Welcomes the development of asylum legislation and the establishment of processes for status determination and admission in a number of countries, often with the help and advice of UNHCR; encourages the States concerned to continue to strengthen their capacity; and welcomes in this regard the technical and financial support of other States and UNHCR as appropriate;
(h) Welcomes the significant achievements in voluntary repatriation over the course of the past year3 and the further potential for the sustainable voluntary return of considerable numbers of refugees, as a result of peacemaking, reconciliation and reconstruction efforts which have contributed to the resolution of certain long-running conflicts; acknowledges the importance of ensuring the ongoing voluntary nature of refugee returns and the full and equal participation of refugee women in the pursuit of voluntary repatriation and the consolidation of sustainable reintegration4; and urges States, UNHCR and other relevant actors to strengthen their efforts to provide durable solutions for refugees and other persons of concern;
(i) Acknowledges the increasing complexities of the environment in which international protection is provided and the many challenges faced by States and by UNHCR in ensuring and providing protection for refugees and other persons of concern;
(j) Strongly condemns all attacks on humanitarian personnel, including local and international staff of UNHCR and its implementing partners; deplores the rising toll of casualties and mortalities among such personnel; and urges States to fully investigate such attacks and bring the perpetrators to justice in accordance with international law and national law;
(k) Welcomes the accession by a number of States to the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel; encourages those States which have not acceded to this Convention to consider doing so; and calls in particular on States in whose territories humanitarian operations are undertaken to safeguard the physical security of all humanitarian personnel and to provide a security environment that allows safe and unhindered access by UNHCR and other humanitarian personnel to persons in need of protection and assistance;
(l) Expresses concern at the persecution, generalized violence and violations of human rights which continue to cause and perpetuate displacement within and beyond national borders and which increase the challenges faced by States in effecting durable solutions; and calls on States to address these challenges while ensuring full respect for the fundamental principle of non-refoulement, including non-rejection at frontiers without access to fair and effective procedures for determining status and protection needs;
(m) Deplores the fact that refugees, returnees and other persons of concern to UNHCR, in particular women and children, continue to be subjected to murder, armed attack, sexual and gender-based violence, forced military recruitment, separation of families, violations of or threats to their personal security and other fundamental rights; condemns in particular the armed attacks which took place in Gatumba transit centre, Burundi, in August 2004, which led to the killing of a large number of Congolese refugees; and, in this context, emphasizes the importance of host States taking appropriate measures to protect refugee camps and settlements including whenever possible through ensuring, in consultation with UNHCR, their location at a reasonable distance from the border; and also emphasizes the importance of protecting refugees from other forms of threat and harassment from any groups or individuals;
(n) Reiterates that the grant of asylum to refugees is a peaceful and humanitarian act, and that all actors are obliged to abstain from any activity which serves to undermine this; recalls its Conclusion No. 94 (LIII) on the civilian and humanitarian character of asylum and the useful discussions which took place on this subject in the context of the Global Consultations on International Protection; welcomes the convening by UNHCR of an expert round table in June 2004 which explored these issues further; and encourages UNHCR, in consultation with States and other relevant actors, to continue this process with a view to elaborating measures for the disarmament of armed elements and the identification, separation and internment of combatants;
(o) Reaffirms that protection must be addressed in a holistic manner by UNHCR; recognizes that the delivery of international protection is a resource-intensive function; encourages UNHCR to strengthen its protection presence in the field through the regular review of post locations, including the reallocation of posts, whenever and wherever necessary, particularly to ensure a presence close to refugee settings, the proactive deployment of staff in between assignment, the creation of additional posts where reallocation is not possible, continued efforts to ensure the timely filling of protection posts, and the active use of various short-term deployment schemes; and calls upon States to extend their support in this regard through the timely and predictable provision of adequate resources;
(p) Reiterates the importance for UNHCR programmes of gender-sensitive planning and analysis and the value of structured dialogues with refugee women in order to better address their protection needs and safeguard their rights, and of working towards their empowerment, particularly through training and skills development; and acknowledges the importance of working with refugee men as well as with refugee women and other relevant actors to promote refugee women's rights;
(q) Recalls its Conclusion No. 84 (XLVIII) on refugee children and adolescents and other Conclusions relevant to the specific protection needs of this group; and reiterates the importance of full and effective implementation of standards and procedures to better address these needs and to safeguard rights, in particular to ensure adequate attention to unaccompanied and separated children and to former child soldiers in refugee settings as well as in the context of voluntary repatriation and reintegration measures;
(r) Strongly encourages States, UNHCR, and all relevant actors, whether alone or in partnership, to strengthen action to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence, in particular through carrying out their respective responsibilities for the introduction of standard operating procedures, the rigorous implementation of relevant UNHCR Guidelines5 and related measures highlighted by the Executive Committee in its Conclusion No. 98 (LIV) of 2003, as well as through the active use of resettlement, when appropriate, to ensure protection and a durable solution for victims of sexual and gender-based violence;
(s) Notes that the year 2004 marks the 20th anniversary of the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees; that this pragmatic and flexible instrument continues to encourage the protection of refugees in the region; that States will be convening in Mexico City in November 2004, upon the generous invitation of the Government of Mexico, to commemorate this anniversary; and encourages States to cooperate in the elaboration of a regional plan of action to strengthen further international protection of refugees in the region, in conjunction with relevant international organizations as well as representatives of civil society;
(t) Acknowledges, consistent with UNHCR's Convention Plus initiative, the importance of comprehensive approaches, especially for the resolution of protracted and large-scale refugee situations, which incorporate, as appropriate and given the specifics of each refugee situation, voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement; encourages UNHCR, States and other relevant actors to pursue comprehensive arrangements for specific refugee situations that draw upon combinations of solutions; and notes that a community development approach, ensuring the participation of refugee men and women, and refugee children, as appropriate, contributes to the success of such solutions;
(u) Reiterates that voluntary repatriation, where and when feasible, remains the preferred solution in the majority of refugee situations; requests States, UNHCR and other appropriate United Nations entities and the international community to cooperate in the creation of conditions which would enable the promotion of voluntary repatriation; and stresses the need for voluntary repatriation to occur in and to conditions of safety and dignity;
(v) Welcomes the Multilateral Framework of Understandings on Resettlement, developed by the Core Group on the Strategic Use of Resettlement; notes that the Framework is part of the comprehensive approach envisaged by the Convention Plus initiative; anticipates that its practical application will improve access to durable solutions for a greater number of refugees and therefore encourages interested States, UNHCR and other relevant partners to make full use of the Framework;
(w) Encourages States, UNHCR and other relevant actors to continue their work in developing other strands of the Convention Plus initiative, including those relating to development assistance and to irregular secondary movements of refugees and asylum-seekers;
(x) Encourages States and UNHCR to put into practice the strategic use of resettlement in a spirit of international burden and responsibility sharing, in conjunction with other durable solutions, especially to resolve protracted refugee situations; and also encourages the further development of the group resettlement referral methodology and continuing efforts for its implementation, mindful that exploring greater flexibility in refugee resettlement could assist in expanding resettlement opportunities;
(y) Encourages States and UNHCR, in consultation with other relevant actors, in considering local integration, where appropriate and when feasible, to use and take into account the profiles of groups of refugees within a broader refugee population bearing in mind the differing capacities of the refugee population, or segments thereof, and the States hosting them;
(z) Welcomes the accession of Uruguay and the Czech Republic to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and of Liberia and Lesotho to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness; and encourages UNHCR, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the 1954 Convention, to renew its efforts to promote further accession to both Conventions;
(aa) Welcomes the publication in March 2004 of the final report of UNHCR's global survey on statelessness as an important step towards establishing a common understanding of a problem affecting all regions of the world; and calls on UNHCR to continue to provide technical and operational support to States with the aim of avoiding and resolving statelessness and furthering the protection of stateless persons, in particular in view of the limited number of States Parties to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness;
(bb) Notes with concern that many situations of statelessness are of a protracted nature and invites UNHCR to pay particular attention to them and to explore with concerned States measures that would ameliorate those situations and bring them to an end.
3 An illustrative list of major voluntary return operations is included in Section VII of the 2004 Note on International Protection, A/AC.96/989.
4 In accordance with Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.
5 Including the May 2003 Guidelines for Prevention and Response to Sexual and Gender-based Violence against Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons.