Conclusion on Local Integration
No. 104 (LVI) - 2005

EXCOM Conclusions, 7 October 2005

The Executive Committee,

Reaffirming that voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement are the traditional durable solutions, and that all remain viable and important responses to refugee situations; reiterating that voluntary repatriation, in safety and dignity, where and when feasible, remains the most preferred solution in the majority of refugee situations; noting that a combination of solutions, taking into account the specific circumstances of each refugee situation, can help achieve lasting solutions; and agreeing that local integration is a sovereign decision and an option to be exercised by States guided by their treaty obligations and human rights principles, and that the provisions of this Conclusion are for the guidance of States and UNHCR when local integration is to be considered,

Recalling the Agenda for Protection Goal 5, Objective 4 requesting the Executive Committee to set out framework considerations for implementing the solution of local integration in the form of a Conclusion; and noting that the provisions of this Conclusion are intended to guide States in their consideration of whether local integration, taking into account the specific circumstances of each refugee situation, may be an appropriate durable solution for persons accepted as refugees in their territory pursuant to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, or under the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, or the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees, or under domestic law, as applicable, as well as when implementing it,

Recalling that the ultimate goal of international protection is to achieve durable solutions for refugees; and noting that a solutions orientation is inherent in General Assembly Resolution 428 (V) of 14 December 1950 adopting the Statute of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in the Statute itself, and in the 1951 Convention through its provisions on cessation, integration and naturalization,

Considering that refugee situations are international in scope and nature and therefore reiterating its strong commitment to international solidarity and burden and responsibility sharing; and reaffirming UNHCR's catalytic role in assisting and supporting countries receiving refugees, particularly developing countries and countries with economies in transition, and in mobilizing financial assistance and other forms of support, including development assistance from the international community to address the impact of large-scale refugee populations,

Acknowledging that the global refugee situation represents an international challenge requiring international burden and responsibility sharing to be addressed effectively; and, recognizing that allowing for local integration, where applicable, is an act of States which is a durable solution for refugees that contributes to that burden and responsibility sharing, without prejudice to the specific situation of certain developing countries facing mass influxes,

Reiterating that coordinated national and international efforts aimed at addressing the factors that lead to the flow of refugees should continue,

Expressing appreciation for the efforts made in recent years to redouble the search for durable solutions in the context of the Global Consultations on International Protection and of the Agenda for Protection, which fostered, inter alia, the Convention Plus initiative and the Framework for Durable Solutions,

Recognizing that some countries of asylum carry a heavy burden, in particular developing countries, countries with economies in transition and least developed countries which host large numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers, especially when they have arrived as part of a mass influx and have remained for a long period of time,

Noting that local integration in the refugee context is a dynamic and multifaceted two-way process, which requires efforts by all parties concerned, including a preparedness on the part of refugees to adapt to the host society without having to forego their own cultural identity, and a corresponding readiness on the part of host communities and public institutions to welcome refugees and to meet the needs of a diverse population,

Recognizing that local integration needs to be undertaken in a manner that sustains the viability of local communities affected by the presence of refugees and that a failure to do so may result in an unreasonable burden being placed on host countries,

Affirming the value of strengthening capacities in host countries as well as of initiatives enhancing the ability of refugee communities to become self-reliant, as and when appropriate, with adequate support from the international community for the host country and the refugees living there,

Recognizing that promoting the self-reliance of refugees from the outset will contribute towards enhancing their protection and dignity, help refugees manage their time spent in exile effectively and constructively, decrease dependency and enhance the sustainability of any future durable solution,

Recognizing the positive contributions, including economic benefits, which refugees who integrate locally or who are allowed to become self-reliant could make to host countries and communities,

Recalling Executive Committee Conclusion No. 15, that decisions by States with regard to the granting of asylum shall be made without discrimination as to race, religion, political opinion or membership of a particular social group, nationality or country of origin; and acknowledging in this context that integration potential should not be a criterion for granting asylum,

(a) Recognizes that the provisions of this Conclusion are intended to guide States in their consideration of whether local integration may be an appropriate durable solution for persons accepted as refugees in their territory pursuant to the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol, or under the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, or the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees, or under domestic law, as applicable, as well as when implementing it;

(b) Acknowledges 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;

(c) Encourages States, UNHCR and other relevant actors to engage in consultations to develop, as early on as possible in a refugee situation, comprehensive arrangements that draw upon appropriate solutions, including through a combination of solutions, and which recognize the challenges involved with the timing and sequencing of solutions; and emphasizes the important place which local integration can have in such comprehensive arrangements;

(d) Notes that the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol set out rights and minimum standards for the treatment of refugees that are geared towards the process of integration; recognizes the need for State Parties to implement their obligations under these instruments fully and effectively; and therefore encourages State Parties maintaining reservations to consider withdrawing them; and calls on States to facilitate, as appropriate, the integration of refugees, including, as far as possible, through facilitating their naturalization;

(e) Encourages States, UNHCR and other relevant actors when preparing comprehensive arrangements to consider the characteristics of individuals and groups of refugees within a broader refugee population who could benefit from voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement;

(f) Urges States and UNHCR to continue working proactively on local integration where appropriate and feasible and in a manner that takes into account the needs and views of both refugees and their hosting communities;

(g) Notes that the criteria for identifying refugees who could benefit from local integration should be clear and objective and be applied in a non-discriminatory manner;

(h) Reaffirms the importance, in this respect, of registration, or ad hoc surveys where these take place, as a means of facilitating the implementation of appropriate durable solutions; and encourages States and UNHCR to utilize the registration data of refugees in this process, in a manner that fully respects international norms and standards regarding the protection of personal data;

(i) Notes that characteristics which may assist in determining circumstances in which local integration can be an appropriate durable solution could include, subject to States' consideration:

(j) Welcomes the practice in States with developed asylum systems of allowing refugees to integrate locally; and calls on these States to continue supporting refugees' ability to attain this durable solution through the timely grant of a secure legal status and residency rights, and/or to facilitate naturalization;

(k) Acknowledges that the process of local integration is complex and gradual, comprising three distinct but inter-related legal, economic, and social and cultural dimensions, all of which are important for refugees' ability to integrate successfully as fully included members of society; and notes that refugees' understanding of these dimensions may need to be facilitated through proper counselling and advice;

(l) Affirms the particular importance of the legal dimension of integration, which entails the host State granting refugees a secure legal status and a progressively wider range of rights and entitlements that are broadly commensurate with those enjoyed by its citizens and, over time, the possibility of naturalizing, and in this respect:

(m) Notes the important part, subject to States' consideration, self-reliance plays in the economic dimension of local integration of refugees whereby individuals, households and communities are enabled increasingly to become self-sufficient and can contribute to the local economy, and in this respect:

(n) Emphasizes that the social and cultural dimension of local integration requires refugees to make conscientious efforts to adapt to the local environment and respect and understand new cultures and lifestyles, taking into consideration the values of the local population, and requires the host community to accept refugees into its socio-cultural fabric, both processes being underpinned by values of diversity, non-discrimination and tolerance, and in this respect:

(o) Emphasizes that age and gender sensitive approaches, and attention to participatory and community development processes should permeate all activities aimed at enhancing the capacities of refugees to integrate locally, recognizing changes in gender roles following displacement and the need for different strategies and support to boost the integration capacity of various groups with special needs, such as refugee women, refugee children and older refugees;

(p) Encourages UNHCR to develop and apply appropriate standards and indicators that account for age and gender considerations in local integration and self-reliance programmes;

(q) Acknowledges that, regardless of whether local integration takes place in an industrialized or a developing State, it requires the host State to take the lead role, as well as the sustained commitment of all stakeholders of the necessary time and resources; and recognizes the important role which members of civil society, including non-governmental organizations, can play in fostering an environment conducive to local integration;

(r) Recognizes the importance, in the interest of burden and responsibility sharing, of international cooperation and assistance for building the capacity of developing countries and countries with economies in transition with limited resources so as to assist these States in integrating refugees locally, where appropriate and feasible; and recommends that the planning, design and implementation of local integration programmes include elements aimed at strengthening the capacity of host State institutions, local communities, and civil society, including non-governmental organizations, refugees and their communities;

(s) Stresses the importance of including refugee hosting areas in national development plans and strategies of the host country for sustainable funding; notes the relevance, in this respect, of the common country assessments (CCA) and United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAF), as well as Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP); and notes the value of the Development through Local Integration (DLI) integrated programming approach as a methodology for partnerships with donor countries, financial institutions and with United Nations and other development agencies.