International conference on forcibly displaced, stateless opens tomorrow

Briefing Notes, 6 December 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 6 December 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The largest conference on refugees and stateless people in UNHCR's 60 years opens tomorrow at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. So far 145 countries have confirmed their participation. More than 70 will be represented at ministerial level.

The conference is the culmination of political and diplomatic efforts over many years by UNHCR to rally renewed support and commitments for the fundamental legal treaties enabling the UN refugee agency to provide protection and assistance to refugees and stateless people worldwide. 2011 has seen the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention, as well as the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

What we hope to achieve through this conference is improved support for the world's forcibly displaced and stateless. Some 35 states have indicated that they will be making pledges of policy and other action, and a number of states are expected to accede to one or more of the statelessness conventions. Three countries will review their reservations to the 1951 Convention with a view to withdrawing them. And more than ten states will work towards reviewing, amending or adopting national asylum laws and policies, to bring them more in line with their international obligations and current realities. A number of states will take steps to improve the quality of refugee status determination, particularly through increasing capacity and expertise.

Durable solutions will feature in many states' pledges, especially in Africa, with commitments to facilitate local integration. With statelessness, several countries have indicated intentions to improve levels of birth registration, facilitate access to documentation and revise nationality legislation.

During a special treaty event at 18:00 on 7 December countries will deposit instruments of accession to one of the conventions. Those doing so will be joined by other states that have acceded during 2011, as well as countries expected to accede soon.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres will address the opening session on Wednesday morning. In addition, there will be a video address by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Among other speakers are US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, President of the Swiss Confederation Micheline Calmy-Rey and others.

Guest Speaker:

Volker Turk, Director of UNHCR's Division of International Protection.

For further information on this topic, please contact in Geneva: