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Report of the 18 May 1993 Joint Meeting of the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters and the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection

Executive Committee Meetings

Report of the 18 May 1993 Joint Meeting of the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters and the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection

1 October 1993


1. The Joint Meeting of the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters (SCAF) and the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection (SCIP) on 18 May 1993, was opened by the Vice-Chairman of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme, His Excellency Ambassador J. F. Boddens-Hosang (Netherlands). In his opening remarks, the Chairman noted that the Joint Meeting had been convened exceptionally to review the programming implications of concerns relating to refugee women and children, provide an update of UNHCR's progress in mainstreaming these concerns, and exchange views on a potential model to allocate the division of labour for follow-up between SCIP and SCAF. In his opening remarks, the Chairman briefly introduced the items on the provisional annotated agenda (EC/1993/SC.2/CRP.14).

2. The provisional agenda was adopted.


3. The Chairman invited Mr. Leonardo Franco, Director of the Division of International Protection (DIP) and Mr. Eric Morris, Director of the Division of Programmes and Operational Support (DPOS) to make some opening remarks.

4. The Director of DIP reported on the 17 and 18 May meeting of SCIP. He recalled that the Executive Committee had encouraged the High Commissioner to ensure that specific attention to refugee women's issues became an integral part of refugee protection and requested her also to ensure that the protection situation of both refugee women and refugee children were included in the plan of work of SCIP during 1993. In pursuance of this request, the recently concluded meeting had included the items "Sexual Violence against Refugee Women and Girls" and "Persistent Problems concerning Refugee Children" (see EC/1993/SCP/CRP.1). The Sub-Committee had decided to consider a possible Conclusion of the Executive Committee on the first item.

5. Summarizing some of the main points raised during SCIP's discussion, the Director divided them into the broad categories of preventive action, remedial action and enhanced cooperation. As to preventive action, delegations had emphasized the importance of: UNHCR access at an early stage in order to document abuses and prevent further attacks; the availability of female staff to facilitate reporting of violations; training of military officials and UNHCR staff on the human rights of refugee women; training of refugee women on their legal rights and responsibilities; the need for programming which recognizes in the early stages the need to link protection policy, especially as it relates to physical protection, with appropriate assistance responses and resource-allocation; and addressing physical protection as an essential part of UNHCR's mandate.

6. In the area of remedial action, delegations had stressed the need to modify the Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women to address specifically victims of sexual violence. Other needs were for refugee workers to use the Guidelines; for appropriate psycho-social responses to victims and closer cooperation with specialized NGOs and other United Nations organizations in this field; for a culturally appropriate and community-based approach to victims of violence in order to avoid their stigmatization; for an exchange of information among organizations working with torture and trauma victims; and for UNHCR to liaise with human rights fora on this issue.

7. The Director also noted that the issue of training had been raised repeatedly during the SCIP meeting. The participants had stressed the need to train UNHCR staff to uncover the problem of sexual violence and ascertain culturally sensitive ways to protect rights which are of a universal nature. Access should not be viewed solely as the question of UNHCR access to asylum-seekers, refugees and returnees, but also as the need for access by these three groups to female staff with the expertise and authority to ensure protection against gender-specific discrimination or similar actions. The Director of DIP noted that increased access and presence requires more staff. Many delegations had also stressed refugee women's need for the documentation required to obtain basic necessities, freedom of movement, and a legal personality. As regards unaccompanied minors, delegations had stressed the importance of documentation on their social histories in order to provide them with appropriate protection, including in those refugee and returnee programmes where such documentation had not previously been carried out.

8. Delegations had expressed their support for the right of refugee women to genuine participation in decisions affecting their lives and communities. Such participation necessitates support for the right of female asylum-seekers to be interviewed independently as part of refugee status determination procedures. The same argument applied to interviewing female heads of family to ensure the voluntary nature of return.

9. The debate on persistent protection problems facing refugee children had covered the issues of military recruitment, detention, the right to education, the situation of unaccompanied children in the care of families not their own and irregular adoption. The importance of providing increased support for the right of unaccompanied minors to return to their countries was also considered. Suggestions were made for follow-up of some of these issues in the High Commissioner's revision of the Guidelines on Refugee Children and in the Policy on Refugee Children.

10. The Director of DPOS began by stating that the two Conference Room Papers, "Making the Linkages: Protection and Assistance Policy and Programming to Benefit Refugee Women" (EC/1993/SC.2/CRP.16) and "Programming for the Benefit of Refugee Children" (EC/1993/SC.2/CRP.15), were intended to show how the normative work of the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection in establishing policies and guidelines for the protection of refugee women and children was being implemented by programmatic initiatives. UNHCR's programmes have to take as their point of reference policies and guidelines endorsed by the Executive Committee. Good management in turn has to explore the mechanisms and procedures whereby programming consistently reflects established policies and guidelines.

11. The Director of DPOS reported that on 26 April 1993, the High Commissioner had established a Working Group on Programme Management and Operational Capacity, (Working Group), to review procedures and systems of programme management so that UNHCR's operational capacity is enhanced and keeps pace with the demands placed on the Office during this decade. As part of the recent restructuring of UNHCR, involving the establishment of the Division of the Controller and Management Services and the Division of Programmes and Operational Support (DPOS), the four Senior Coordinators (for refugee women, refugee children, the environment and reintegration assistance) had been placed in the newly created Programme Policy Unit within DPOS. The creation of Senior Coordinator posts is a strategy to ensure that the respective areas of concern receive sustained attention with a view to integrating them within the normal programming activities of UNHCR. The Director of DPOS noted that each Coordinator faced a different challenge. In the case of refugee women, work is far more advanced in reflecting the specific and potential needs of women in UNHCR programmes.

12. The Director informed the Joint Meeting that UNHCR had just concluded an agreement with Rädda Barnen, the Swedish Save the Children organization, whereby the latter would have available on a standby basis a minimum of six highly trained and skilled social workers to be part of UNHCR's Emergency Response Teams (ERTs). Their terms of reference would require them, in the needs-assessment phase of an emergency, to focus on the needs of women and children, thereby enhancing the gender-sensitivity of needs assessments, and laying emphasis on a community-based approach to mobilize available resources in a refugee community.

13. Turning to the phenomenon of sexual violence against refugee women, the Director of DPOS noted that the response to victims of sexual violence must be culturally appropriate and very often community-based in order to avoid stigmatization. Solutions to a phenomenon of this magnitude can only be achieved if there is the will to implement them. The Anti-Piracy Programme in South-East Asia provides an example whereby States demonstrated their will to identify and prosecute the perpetrators of sexual violence.


14. In opening discussion of agenda item 2, "Report on Refugee Women", the Chairman drew attention to the paper entitled "Making the Linkages: Protection and Assistance Policy and Programming to Benefit Refugee Women" (EC/1993/SC.2/CRP.16), which is an interim progress report on a range of initiatives taken by UNHCR to implement the Policy on Refugee Women (A/AC.96/754) and the Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women (EC/SCP/67) since the forty-third session of the Executive Committee. The Chairman stated that the paper also addresses some programme implications of the "Note on Certain Aspects of Sexual Violence against Refugee Women" (EC/1993/SCP/CRP.2) discussed within the framework of SCIP.

15. The Director of DPOS introduced the agenda item by stating that the Conference Room Paper focused on UNHCR's efforts to implement the Policy on Refugee Women. This was an evolving process, with inter-related and complementary activities which need to be anchored in UNHCR project and programme approvals, statistics, and needs assessment tools. UNHCR's Central Evaluation Unit is presently carrying out an internal evaluation of implementation of the Policy on Refugee Women, including the Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women and People Oriented Planning (POP). The evaluation will be used to fine-tune the process to make it as responsive as possible to the evolving needs of the Office.

16. Many delegations welcomed the opportunity provided by the Joint Meeting to see the connection between protection, assistance and programming. One delegation stated that beyond its important symbolic significance, the Joint Meeting was evidence of the determination to ensure that a solid linkage is established between principle and practice; another delegation felt it was highly appropriate for the meeting to focus on refugee women and children as they represent the majority of refugees around the world.

17. Many delegations thanked the Secretariat for the documentation presented to the Joint Meeting. One participant stated that the Note gives a clear picture of the complexities inherent in the transition from overall policy-making to implementation at the field level. Another noted that progress has already been achieved, although barriers still remain. A third delegation stated that the holistic approach being adopted by the Office is an effective way to improve the situation of refugee women. Such an approach must be linked to the full spectrum of UNHCR protection activities, not only those for refugee women and children. This would allow UNHCR to address the physical protection of refugees. The speaker emphasized the crucial importance of paragraph 6 (EC/1993/SC.2/CRP.16), and its recommendation concerning the link between protection and assistance.

18. One speaker repeated a remark already made at SCIP, stressing the need for UNHCR to have a staff member posted in Bosnia and Herzegovina who was sensitive to the culture and aware of the phenomenon of sexual violence against refugee women. The delegate queried whether this action had been taken by UNHCR.

19. A number of delegations recognized UNHCR's intensive efforts during the past one and one half years to move from an advocacy role to one of integrating the substance of the Policy and Guidelines into programme design and delivery. The valuable contribution of the Senior Coordinator for Refugee Women was widely recognized. One delegation hoped that the work of the Senior Coordinator for Refugee Women would not be diminished by placement within the Division of Programmes and Operational Support, instead of in the office of the High Commissioner and the Deputy High Commissioner. Another delegation hoped that discussion on protection of refugee women within SCIP and the Joint Meeting would lead to further links between protection of refugees and programming of assistance activities. It was stated that one could now begin to see the results of the Guidelines and the Policy; while UNHCR continues to be a leader in the United Nations system in introducing greater sensitivity to women's issues, there is still work to be done.

20. The same delegation noted its support of UNHCR integrated training programmes, POP training and efforts to reach a critical mass of UNHCR and implementing partner staff. Many supported the emphasis on training and communication and advocated expansion of POP training to reach all UNHCR staff, especially senior managers, as this would improve their ability to supervise staff and hold them accountable for performance. Some participants spoke in favour of strengthening the capacities of the Division of International Protection in this area. The delegate requested reports on the impact made on country programmes by People Oriented Planning. The importance of staff accountability for gender-sensitive programming was stressed.

21. Regarding training efforts, one delegation recommended closer relations between different agencies of the United Nations system. Training should also have an inter-agency component to facilitate cooperation and coordination.

22. UNHCR was encouraged to re-examine priorities during the first stage of an emergency to give due weight to the participation of refugee women early in an emergency. Gender sensitivity must be incorporated from the first day of a refugee emergency. The agreement with Rädda Barnen was also welcomed.

23. One speaker enquired about the steps UNHCR had taken to increase the number of female staff serving in field locations. (Specific information was given subsequently on this issue by the Deputy Director of the Division of Human Resources Management and is reflected in the draft report of the 19 May meeting of the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters).

24. One delegation noted that its Government had focused on women in its cooperation programmes for over a decade and had become aware of the lack of guidelines and methodologies in national literature on women in development. It was clear that the key to ensuring a real improvement in the condition of women was the adoption of a gender-sensitive approach within the overall planning framework. For this reason the delegation welcomed UNHCR action to recognize the role of women as agents of development, and recommended that a permanent evaluation mechanism be developed to measure the impact of programmes on the basis of a gender approach. The speaker also recommended that the representation of refugee women in camp committees be increased.

25. Another delegation renewed its request for gender disaggregated statistics and its appeal for urgent work in this area. The establishment of the Working Group was welcomed in that the group will consider these challenges and adjust operational systems in consequence. Another delegation hoped that the Working Group would make suggestions to overcome problems such as lack of gender-disaggregated statistics, the need for more female field staff, and integration of needs assessment in emergency activities. The speaker asked for information on how the work of the Working Group will be integrated into the programme.

26. A number of delegations remarked that People-Oriented Programmes are probably more cost-effective. One delegation suggested that a case study on a country programme might be presented to the forty-fourth session of the Executive Committee to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of these programmes.

27. One delegation queried the meaning of paragraph 49 of EC/1993/SC.2/CRP.16, which refers to minimal resources within the Division of International Protection as one of the difficulties encountered in implementing the protection aspects of the Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women and then goes on to say that any such staffing resources must be temporary. The speaker enquired why such resources should be of a temporary nature.

28. In response to the many comments and observations, the Director of DPOS expressed UNHCR's gratitude for the reaction of delegations to the Note. The Director stated that UNHCR values the contribution of the Senior Coordinator and confirmed that the importance of her work is in no way affected by her placement within the DPOS.

29. The Director confirmed that cultural factors would indeed be taken into account in dealing with victims of sexual violence. Specialized staff are being recruited for operations in the former Yugoslavia in an attempt to set up a network of local NGOs to deal with some of the needs of the victims as well.

30. The Director acknowledged concern about the relatively low number of people who have undergone POP training.

31. On the issue of gender-sensitive needs assessments in emergencies, the Director pointed out that the agreement with Rädda Barnen would make a significant difference especially as it was difficult to reorient programmes once they had started. He cited food distribution as an area where it was often difficult to tamper with established programmes.

32. The Director of DPOS noted that one of the major issues to be considered by the Working Group is the issue of accountability, which is linked to the proposal for a permanent evaluation mechanism. UNHCR officers must have clear statements of responsibility and accountability with regard to women, children, the environment and reintegration activities. Statements on accountability are not as strong as they should be. UNHCR shares the hope that the Working Group will produce some practical results.

33. The Director of DPOS also noted the desire of the Executive Committee for gender-disaggregated statistics. This matter will be reviewed again at an upcoming meeting of the Sub-Committee. A cost-benefit analysis might be made of the cost of providing gender-disaggregated statistics on a range of activities, and of the benefits to be gained with regard to better controlling these activities.

34. On the request for a case study analyzing the impact of People Oriented Planning at the forty-fourth session of the Executive Committee, the Director offered to draw on the evaluation being carried out by UNHCR's Central Evaluation Unit of implementation of the Guidelines and the Policy.

35. The Senior Coordinator for Refugee Women provided some additional information regarding POP training activities and noted that such training is expensive. The ability to reach all UNHCR staff depends on sufficient resources being made available. A high priority would be for members of the Senior Management Committee to undergo POP training, as they had three years ago. She pointed out that for many managers, POP training was perceived as being a "women's" course, directed to junior staff. Regarding evaluation, the Senior Coordinator stated her desire for a methodology to determine the impact of POP training on programme planning in countries where 100 per cent of staff have been covered (i.e. Malawi) and to compare it to country programmes where POP training has not been carried out. This kind of comparison would be useful to determine the impact of such training. Regarding the query relating to paragraph 49 of the Conference Room Paper concerning implementation in the Division of International Protection of the Policy on Refugee Women, the Senior Coordinator noted that the paragraph was intended to indicate that a specialist would have to be engaged, perhaps temporarily, if progress were to be made in mainstreaming women's issues in UNHCR's day-to-day protection activities.


36. The Chairman referred to the document presented by Secretariat on the agenda item, "Programming for the Benefit of Refugee Children" (EC/1993/SC.2/CRP.15). The Chairman also invited delegations to refer to the "Information Note on Refugee Children: UNHCR's Efforts to Address some Persistent Protection Problems" (EC/1993/SCP/CRP.4), discussed within the framework of the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection.

37. The Director of DPOS reminded delegations that the UNHCR Guidelines on Refugee Children have been in existence since 1988. The Office is presently revising the Guidelines in the light of the 1990 World Summit for Children and the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted in November 1989. He stated that a survey undertaken in September 1991 by the Bureau for Refugee Programs of the US State Department raised serious questions as to whether UNHCR was sufficiently active in regard to children's issues, especially in ensuring that standards set forth in the Guidelines are incorporated in programme design and programme budgets. This is another issue which the Working Group will have to deal with. He emphasized that addressing the concerns of UNHCR over the nutritional status of children has significant resource implications.

38. One delegation understood that no measures have been taken to reunite unaccompanied minor refugee children in Kenya with their families and requested clarification in this regard. Regarding the comment on the resource implications of food and nutrition for refugee children, there was a question whether such implications related primarily to extra staff that might be required to meet the needs identified by the assessment teams. Referring to the Conference Room Paper, a delegate noted that malnutrition and high mortality rates for children remain a major problem that must be addressed. Further action is certainly needed. The same delegation noted the importance of finding a solution to the problem of access in conflict situations. Regarding education, the delegation welcomed the creation of the new section in the Guidelines for Educational Assistance to Refugees dealing with special education and agreed with paragraph 11 of the Note, which stated that, even in the early stages of emergencies, educational requirements have to be identified so that prompt attention may be given to such needs. The delegation hoped this reflected UNHCR policy in upcoming emergency situations. Finally, the delegation shared the High Commissioner's concern for the long-term psychological and psycho-social consequences of the experiences that unaccompanied minors undergo and requested the Office to address such consequences.

39. Another delegation referred to paragraph 14 of the Note, and to the difficulty faced by its Government in providing guidelines regarding children who have been abandoned or are the result of sexual violence in the former Yugoslavia. The speaker requested the assistance of UNHCR in providing guidance on matters such as adoption and educational facilities.

40. The delegation of the Sudan regretted that paragraph 16 of document EC/1993/SC.2/CRP.15, as drafted, could create a misconception regarding the plight of some 12,500 unaccompanied Sudanese boys presently in Kenya. The paragraph could be construed to mean that the Sudanese Government was to blame for the flight of the Sudanese children to Kenya, whereas no mention was made in line 6 concerning who had attempted to enlist the children. The delegate pointed out that a well-balanced presentation could also have focused on the efforts of the Sudanese Government to address their situation. The Government offensive described in the paragraph has been directed against rebels and the reference to forced conscription related to conscription by rebel forces.

41. The Director of DPOS took note of the concern expressed by the delegate of the Sudan on the wording of the paragraph and suggested bilateral consultations with the Regional Bureau for Africa to clarify any misunderstanding.

42. Responding to the question of the resource implications of feeding programmes for refugee children, the Director of DPOS said that he had referred both to additional staff for nutritional monitoring and to costs relating to supplementary feeding programmes. More fundamentally, he was referring to the extent to which the food-aid package is "resource-driven" as opposed to "needs-driven". UNHCR continues to confront difficulties in getting a culturally appropriate diet to the right people in the right place at the right time. He noted that nutrition is at the heart of the health issue for refugee children. At the next meeting of WFP's Governing Board, UNHCR will be making a statement on this issue and would like to engage donors in a dialogue on a "needs-driven" feeding model for refugee populations.

43. On the question of education, the Director noted that UNHCR's activities in this area were adversely affected by the financial crisis of 1989 and 1990. Requests for overall reductions usually resulted in the cessation of non life-sustaining activities such as education. Since the crisis, staff have had to learn again to focus on educational activities, particularly in new emergency situations. Directives to field offices have once again stressed that education is a priority and the annual Target Review has revealed that such directives have had some impact. Turning to the humanitarian relief programme in the former Yugoslavia, the Director conceded that great emphasis has been laid on logistics and emergency relief while less attention has been given to community services and education. At this stage, in view of the funding situation, UNHCR is not in a position to reorient substantially its programmes.

44. The Deputy Director of DIP recalled that a joint mission had been carried out to former Yugoslavia by representatives of UNHCR, UNICEF and the Hague Conference on private international law to review the situation. The basic principle is that the situation of refugee children as regards guardianship, custody and adoption is governed by the law of the country in which they are living. The mention of "irregular" adoption in the Note referred to compliance with the law: making sure that children are properly registered by the country in which they are living as well as making sure that appropriate legal standards are applied to the adoption. It is a very complicated question which UNHCR is following closely.

45. In reference to the Sudanese observation regarding paragraph 16 of the document, the Deputy Director of DIP conceded that there was indeed an infelicitous reference in the paragraph and noted the point made by the Sudanese delegation. UNHCR has attempted to document and trace the families, although tracing is very difficult in areas ravaged by war. The process of family reunification for these minors is still at the registration stage.


46. The Director of DPOS then presented a model for follow-up on concerns relating to refugee women and children by the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection and the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters.

47. Over the years, issues relating to refugee women and children have been considered within the framework of both the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection and the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters, making it difficult for delegations to see how proposed guidelines, policies and norms regarding protection have had a measurable impact on programmes or how changes in programming have had an impact on the protection situation of refugee women and children.

48. For this reason, UNHCR felt it would be beneficial for the Executive Committee to explore a method of monitoring progress in protection and programming for refugee women and children. Following consultations with the Director of International Protection and the Senior Coordinators for Refugee Women and Children, the Director said that the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection is the natural forum to raise protection concerns relating to refugee women and children. SCIP may also endorse or provide guidance to the High Commissioner regarding policies or guidelines to address these concerns.

49. Many such measures require the allocation of human and material resources. The Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women show where improvements in protection are linked to a number of measures such as placement of female staff members, changes in camp design, training and community participation. The Director recommended that UNHCR report on the implementation of measures requiring the allocation of human and financial resources, and that this should be reviewed within the framework of SCAF. SCAF is best placed to follow up on developments in programming and, in view of the frequency of its inter-sessional meetings, would afford UNHCR a forum to maintain a dialogue with the Executive Committee on programming for women and children.

50. The Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection would continue to be kept apprised of how improvements in programming have had an impact on the protection situation of refugee women and children. The Sub-Committee would also continue to be the principal forum for the discussion of new or emerging protection concerns. The Director concluded by saying that UNHCR believes that this model will enable the Executive Committee to monitor how changes in programming are having an impact on protection and how protection principles are reflected in assistance and programming.

51. There was general agreement on the proposed model, since it reflects the transition from the normative, policy-making phase to the implementation phase. Delegations agreed, however, that it was important to maintain a link with the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection.

52. The Chairman thanked the delegations for their comments and concluded by stating that the meeting had proved its value.