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UNHCR's Medium-Term Plan 2002-2005

Executive Committee Meetings

UNHCR's Medium-Term Plan 2002-2005

7 February 2000

Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme
Standing Committee
17th meeting
7 February 2000


Attached is UNHCR's proposed Medium-Term Plan for the period 2002-2005. It is being presented to the Standing Committee for review and endorsement. The Medium Term Plan constitutes programme 21 in the United Nations Medium-Term Plan 2002-2005

The calendar of review of the United Nations Medium-Term Plan 2002-2005 foresees its submission to the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) in June 2000, and subsequent review by ECOSOC in July 2000. It will then be reviewed and approved by the General Assembly in October-December 2000.

Any proposals resulting from the preliminary consideration of the Plan by the Standing Committee will be sent to the United Nations Secretariat in March 2000.

Draft Decision

The Standing Committee,

OP1 Notes the attached draft of Programme 21: Protection and Assistance to Refugees of the United Nations Medium-Term Plan 2002-2005;

OP2 Requests that any proposals put forward by the Standing Committee on the Medium-Term Plan be reflected in the draft to be submitted by the United Nations Secretariat for further review by the ACABQ, the CPC, ECOSOC and the General Assembly, in the course of 2000;

OP3 Reaffirms that the Executive Committee will, in accordance with its terms of reference, continue to provide appropriate guidance on UNHCR's programmes and activities;

OP4 Further proposes that the Executive Committee will, at the appropriate time, review the Plan in order to adjust objectives and priorities in the light of evolving circumstances, General Assembly resolutions or decisions by the Executive Committee.


Programme 21: Protection and Assistance to Refugees

1. The overall orientation of this programme is to provide international protection to refugees and to others of concern to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and to seek permanent solutions to their problems. Providing them with humanitarian assistance is one aspect of international protection and is a means of facilitating it: it is rooted in and grows out of the protection nature of UNHCR's work. In its operational activities, UNHCR seeks to integrate protection and humanitarian assistance. Pursuing durable solutions to the problems of refugees is the heart of protection, and the principal objective of this programme.

2. UNHCR's mandate is to be found in General Assembly resolution 319 A (IV), establishing the Office as from 1 January 1951, and in resolution 428 (V), containing the Statute of the Office. The General Assembly has also called upon the High Commissioner to provide assistance to returnees, as well as to monitor their safety and well-being on return (resolution 40/118). In addition, on the basis of specific requests from the Secretary-General or the competent principal organs of the United Nations, and with the consent of the State concerned, UNHCR provides humanitarian assistance and protection to internally displaced persons (General Assembly resolution 48/116). As regards the assistance activities of UNHCR, the basic provisions of the Statute were expanded by the General Assembly in its resolution 832 (IX).

3. The international legal basis for the protection of refugees finds its principal expression in the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. In addition, there are a number of other international instruments of relevance to the protection of refugees, such as the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child. At the regional level, there are also important instruments and declarations such as the 1969 Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa of the Organization of African Unity, the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees, adopted by the Colloquium on the International Protection of Refugees in Central America, Mexico and Panama and the 1994 San José Declaration on Refugees and Displaced Persons.

4. UNHCR will be responsible for the achievement of the objectives of this programme, which are expressed in general terms in view of the largely unpredictable nature of refugee outflows, as well as the opportunities to resolve them. To meet these objectives, UNHCR pursues a range of activities, undertaken in cooperation with States and other organizations, with a continued strong emphasis on improving efficiency, transparency and accountability, especially through the development of an integrated operations management system. Notable among them are the following:

(a) The pursuit of comprehensive strategies, in cooperation with States and other organizations, aimed at both mitigating and preventing the causes of forced population movements, as well as finding solutions to them when they occur;

(b) The ongoing development of a legal regime of international protection, in particular through the promotion of accessions to international and regional instruments relating to the status of refugees or otherwise benefiting refugees, the effective implementation of refugee rights, and the promotion and dissemination of refugee law and protection principles;

(c) The further development of contingency planning, emergency preparedness and response capabilities, in coordination with other organizations, so as to respond effectively and efficiently to situations of forced human displacement;

(d) The provision of humanitarian assistance in an environmentally sensitive manner, and in such a way that it is supportive of, and reinforces development initiatives to the extent possible; in addition, a concerted effort will be made to ensure that in the delivery of humanitarian assistance, the particular needs and capacities of refugee women, as well as the special situation of refugee children will be taken into account;

(e) The further development, in consultation with concerned parties, of options to ensure the security, and civilian and humanitarian character of refugee camps and settlements, as well as security in areas of return; the objective will be to develop mechanisms that are comprehensive and predictable in this regard;

(f) The systematic follow-up to relevant recommendations in the Plans of Action emanating from recent international conferences.

5. These activities and strategies will be pursued under the guidance of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in accordance with its terms of reference as contained in General Assembly Resolution 1166 (XII).

Subprogramme 1. International Protection

6. During the period covered by this plan, this subprogramme, for which the Department of International Protection has overall responsibility, will promote further accessions to these instruments, in particular the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol, and where applicable, the withdrawal of the geographical limitation and other reservations made by States upon becoming parties to the Convention. A related objective will be to promote the inclusion of provisions favourable to refugees in international and regional instruments and in national legislation.

7. In order to ensure international protection to all who need it, including to asylum-seekers, returnees and other persons of concern to the High Commissioner, UNHCR, with the support of Member States, will explore to this end the development of further measures which are consistent with fundamental protection principles reflected in international instruments.

8. A further objective of this sub-programme will be to ensure the effective implementation of refugee rights, including those of refugee women, refugee children/adolescents and elderly refugees, through the widest possible observance by States of internationally accepted standards for the treatment of refugees, especially the fundamental principles of asylum and non-refoulement. This will involve working for the establishment by States of fair and efficient procedures for the determination of refugee status or, as appropriate, other mechanisms to ensure that persons in need of international protection are identified and granted such protection, and to ensure that all persons seeking international protection are granted access to these procedures and mechanisms. To assure a more effective response to the protection needs of refugee women and refugee children, a particular objective will be a wider dissemination of the respective Guidelines relating to refugee women and children, and a more concerted implementation of the guidelines.

9. Pursuant to its designated role as a mediating agency under the 1961 convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, and as a result of concerns that statelessness, including the inability to establish one's nationality, may result in displacement, UNHCR will continue its activities on behalf of stateless persons. Under this objective, UNHCR will, in particular, actively promote accessions to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. In addition, it will provide relevant technical and advisory services pertaining to the preparation and implementation of nationality legislation to interested States; training of practitioners in the field of statelessness; cooperation with concerned organizations; monitoring of the magnitude of the problem; handling of cases and caseloads affected by problems of statelessness; and development of systems to identify and resolve potential cases.

10. This sub-programme will also seek to assist States in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, on the basis of criteria enumerated in relevant resolutions of the General Assembly, and in close collaboration with other entities and agencies concerned.

11. Another objective of this subprogramme will be the promotion and dissemination of refugee law and protection principles, particularly through the training, in cooperation with non-governmental, academic institutions and other relevant organizations, of governmental and non-governmental officials.

12. The final objective of this subprogramme is to help achieve permanent solutions to the problems of refugees. In that regard, UNHCR's will promote the elaboration of more comprehensive and regional approaches to resolve refugee situations and other forms of involuntary displacement, as appropriate. Of the durable solutions to refugee problems, namely local settlement/integration, resettlement or voluntary repatriation, the preferred solution for UNHCR will be voluntary repatriation, under conditions of safety and dignity.

Subprogramme 2. Assistance

13. UNHCR's assistance, in response to refugee situations, and for which the Department of Operations has the primary responsibility, embraces the following: emergency assistance, care and maintenance, local settlement, and voluntary repatriation supported by reintegration assistance. In the provision of such assistance, UNHCR's concerns are that assistance, where possible, is delivered in such a way that it involves the recipients. In particular, it should ensure an active role on the part of refugee women. Where possible, relief should be given in such a way that it reinforces local capacities to cope. A related concern of UNHCR is that assistance programmes should support the return, as soon as feasible, to a process of sustainable development.

14. In providing humanitarian assistance, UNHCR seeks to ensure that it is delivered in an environmentally sound manner. To achieve this objective, UNHCR will adhere closely to the environmental policy adopted at the forty-sixth session of its Executive Committee, and in related operational guidelines.

15. A further objective will be to enhance UNHCR's emergency preparedness and response mechanisms, taking into account recent evaluations. In close coordination with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and other agencies, UNHCR will develop further specific preparedness measures at the country level, in particular through joint contingency planning in-country with States and operational partners, including provision for the integration of local resources into the planned response mechanisms.

16. To strengthen further the effectiveness and efficiency of its humanitarian assistance, UNHCR will establish, during the period of the plan, collaborative ventures with agencies having complementary mandates or competencies. In particular, Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) or Framework Agreements with relevant United Nations organizations will be reviewed to ensure greater operational predictability.

17. Another objective under the programme will be to continue to give effect to the PARINAC Declaration and Plan of Action, as reviewed and updated in 1999, and improve the partnership process with non-governmental organizations (NGOs). UNHCR will also aim to further involve its implementing partners, both non-governmental and governmental, in programme planning and ensure that they receive the appropriate training and support to comply with conditions associated with the implementation of projects on behalf of UNHCR, especially as the new Operations Management System is deployed to the field. In addition, UNHCR will also improve its procedures to monitor progress in regard to the mainstreaming of programme priorities approved by the Executive Committee, namely refugee women, refugee children/adolescents and the environment.

18. Among the beneficiaries of UNHCR humanitarian assistance, the Executive Committee of UNHCR has underlined the specific needs of refugee women and refugee children/adolescents. UNHCR believes that a concerted effort is necessary to ensure a more effective implementation of its policies relating to refugee women and refugee children in the field, even from the early phases of an emergency. During the period of the plan, this objective will be further pursued, in particular, through the formulation of programmes based on gender analysis and a clear identification of age-related needs.

19. Another objective under the programme is to ensure, in consultation with host governments, the security, and civilian and humanitarian character of refugee camps and refugee populated areas, as well as the security of returnee areas. In consultation with States, which have the primary responsibility in this matter, and with the United Nations Department of Peace-Keeping Operations and other relevant bodies, UNHCR will develop further the concept of security in refugee and returnee areas, and determine a range of concrete measures whereby it might contribute, depending on the situation, to the achievement of such security.

20. The final objective of this subprogramme will be to ensure linkages between broader development efforts and humanitarian assistance, not only to mitigate the impact of refugee influxes on countries of asylum, but also to support the reintegration of refugees and displaced persons into their societies which are invariably in transition from conflict; in that regard, UNHCR, when elaborating solutions, will work closely with development agencies and international financial institutions to ensure a comprehensive approach when planning programmes.

Legislative mandates

Subprogramme 21.1 International protection

Conventions and conference declarations

1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol

1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons

1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness

1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (General Assembly resolution 44/25)

1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa

1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees

1994 San José Declaration on Refugees and Displaced Persons

General Assembly resolution

A/RES/54/146 Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Executive Committee reports

Report of the fiftieth session of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the High Commissioner (A/AC.96/928)

Note on International Protection (A/AC.96/914)

Annual Theme: Strengthening Partnership to ensure Protection, also in relation to Security (A/AC.96/923)

Detention of Asylum-Seekers and Refugees: The Framework, the Problem and Recommended Practice (EC/49/SC/CRP.13)

Family Protection Issues (EC/49/SC/CRP.14)

Progress Report on UNHCR Activities in the Field of Statelessness (EC/49/SC/CRP.15)

Subprogramme 21.2 Assistance

General Assembly resolution

A/RES/54/146 Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Executive Committee reports

The Security, and Civilian and Humanitarian Character of Refugee Camps and Settlements (EC/49/SC/INF.2)

Refugee Women and a Gender Perspective Approach (EC/49/SC/CRP.22)

Progress Report on UNHCR's Emergency Preparedness and Response Capacity (EC/49/SC/CRP.23)

Reintegration: A Progress Report (EC/49/SC/CRP.6)

Progress Report on Refugee Children (EC/50/SC/CRP.7)

Elderly Refugees (EC/50/SC/CRP.8)

Environmental Issues (EC/50/SC/CRP.9)

Conference declaration

Partnership in Action Declaration and Plan of Action (Oslo, 1994)

Memoranda of Understanding

Memorandum of Understanding with WFP (1997)

Memorandum of Understanding with UNICEF (1996)

Framework Agreement for Operational Cooperation between UNHCR and UNDP (1997)

Framework for Cooperation between UNHCR and the World Bank (1998)