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Information note on the follow-up of the recommendations of the OAU/UNHCR symposium on refugees and forced population displacements in Africa

Executive Committee Meetings

Information note on the follow-up of the recommendations of the OAU/UNHCR symposium on refugees and forced population displacements in Africa

14 September 1995

Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme, 46th session, Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection, 27th meeting
14 September 1995


1. In its Conclusion on the Recommendations of the OAU/UNHCR Commemorative Symposium on Refugees and Forced Population Displacements in Africa, the forty-fifth session of the Executive Committee requested the High Commissioner, "in close collaboration with the relevant States and intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations, most particularly the Organization of African Unity, to disseminate the recommendations widely, promote as necessary their implementation, and keep the Executive Committee informed of progress in this regard" (A/AC.96/839, para. 21(e)).

2. The OAU/UNHCR Symposium took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 8 to 10 September 1994. Its recommendations, which are contained in the Addis Ababa Document on Refugees and Forced Population Displacements in Africa, cover ten broad subjects, namely root causes of refugee flows and other forced population displacements in Africa; assistance to refugees; internally displaced persons; solutions for refugees; other populations in need of protection and humanitarian assistance; emergency preparedness and response; the relationship between humanitarian assistance and socio-economic sustainability; and the institutional reform necessary to meet effectively the requirements of refugee protection, assistance, solutions and addressing displacement and humanitarian issues in general.

3. The Symposium called for the recommendations to be implemented at three inter-related levels. First, a number of recommendations were directed to specific actors for the necessary follow-up. Second, the Symposium requested both UNHCR and the OAU to present the recommendations to their respective executive bodies for "consideration and approval". Third, the relevant States themselves were requested to follow-up and take practical measures to implement the relevant recommendations. OAU and UNHCR, which jointly or individually were called upon to implement a number of the recommendations, were also tasked to monitor and encourage the respective actors in the implementation of the recommendations. This document reports on the actions taken by UNHCR in pursuance of the Conclusions of the Executive Committee on the recommendations of the Symposium.


A. Dissemination of the Addis Ababa Document

4. In the conference room paper on the OAU Symposium submitted to the forty-fifth session of the Executive Committee (EC/1995/SCP/CRP.7 and Add.1), UNHCR indicated that the full text of the Addis Ababa Document, containing both the recommendations and the relevant narrative texts, would be produced and given broad distribution. The Document has been published in booklet form in English and French and widely distributed to all the Governments, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academics and others who attended the symposium, as well as all OAU and UNHCR Executive Committee Member States, and UNHCR offices.

5. In total, some 500 NGOs and institutions received the document. It also was made available to a number of meetings, seminars, conferences and briefings, in Africa and elsewhere, in which issues similar to those covered by the recommendations were under consideration. At least two African universities have added the Document to the syllabi of courses on refugee matters.

6. Each recipient of the Document was requested to consider it and to implement those recommendations of relevance in their respective contexts.

7. In the case of the OAU Member States, the message highlighted the recommendations dealing with the root causes of displacement; the concretization of refugee protection; the more effective implementation of the 1969 OAU Convention; and efforts for the attainment of solutions for refugees and refugee problems. UNHCR offices in some of these countries have been contacted by the respective Governments with queries on the practical implications of the implementation of the recommendations. The necessary contacts continue.

B. Publication of the papers and proceedings of the Symposium

8. A special issue of the International Journal of Refugee Law (vol. 7, 1995) has just been published, containing the papers originally presented at the Symposium, a brief summary of the proceedings and a review of the Symposium and its results. It is intended to give this issue of the Journal equally wide distribution.

C. Follow-up on substantive matters contained in the recommendations

9. As previously mentioned, UNHCR was invited to take specific actions in the follow-up of a number of recommendations contained in the Addis Ababa Document. Moreover, the Office has determined that a number of other recommendations would also be beneficial to the objectives of the Office in Africa and indeed in a number of other parts of the world. The most significant follow-up actions of the Office, in substantive terms, have been carried out principally through the UNHCR office in Ethiopia, in cooperation with the General Secretariat of the Organization of African Unity. The two institutions have developed a joint Plan of Action under which priority has been given to the linkage stressed in the recommendations, namely, between the activities of the OAU on conflict resolution and those that both the OAU and UNHCR carry out on behalf of refugees. In this connection, high-level meetings were organized by UNHCR and the OAU on the situation in the Great Lakes region, including a meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs chaired by the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General of the OAU. In these meetings, the importance of resolving national political crises to stem refugee flows and create conditions for repatriation were underlined.


10. Following the recommendation that the OAU present the recommendations of the Symposium to its relevant organs these were presented to the OAU Council of Ministers which

Welcome[d] the recommendations ... as an important contribution to tackling the problems and challenges of forced displacements in Africa and commend[ed] these recommendations to the OAU Commission of [Twenty] on Refugees for consideration and subsequent promotion of their implementation by the Member States. (M/RES.1562 [LXI]).

11. The Commission of Twenty on Refugees is an organ of the OAU responsible for following up on all aspects of the refugee situation in Africa at the legal, policy and political levels. It has, in the period since the Symposium, concentrated its actions in relation to the recommendations in three principal areas. First, the Commission, whose bureau was instrumental in making the deliberations of the Symposium a success, has actively promoted knowledge of and support for the recommendations of the Symposium among the Member States of the OAU. Second, in the course of the various missions carried out by the Commission to African countries with major refugee or returnee problems, the Commission has underlined those recommendations which are particularly important for underpinning favourable policies, practices and other measures on behalf of refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons. Finally, the Commission has drawn up its own detailed Plan of Action for its activities in 1995 which includes various objectives drawn directly from the recommendations of the Symposium. In drawing up and fine-tuning this Plan of Action, the Commission has cooperated with both the OAU Secretariat and UNHCR.