General Conclusion on International Protection
No. 65 (XLII) - 1991

Executive Committee 42nd session. Contained in United Nations General Assembly Document No. 12A (A/46/12/Add.1).

The Executive Committee,

(a) Notes, with concern, the persistent and complex dimension of today's refugee problems and observed that, although significant progress has been made over the past forty years in resolving these problems, the protection of refugees remains an ongoing, difficult challenge in need of solution-oriented approaches;

(b) Welcomes the continuing readiness of States to receive refugees and offer them protection, as well as to make available considerable resources to meet the needs of refugees, thus demonstrating their strong and continuing humanitarian commitment at the national and international levels;

(c) Emphasizes the primary importance of non-refoulement and asylum as cardinal principles of refugee protection and encourages States to intensify their efforts to protect the rights of refugees, to prevent them from becoming the object of armed attacks in camps or settlements, to avoid unnecessary and severe curtailment of their freedom of movement, to ensure conditions of asylum compatible with recognized international standards, and to facilitate their stay in countries of asylum, including through the issue of necessary personal documentation and permission to return after travel abroad;

(d) Expresses concern about the lack of adequate international protection for various groups of refugees in different parts of the world, including a large number of Palestinians, and hoped that efforts would continue within the United Nations system to address their protection needs;

(e) Encourages UNHCR, both at Headquarters and in the field, actively to promote greater support and understanding of UNHCR's policy and activities on behalf of refugee women, including with UNHCR's implementing partners and all appropriate national or international fora where protection problems of refugee women or girls are at issue;

(f) Commends the High Commissioner for the Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women (document (EC/SCP/67), requests that these guidelines be made an integral part of all UNHCR protection and assistance activities and calls for a progress report on implementation of the guidelines at the forty-third session of the Executive Committee and urges the High Commissioner to maintain the position of Senior Coordinator for Refugee Women;

(g) Reaffirms Conclusion No. 59 (XL) on refugee children adopted at the fortieth session of the Executive Committee and reiterates the importance of providing adequate protection and assistance to ensure the safety and development of refugee children and, in this connection, welcomes the High Commissioner's decision to establish a new post of Coordinator on Refugee Children;

(h) Reiterates that the current size and complexity of the world refugee situation require vigorous promotion of existing protection principles, as well as full and open debate on new directions for protection and on further development of the law, paying particular attention to the responsibilities of States to resolve refugee situations and, especially with respect to countries of origin, to eliminate causes of refugee flows;

(i) Calls upon the High Commissioner in this regard actively to explore new options for preventive strategies which are consistent with protection principles, the ways in which State responsibility and burden-sharing mechanisms might be strengthened and public information strategies could be used to complement protection activities;

(j) Requests the High Commissioner to reinforce efforts to encourage or promote voluntary repatriation of refugees and their safe reintegration in the countries of origin, and urges States to facilitate these efforts, including by ensuring respect for the voluntary nature of any repatriation movement and by allowing their citizens to return in safety and dignity to their homes without harassment, arbitrary detention or physical threats during or after return,

(k) Welcomes the recent accessions by Romania and Poland to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, appeals to States which have not yet acceded to these instruments to do so, thereby promoting international burden-sharing and facilitating the handling and resolution of refugee situations, and encourages all States actively to support the efforts of the High Commissioner to promote universal accession;

(l) Expresses appreciation to the High Commissioner for the interim report on implementation of the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees and calls on all States which have not yet done so to respond to the questionnaire on implementation circulated by the High Commissioner;

(m) Acknowledges the value of reporting by States Parties on implementation of their responsibilities under the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol and requests UNHCR to accord public access to States' replies to the afore-mentioned questionnaire with the agreement of the States concerned;

(n) Notes that growing misuse of asylum procedures could compromise the institution of asylum and the maintenance of fair and efficient refugee status determination procedures, and recalled Conclusion No. 46 (j) (XXXVIII) which called upon States to ensure that measures to discourage abusive use of asylum procedures have no detrimental effect on the fundamental principles of international protection, including on the institution of asylum;

(o) Recognizes that the establishment of and access of all asylum-seekers to fair and efficient procedures are important elements in a coherent international strategy for the management and resolution of refugee situations and recalls in this connection Conclusion No. 8 (XXVIII) on Determination of Refugee Status, Conclusion No. 15 (XXX) on Refugees without an Asylum Country, Conclusion No. 30 (XXXIV) on the Problem of Manifestly Unfounded or Abusive Applications for Refugee Status or Asylum and Conclusion No. 58 (XL) concerning the Problem of Refugees and Asylum-Seekers who Move in an Irregular Manner from a Country in which They Had Already Found Protection;

(p) Agrees, in view of the importance of the notion of safe country and the fact of ongoing consideration on it in other fora, that the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection should continue discussion of the notion, with a view to reaching conclusions on the matter;

(q) Underlines the possibility of use of the cessation clauses of the 1951 Convention in situations where a change of circumstances in a country is of such a profound and enduring nature that refugees from that country no longer require international protection, and can no longer continue to refuse to avail themselves of the protection of their country, provided that it is recognized that compelling reasons may, for certain individuals, support the continuation of refugee status, and calls upon UNHCR to explore in the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection the application of the cessation clauses;

(r) Reaffirms Conclusion No. 50 (1) (XXXIX), reiterates its call to States actively to explore and promote measures favourable to stateless persons, including accession to the international instruments pertaining to stateless persons, and in this connection believes it would be useful for United Nations human rights bodies to address statelessness issues, including the problem of arbitrary deprivation of nationality and the content of the right to a nationality;

(s) Notes with appreciation the efforts of the High Commissioner to promote refugee law through existing resources, drawing on external private funding, and calls upon the High Commissioner to strengthen the Office's training activities, in particular through training courses directed to Government officials and others working directly with refugees and asylum-seekers;

(t) Notes with concern the precarious security situation prevailing in some areas where refugees are located which has also put the staff of UNHCR at considerable risk and calls upon States to protect the security of international and local staff working in their countries on behalf of refugees;

(u) Welcomes the convening of the World Conference on Human Rights and calls upon the High Commissioner to participate actively in the preparations for and the proceedings of the Conference, bearing in mind particularly that the matter of human rights and mass exoduses merits further serious consideration;

(v) Calls upon the High Commissioner to continue to contribute, as appropriate, to the deliberations of international human rights bodies.