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UNHCR master glossary of terms

10-Point Plan in Action

A tool developed by UNHCR to assist UN agencies, governments and civil society to address mixed movements. It offers a framework to respond to the protection needs of refugees, stateless persons, unaccompanied and separated children, victims of trafficking and others with specific needs in the context of mixed movements. It provides practical examples from across the world, showcasing ways of developing and implementing migration and border policies that reflect international human rights and refugee law.  

See UNHCR, The 10-Point Plan in Action. 2016 update, December 2016.

abusive or fraudulent asylum claim

An asylum claim made by an individual who clearly does not need international protection and which involves an element of bad faith on the part of the applicant, such as deception or intent to mislead. Such claims may be subjected to accelerated asylum procedures.

accelerated refugee status determination procedure

The prioritized processing of asylum claims with shorter waiting times between registration, interview and decision and sometimes with a simplified examination of the claim. Some countries use accelerated procedures to determine clearly abusive or manifestly unfounded applications, as well as manifestly well-founded applications.

access to justice

Basic principle of the rule of law which refers to an individual’s ability to obtain an adequate remedy for any harm suffered, whether at the hands of an individual, group or other entity. Such remedies can take different forms, ranging from restitution or compensation for the harm done (restorative or restitutive justice) to penalties or punishment of those responsible (retributive or punitive justice) means that citizens are able to use justice institutions to obtain solutions to their common justice problems. For access to justice to exist, justice institutions must function effectively to provide fair solutions to citizens’ justice problems.


The process by which a country accepts to be bound by a treaty (such as the 1951 Refugee Convention) that is already negotiated and signed by other States. It has the same legal effect as ratification. Accession usually occurs after the treaty has entered into force. The conditions under which accession may occur and the procedure involved depend on the provisions of the treaty.

accountability to affected people (AAP)

A commitment on the part of humanitarian and development actors and organizations to the intentional and systematic inclusion of the expressed needs, concerns, capacities, and views of the people they seek to work with, in their diversity, and to being answerable for organisational decisions and actions, in all protection, assistance and solutions interventions and programmes.

administration of juvenile justice

The notion refers to the obligations of States Parties under CRC Article 40. Of particular relevance for implementation: UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (1985), known as the Beijing Rules; UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty (1990); and the UN Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (1990).

Source: UNICEF


The determination, by UNHCR or a State, of whether an individual should be admitted to refugee status determination procedures.

See also: asylum; screening.


Coordinated activities that seek to enhance protection by promoting changes that bring policy, practice or law into line with international standards.

affected population

See persons of concern (to UNHCR).

Note: For UNHCR, the terms affected people and affected populations, common in inter-agency settings, generally refer to persons of concern to UNHCR, in line with the Organization’s mandate for refugees, asylum-seekers, refugee returnees, stateless people, and the internally displaced. In many situations, affected people may also refer to communities hosting persons of concern to UNHCR.

African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention)

Commonly referred to as the Kampala Convention, this African Union convention was the first legally binding instrument on internal displacement with a continent-wide scope. Adopted in 2009 and entering into force on 6 December 2012, it provides a comprehensive regional framework for the protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs). The Convention also addresses the root causes of displacement and ways to prevent it.

age, gender and diversity approach (AGD)

An approach to humanitarian action that aims to ensure that all affected people can enjoy their rights on an equal footing and participate meaningfully in the decisions that affect their lives, families, and communities. UNHCR's AGD approach recognizes that displacement and statelessness affect people differently, depending on age, gender, disability and other diverse characteristics, circumstances or experiences.

The AGD approach requires that we incorporate the different capacities, needs, and exposure to protection risks of all people with and for whom we work from all age, gender and diversity backgrounds into everything we do and throughout programming.

Agenda for Protection

A declaration and programme of action, agreed by UNHCR and States as part of the Global Consultations on International Protection, including six specific goals to improve the protection of refugees and asylum-seekers around the world. The Agenda was endorsed in October 2002 by the Executive Committee and welcomed by the UN General Assembly.

See UNHCR, Agenda for Protection, October 2003, Third edition.

agent of persecution

People or entities responsible for acts or threats of persecution. Persecution can be related to action by the authorities of the State, but may also emanate from non-state agents.

alternative care (child protection)

Alternative care is accorded for children temporarily or permanently deprived of their family environment, or in whose own best interests cannot be allowed to remain in that environment. In line with Article 20 of the CRC, States Parties are required to ensure alternative care for such children in accordance with their national laws. Article 20(3) of the CRC provides that alternative care could include, inter alia, foster placement, kafala of Islamic law, adoption or if necessary placement in suitable institutions for the care of children.

Source: UNICEF

alternatives to detention

Any legislation, policy or practice that allows asylum-seekers to reside in the community subject to a number of conditions or restrictions on their freedom of movement, while their status is being resolved.


A legal guarantee that exempts a person or group of persons from liability for criminal or political offenses. If respected and properly applied, an amnesty can help promote the voluntary repatriation of refugees.

armed conflict

A dispute involving the use of armed force between two or more parties. International humanitarian law distinguishes between international and non-international armed conflicts:

  • International armed conflict: An armed conflict involving two or more States, regardless of whether a declaration of war has been made or whether the parties recognize that there is a state of war. Also includes cases of occupation of one State over the territory of another, even when not met with armed resistance.
  • Non–international armed conflict: A protracted armed confrontation between government forces and non-governmental armed groups or between non-governmental armed groups. The armed confrontation must reach a minimum level of intensity and the parties involved in the conflict must show a minimum of organization.

The typology of an armed conflict is important because it regulates the international legal framework applicable to the situation.


Systematic gathering and analysis of information about the situation and needs of all individuals in affected communities to UNHCR and other affected communities in a particular location or context. Assessments enable UNHCR and other humanitarian actors to take decisions on the basis of sound information. They are also critical to the design of effective programmes, which must be built on an accurate understanding of protection risks, capacities and gaps, including gaps between the current situation for persons of concern and relevant standards.

See also: monitoring; screening.


Aid provided to address the physical, material and legal needs of persons of concern to UNHCR. This may include cash, food items, medical supplies, clothing, shelter, seeds and tools, as well as the provision of infrastructure, such as schools and roads. In UNHCR practice, assistance supports and complements the achievement of protection objectives.

assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVRR)

Administrative, logistical, financial and reintegration support to non-nationals unable or unwilling to remain in the host country and who make a free and informed decision to return to their country of origin or habitual residence.


The grant, by a State, of protection on its territory to persons outside their country of nationality or habitual residence, who are fleeing persecution or serious harm or for other reasons. Asylum encompasses a variety of elements, including protection against refoulement, permission to remain on the territory of the asylum country, humane standards of treatment and access to a durable solution.

Asylum Capacity Support Group

A mechanism introduced in the Global Compact on Refugees meant to support States in developing and strengthening fair, efficient, adaptable national asylum systems that have integrity, as part of their comprehensive refugee response. The Asylum Capacity Support Group, established by UNHCR, aims to enhance asylum capacity support already provided by UNHCR, and seeks to better coordinate existing bilateral or multilateral arrangements.


A general term for any person who is seeking international protection. In some countries, it is used as a legal term referring to a person who has applied for refugee status or a complementary international protection status and has not yet received a final decision on their claim. It can also refer to a person who has not yet submitted an application but may intend to do so, or may be in need of international protection. Not every asylum-seeker will ultimately be recognized as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker. However, an asylum-seeker may not be sent back to their country of origin until their asylum claim has been examined in a fair procedure, and is entitled to certain minimum standards of treatment pending determination of their status.

best interests (of the child) principle

A principle set out in Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which affirms: “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”

A child’s best interests are determined by a variety of individual circumstances, such as the age, gender, level of maturity, and experiences of the child. Other factors also determine well-being, such as the presence or absence of parents, the quality of the relationships between the child and their family or caregivers, the physical and psychosocial situation of the child and their protection situation (security, protection risks, etc.). The interpretation and application of the best interests principle must conform to the CRC and other international legal norms, as well as to the guidance provided by the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

See UN General Assembly, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 20 November 1989, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1577, p. 3.

best interests assessment (BIA)

A formal UNHCR process, which has strict procedural safeguards designed to determine the child’s best interests when taking particularly important decisions affecting the child. It should facilitate adequate child participation without discrimination, involve decision-makers with relevant areas of expertise and balance all relevant factors in order to assess and determine the best option.

Note: The UNHCR Best Interests Determination (BID) process is articulated in 2021 UNHCR Best Interests Procedure Guidelines: Assessing and Determining the Best Interests of the Child. A child’s best interests must also be determined by other actors working in national systems taking decisions on behalf of children but, as noted above, this process can take different forms and may not necessarily be called a ‘best interests determination’.

best interests determination (BID)

A formal UNHCR process, which has strict procedural safeguards designed to determine the child’s best interests when taking particularly important decisions affecting the child. It should facilitate adequate child participation without discrimination, involve decision-makers with relevant areas of expertise and balance all relevant factors in order to assess and determine the best option.

Note: The UNHCR Best Interests Determination (BID) process is articulated in 2021 UNHCR Best Interests Procedure Guidelines: Assessing and Determining the Best Interests of the Child. A child’s best interests must also be determined by other actors working in national systems taking decisions on behalf of children but, as noted above, this process can take different forms and may not necessarily be called a ‘best interests determination.

best interests procedure (BIP)

UNHCR’s case management framework for asylum-seeking and refugee children. It may also be applied to other children of concern to UNHCR in certain circumstances. BIP includes the key steps of child protection case management as well as the UNHCR Best Interests Determination (BID) process and is implemented for individual children at risk who are in need of targeted, structured, systematic, sustained and coordinated support. It ensures that decisions and actions aimed at addressing protection risks and needs for children are in their best interests. BIP is embedded within, and linked to, refugee protection case management.

birth certificate

Refers to a vital record that documents the birth of a person. The birth certificate is a child’s first legal proof of identity.

Source: UNICEF.

birth registration

Refers to the process of recording a child’s birth. It is a permanent and official record of a child’s existence and provides legal recognition of that child’s identity. It establishes a legal record of where the child was born and who the child's parents are.

Source: UNICEF.

border governance

The legislation, policies, plans, strategies, action plans and activities related to the entry into and exit of persons from the territory of a State, comprising detection, rescue, interception, screening, interviewing, identification, reception, referral, detention, removal or return, as well as related activities such as training, technical, financial and other assistance, including that provided to other States.

burden sharing

The principle through which the diverse costs of granting asylum assumed by a host country are more equitably divided among a greater number of States.

Note: The origins of the concept as it relates to refugees are found in Paragraph 4 of the Preamble of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which acknowledges that ‘the grant of asylum may place unduly heavy burdens on certain countries, and that a satisfactory solution of a problem of which the United Nations has recognized the international scope and nature cannot therefore be achieved without international cooperation’.

Related terms international solidarity and responsibility sharing are sometimes used.

See James Milner, Refugees, the State and the Politics of Asylum in Africa, 2009, p. 39; and UN General Assembly, Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 28 July 1951, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 189, p. 137, Preamble, para. 4.

cancellation (of refugee status)

The term used by UNHCR to refer to a decision to invalidate a refugee status recognition which should not have been granted in the first place. Cancellation affects determinations that have become final, that is, they are no longer subject to appeal or review. It has the effect of rendering refugee status null and void from the date of the initial determination (ab initio or ex tunc – from the start or from then). Cancellation may be appropriate, for example, in cases where it is established that the person did not meet the eligibility criteria set out in the relevant inclusion clauses or that one of the exclusion clauses would have been applicable had all the relevant facts been known. The decision to grant refugee status may have been made in error because the person had intentionally misrepresented or concealed material facts in order to obtain refugee status, in cases of misconduct such as bribery, or due to a mistake by the determining authority.

capacity development

A process by which individuals, institutions and societies develop abilities, individually and collectively, to perform functions, to solve problems, and to set and achieve goals.

Cartagena Declaration on Refugees (Cartagena Declaration)

A declaration adopted by the Colloquium on the International Protection of Refugees in Central America in November 1984. The Cartagena Declaration broadens the definition of refugee enshrined in the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees to include 'persons who have fled their country because their lives, safety or freedom have been threatened by generalized violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violation of human rights or other circumstances which have seriously disturbed public order'. Although not legally binding, the provisions of the Cartagena Declaration have been incorporated in the legislation of numerous Latin America countries.

case processing modality

Any procedure that results in a determination of whether or not the individual concerned is a refugee. Case-processing modalities are differentiated on the basis of how refugee status is determined, not by who does so (as is the case in 'joint' or 'parallel' or 'state' refugee status determination (RSD) procedures), or why (as in 'residual' RSD procedures).

cessation (of refugee status)

An act by which an individual is formally determined to no longer be a refugee. Under Article 1C of the 1951 Convention, refugee status may cease either through the actions of the refugee, such as by re-establishment in their country of origin, or through fundamental changes in the objective circumstances in the country of origin upon which refugee status was based. Cessation operates to withdraw refugee status, and brings to an end related rights and benefits. It may be determined on an individual or group basis, and is subject to specific legal procedures and safeguards.

cessation clause

Legal provisions setting out the conditions under which refugee status comes to an end because it is no longer needed or justified. Cessation clauses are found in Article 1(C) of the 1951 Convention, and in Article 1(4) of the 1969 OAU Convention.


“Every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”, as defined in Article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The term includes adolescents and is preferable to the term minor.

See UN General Assembly, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 20 November 1989, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1577, p. 3.

child at risk

A child who is at heightened risk as a result of exposure to risks in the wider protection environment and/or risks resulting from individual circumstances. Children at risk include unaccompanied and separated children (UASC), as well as other children who are at risk of, or have experienced violence, exploitation, abuse or neglect.

A non-exhaustive list of risk categories is included in paragraph (c) of the UNHCR Executive Committee (ExCom) Conclusions, No. 7 of 2007.

child labour

Any work performed by a child which deprives them of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to their physical and mental development.

Child labour refers to work that:

  • is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and/or
  • interferes with their schooling by: depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; obliging them to leave school prematurely; or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.

Source: adapted from International Labour Organization (ILO), What is child labour.

See also: forced labour.

child marriage

Any marriage where at least one of the parties is under 18 years of age.

Note: According to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the Committee on the Rights of the Child, child marriage “is considered as a form of forced marriage given that one or both parties have not expressed their full, free and informed consent.”

Source: Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and Committee on the Rights of the Child, Joint general recommendation/general comment No. 31 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and No. 18 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on harmful practicesL (CEDAW/GC/31-CRC/GC/18), 4 November 2014, para. 6.2.19.

child protection case management

An approach to addressing the needs of an individual child and their family in an appropriate, systematic and timely manner, through direct support and/or referrals.

Source: The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, 2019 Edition

See also: forced labour.

child protection services

This notion refers to a continuum of prevention, risk mitigation and response services that prevent and respond to child abuse, exploitation, violence, neglect and family separation.

child protection system

Certain formal and informal structures, functions and capacities that have been assembled to prevent and respond to violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation of children. A child protection system is generally agreed to be comprised of the following components: human resources, finance, laws and policies, governance, monitoring and data collection as well as protection and response services and care management. It also includes different actors – children, families, communities, those working at sub-national or national level and those working internationally. Most important are the relationships and interactions between and among these components and these actors within the system. It is the outcomes of these interactions that comprise the system.

Source: UNICEF


See national.

civil registration

The continuous, permanent, compulsory and universal recording of the occurrence and characteristics of vital events pertaining to the population, as provided through decree or regulation in accordance with the legal requirements in each country. This process is carried out primarily for the purpose of establishing the documents provided for by law.

Source: UNHCR, Guidance on Registration and Identity Management, 2018, based on United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Principles and Recommendations for a Vital Statistics System, Rev 3, 2014.

civilian and humanitarian character of asylum

A principle of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law underlining the grant of asylum as an inherently peaceful and humanitarian act which should not be regarded as unfriendly by another State. Primary responsibility for ensuring the civilian and humanitarian character of asylum lies with States. It involves locating refugee camps and settlements at a reasonable distance from the border; maintaining law and order; curtailing the flow of arms into refugee camps and settlements; preventing their use for the internment of prisoners of war; disarming armed elements; and identifying, separating and interning combatants.

See UNHCR, Guidance Note on Maintaining the Civilian and Humanitarian Character of Asylum, December 2018; and Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme, Conclusion on the civilian and humanitarian character of asylum No. 94 (LIII) - 2002, 8 October 2002, No. 94 (LIII).

climate action

Refers to all efforts to mitigate climate change and to adapt to its current and future impacts.

climate change

  1. The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines climate change as: “a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g., by using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. Climate change may be due to natural internal processes or external forcings, or to persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use”.
  2. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) defines climate change as “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods”.

climate refugee

See person displaced in the context of disasters and climate change.

Note: The term climate refugee is often used in the media and other discussions. However, this phrase can cause confusion, as it does not exist in international law. This term is also problematic in attributing displacement to a single driver - climate change - which is better characterised as a "risk multiplier" that exacerbates and combines with other drivers of displacement, as recognised by the Global Compact on Refugees. A refugee is defined as a person who has crossed an international border “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion” (1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees). In some contexts, the definition extends to persons fleeing “events seriously disturbing public order” (1969 OAU Convention; 1984 Cartagena Declaration). Climate change most frequently affects people inside their own countries, and typically creates internal displacement before it reaches a level where it displaces people across borders. There may be situations where the refugee criteria of the 1951 Convention or broader refugee criteria of regional refugee law frameworks may apply, for example if drought-related famine is linked to situations of armed conflict and violence. Regardless, the term climate refugee (along with similar terms climate change refugee and environmental refugee) is not endorsed by UNHCR.

Cluster Approach

A leadership approach used for coordinating responses in non-refugee humanitarian emergencies. Accountability for the delivery of services (health, shelter, etc.) is spread across different cluster lead agencies, and as a result no single agency is accountable for an entire response. In each country situation, overall accountability for coordination and delivery rests with the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC). A Cluster Approach may be used in humanitarian emergencies caused by either conflicts or disasters. UNHCR is the designated cluster lead for emergency shelter, camp coordination and camp management, and protection in situations of conflict-related internal displacement.

code of conduct

A common set of principles or standards that a group of agencies or organizations, or the personnel of an organization, have agreed to abide by while providing assistance in response to complex emergencies or disasters. All UNHCR staff are required to sign the UNHCR Code of Conduct, committing them to uphold its ethical standards.

collective expulsion

Any measure compelling non-nationals, as a group, to leave a country, except where such a measure is taken on the basis of a reasonable and objective examination of the particular case of each individual of the group. Alternative term mass expulsion is sometimes used.


A person who is authorized to use force in situations of armed conflict, and who, in turn, is a lawful military target. A combatant can be a member of the armed forces, other than medical personnel and chaplains, or of an organized group. Under international humanitarian law, armed forces are subject to an internal disciplinary system, which, inter alia, must enforce compliance with the rules of international law applicable to armed conflict.

commission of inquiry / fact-finding mission

In the United Nations context, the term international commission of inquiry/fact finding mission is used to designate a variety of temporary investigative bodies of a non-judicial nature, established by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and tasked with investigating alleged violations of international human rights, international humanitarian law or international criminal law and making recommendations for corrective action based on their factual and legal findings.

Source: adapted from Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Commissions of Inquiry and Fact-Finding Missions on International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law – Guidance and Practice, 2015, p. 7.

common country analysis (CCA)

An essential element of any United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) process, the common country analysis (CCA) is the UN system’s independent and mandate-based articulation of a given country context, including opportunities and challenges. It encompasses sustainable development, human rights, gender equality, peace and security, and humanitarian perspectives. The CCA represents a powerful source of information to help the UN system engage with national stakeholders, including to advocate for policy changes and to support the drafting of a national development plan.

Source: adapted from United Nations Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG), United Nations Development Assistance Framework Guidance, 2017.

community sponsorship

Reception and integration support that involves the pairing of resettled refugees or persons admitted under complementary pathways with individuals, groups of individuals or organizations (i.e. sponsors such as local clubs, businesses, university communities, faith groups, etc.). These entities commit to providing clearly defined financial and/or in-kind contributions, emotional support and volunteer services to help refugees or other persons in need of international protection upon arrival.

community-based approach to protection

An inclusive partnership strategy that recognizes and builds on the capacities and resources of forcibly displaced and stateless persons, by establishing trust, promoting meaningful participation, consultation and leadership in all aspects of programmes that affect them. It is a continuous process that engages communities as analysts, evaluators and implementers in their own protection.

complementarity / additionality

For the purposes of distinguishing admissions through complementary pathways, the meaning of the term resettlement is restricted to UNHCR-referred submissions against State-set quotas to which all complementary pathways arrivals remain complimentary/additional; as well as submissions from authorised non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to government resettlement programmes. Opportunities provided by States and other partners to persons in need of international protection to obtain durable solutions through programmes additional to and based on different identification methodology and criteria than resettlement are considered complementary pathways.

complementary food

Food items provided by UNHCR in addition to the basic ration provided by the World Food Programme. For breastfed infants and children, complementary food is also used to refer to any food or liquid other than breast milk.

complementary pathways for admission to third countries

Existing legal admission pathways that are adjusted for persons in need of international protection, as well as newly created programmes that provide for lawful stay in a third country where the international protection needs of the beneficiaries are met. These programmes are additional and separate to resettlement programmes. Eligibility of beneficiaries for complementary pathways is based on criteria other than those for resettlement and include their education or employment qualifications, family composition, etc. Complementary pathways are exclusive to persons in need of international protection as beneficiaries, but do not always constitute durable solutions in and of themselves. They are solutions-oriented and progressive pathways to permanent residency or citizenship. Eligibility for complementary pathways is not necessarily limited to officially recognized refugees under UNHCR mandate or relevant States authorities.

complementary protection

Mechanisms used by States to regularize the stay of persons found to fall outside the scope of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol, but who are nevertheless in need of international protection.

complex emergency

A multifaceted humanitarian crisis in a country, region or society where there is a total or considerable breakdown of authority resulting from internal or external conflict and which requires a multi-sectoral, international response that goes beyond the mandate or capacity of any single agency or the ongoing UN country programme. Such emergencies have, in particular, a devastating effect on children and women, and call for a complex range of responses.

Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF)

The Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) provides a blueprint for international responses to large-scale movements of refugees and protracted refugee situations. It was first introduced as an annex to the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. The CRRF underlines the importance of supporting countries and communities that host large numbers of refugees, promoting the inclusion of refugees in host communities, ensuring the involvement of development actors from an early stage, and developing a ‘whole-of-society’ approach to refugee responses. Its four key objectives are to ease pressures on host countries; to enhance refugee self-reliance; to expand access to third-country solutions; and to support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity. The CRRF presents important opportunities for a more comprehensive and strategic approach to partnerships in which UNHCR acts as a catalyst to engage a broad range of national, regional and international actors.

comprehensive solutions strategy

A strategy whereby UNHCR engages with concerned parties (including authorities in countries of asylum and origin, as well as affected refugees) with the aim of enhancing solutions opportunities for a particular refugee population or group by applying a combination of durable solutions. These strategies have included support for voluntary repatriation and increased opportunities for local integration. They may also include the strategic use of resettlement; complementary pathways for admission to third countries; other local solutions and support to refugee-hosting communities by UNHCR, development partners and bilateral donors.

contiguous zone

The area of sea extending from a coastal State's territorial sea to a maximum of 24 nautical miles from its coastline. Under Article 33 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) the coastal State enjoys limited powers within its contiguous zone, with respect to its customs, fiscal, immigration, and sanitary laws.

control sheet

Standard UNHCR registration form including only very basic data, used to list people to whom a border card or fixing token has been given, or who are included in a passenger manifest.


A formal multilateral treaty with a broad number of parties. Conventions are normally open for participation by the international community as a whole, or by a large number of States. Usually instruments negotiated under the auspices of an international organization are entitled conventions. The same holds true for instruments adopted by an organ of an international organization.

Source: adapted from United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, Treaty Handbook, 2012, glossary.

Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CAT)

Adopted in 1984, this treaty requires States parties, inter alia, to incorporate the crime of torture in their domestic legislation and to punish acts of torture; to undertake a prompt investigation of any alleged act of torture; to ensure that statements made as a result of torture are not invoked as evidence; and to establish a right to fair and adequate compensation and rehabilitation for victims. Under the Convention, States parties are prohibited from returning a person to another State where they would be at risk of torture (non-refoulement). Compliance by States parties with their obligations under the Convention is monitored by the Committee against Torture.

Convention grounds

Reasons established in the 1951 Convention as one of the essential elements of the refugee definition. According to the Convention, in order for a person to be recognized as a refugee under international law, their fear of persecution must be linked to one or more of the following five grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.

Note: Additional grounds for refugee recognition may be applicable in specific national or regional contexts, according to relevant national legislation or regional instruments such as the OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa and the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, is often described as an international bill of rights for women. Consisting of a preamble and 30 articles, it defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. 189 countries are States parties to the CEDAW.

Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (1961 Convention)

The 1961 Convention aims to prevent statelessness and reduce it over time. It establishes an international framework to ensure the right of every person to a nationality. It requires that states establish safeguards in their nationality laws to prevent statelessness at birth and later in life. Perhaps the most important provision of the convention establishes that children are to acquire the nationality of the country in which they are born if they do not acquire any other nationality. It also sets out important safeguards to prevent statelessness due to loss or renunciation of nationality and state succession. The convention also sets out the very limited situations in which states can deprive a person of their nationality, even if this would leave them stateless.

See UN General Assembly, Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, 30 August 1961, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 989, p. 175.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

Adopted in 2006, this treaty sets out the obligations on State parties to promote, protect and ensure the rights of persons with disabilities. The Convention not only clarifies that States should not discriminate against persons with disabilities, but it also sets out the steps that States must take to create an enabling environment so that persons with disabilities can enjoy real equality in society. Compliance by States parties with their obligations under the Convention is monitored by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

Adopted in 1989, this treaty sets comprehensive standards for the protection of the rights of children. It is underpinned by four guiding principles, one of which is non-discrimination in the application of its standards to all children. Therefore, refugee children come fully within its scope. The other guiding principles are the “best interest” of the child, the right to life, survival and development, and the right to participation. Compliance by States parties with their obligations under the Convention is monitored by the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

See UN General Assembly, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 20 November 1989, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1577, p. 3.

Convention refugee

Any person who meets the criteria for refugee status under Article 1A of the 1951 Convention together with relevant provisions of the 1967 Protocol, and is entitled to enjoyment of a range of rights under that Convention.

Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Convention)

The Convention that establishes the most widely applicable framework for the protection of refugees, and forms the basis of international refugee law. It was adopted in July 1951 and entered into force in April 1954. Article 1 of the 1951 Convention limits its scope to 'events occurring before 1 January 1951' but this restriction was removed by the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. Ratified​ by 145 State parties, the Convention defines the term refugee and outlines the rights of the displaced, as well as the legal obligations of States to protect them. UNHCR serves as the ‘guardian’ of the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol.

Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (1954 Convention)

The 1954 Convention is designed to ensure that stateless people enjoy a minimum set of human rights. It establishes the legal definition of a stateless person as someone who is “not recognized as a national by any state under the operation of its law.” Simply put, this means that a stateless person is someone who does not have the nationality of any country. The 1954 Convention also establishes minimum standards of treatment for stateless people in respect to a number of rights. These include, but are not limited to, the right to education, employment and housing. Importantly, the 1954 Convention also guarantees stateless people a right to identity, travel documents and administrative assistance.

See UN General Assembly, Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, 28 September 1954, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 360, p. 117.

Convention travel document (CTD)

A document issued to a lawfully resident refugee or stateless person for the purpose of travel outside the territory of a Contracting State. The right to a Convention travel document (CTD) is provided for in Article 28 of both the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. Related term refugee travel document is also commonly used.

country of destination

The country that is the actual or desired final destination for an asylum-seeker, refugee or migrant.

country of habitual residence

The country in which a person usually resides. The term is specifically relevant for stateless persons, where it is used to define a stateless person's country of origin. Related term country of usual residence is sometimes used.

country of origin

The country where an asylum-seeker, refugee or migrant comes from and of which they possess nationality. In the case of stateless persons, the country where they have their habitual residence.

country of origin information (COI)

Information which is used in procedures that assess claims to refugee status or other forms of international protection. COI reports are intended to collate information on conditions in countries of origin pertinent to the assessment of claims for asylum, including the human rights, political and security situations.

country of transit

The country that an asylum-seeker, refugee or migrant moves through (legally or irregularly) during their journey to a country of destination or back to their country of origin or habitual residence. Related term transit country is often used.

Note: There is a notion of temporariness in the concept of transit. However, for many migrants and refugees, particularly those moving irregularly, the journey to an intended destination can take months or years. This challenges the very notion of transit and triggers the question on how much time needs to pass for the country of transit to be considered as a destination. Furthermore, all countries have refugee protection and human rights responsibilities, which may not be abdicated regardless of the temporariness of a person's stay on their territory.

customary international law

International law that derives its authority from the consistent practice of States out of a sense of legal obligation rather than from formal expression in a treaty or legal text. Customary international law is binding on all States regardless of whether they have ratified any relevant treaty, save for States which are "persistent objectors”.

Note: Several of the provisions in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the prohibition against slavery, torture, prolonged arbitrary detention and extra-judicial killings, are generally recognized to have become part of customary international law, as has the principle of non-refoulement.

data protection

The systematic application of a set of institutional, technical and physical safeguards that preserve the right to privacy with respect to the processing personal data.

See UNHCR's Policy on the Protection of Personal Data of Persons of Concern to UNHCR, 2015.

IASC, Operational Guidance on Data Responsibility in Humanitarian Action, 2021, citing definition developed by the UN Privacy Policy Group, 2017.

debt bondage

A system by which workers are kept in bondage by making it impossible for them to pay off their (real, imposed or imagined) debts. Article 1(a) of the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery defines debt bondage as: "the status or condition arising from a pledge by a debtor of [their] personal services or of those of a person under [their] control as security for a debt, if the value of those services as reasonably assessed is not applied towards the liquidation of the debt or the length and nature of those services are not respectively limited and defined." Related term bonded labour is also commonly used.

Delivering as One

An approach designed to improve and streamline the UN's ability to implement development, humanitarian assistance and environmental activities. The framework is based on a unified and coherent UN structure at the country level with one leader, one programme, one budget and, where appropriate, one office. Achievements are measured by results-based management and accountability standards. Sometimes also referred to as One UN.

See United Nations Sustainable Development Group's Standard Operating Procedures for Countries Adopting the "Delivering as One" Approach, 2014.


Coerced physical removal of a person to their country of origin or a third country by the authorities of the host country. Related term removal is sometimes used.

Note: A distinction may be made between forced return and deportation insofar as a person may be deported (but not returned) to a country they have never been to before.

derivative refugee status

Refugee status granted in certain cases to the family members/dependents of a recognized refugee where the family members/dependents do not qualify for refugee status in their own right. It is one of the means of maintaining and facilitating the principle of family unity.

Note: Individuals who are granted derivative refugee status enjoy the same rights and entitlements as other recognized refugees, and should retain this status notwithstanding the subsequent dissolution of the family through separation, divorce or death, or the fact that a child reaches the age of majority.


The suspension or suppression of a law under particular circumstances. In international human rights law, certain major treaties contain derogation clauses, which allow a State to suspend or restrict the exercise of certain treaty rights in emergency situations. Derogations have to be distinguished from limitations which are intrinsically related to qualified rights - such as freedom of expression - as opposed to absolute rights, such as freedom from torture, which provide for no possible restrictions and can never be derogated from. The derogation mechanisms in human rights law can only be invoked in case of public emergency threatening the life of the nation, such as an armed conflict.


Deprivation of liberty or confinement in a closed place which an asylum-seeker is not permitted to leave at will, including, though not limited to, prisons or purpose-built detention, closed reception or holding centres or facilities. Consistent with international refugee and human rights law and standards, detention of asylum-seekers should be used only as a measure of last resort. UNHCR's 2012 Detention Guidelines set out standards applicable in such situations.

See UNHCR, Guidelines on the Applicable Criteria and Standards relating to the Detention of Asylum-Seekers and Alternatives to Detention, 2012.

CRC Art 37(b) recognizes the right of the child not to be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful detention, and the legal guarantee of the use of detention only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.

detention monitoring

The periodic or regular examination of places of detention, which seeks to avert human rights violations at either the individual and/or system-wide level before they happen, and provides an opportunity to highlight to the authorities areas where improvements in conditions are needed. Monitoring can minimise the risk of arbitrary or unlawful detention, and secure the release of asylum-seekers, refugees, stateless persons and, where appropriate, migrants.

See UNHCR, Policy on Detention Monitoring, 3 December 2015, UNHCR/HCP/2015/7.

diplomatic assurances

A term used - in the context of the transfer of a person from one State to another - to refer to guarantees on the part of the receiving State that it will treat the person in accordance with conditions set by the sending State or, more generally, in keeping with its human rights obligations under international law.


The prohibition of return to a danger of persecution under international refugee law is applicable to any form of forcible removal, including extradition, deportation, informal transfer or “renditions”. Diplomatic assurances do not affect the sending State’s non-refoulement obligations under customary international law as well as international and regional human rights treaties to which it is party.

Diplomatic assurances should be given no weight when a refugee who enjoys the protection against refoulement is being returned, directly or indirectly, to the country of origin or former habitual residence. An asylum-seeker may not be returned to the country of origin or former habitual residence while their asylum claim is still under consideration.

diplomatic asylum

In the broad sense, asylum granted by a State outside its territory, particularly in its diplomatic missions (diplomatic asylum in the strict sense), in its consulates, on board its ships in the territorial waters of another State (naval asylum), and also on board its aircraft and of its military or para-military installations in foreign territory.

See Organization of American States (OAS)' Convention on Diplomatic Asylum, 29 December 1954; OAS' Treaty Series, No. 18; Treaty on Asylum and Political Refuge, 4 August 1939; Organization of American States (OAS)' Convention on Political Asylum, 26 December 1933 and Question of Diplomatic Asylum. Report of the Secretary-General, 22 September 1975.


A serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society at any scale due to hazardous events interacting with conditions of exposure, vulnerability and capacity, leading to one or more of the following: human, material, economic and environmental losses and impacts.

Note: Disasters can be linked to the risk and impact of sudden or slow onset hazardous events and processes of environmental degradation. Climate change, in combination with other factors, is driving disaster risk in multiple and complex ways. This includes its effects as a "risk multiplier" through increasing the frequency, intensity and predictability of weather-related hazards, such as floods following heavy rainfall, agricultural drought, extreme tropical storms and heat waves; through impacts on gradual environmental processes including sea level rise, desertification and salinization; and on a wide range of ecosystem services on which people depend for survival, including food, water, and productive and habitable land; and, in some situations, by exacerbating social tensions and existing conflict. The term "natural disaster" should be avoided. Disasters are not natural. Correct language in relation to the impact of a natural hazard event includes variants of "natural hazard-induced disasters", or "disasters related to natural hazards".

disaster displacement

Situations where people are forced to leave their homes or places of habitual residence as a result of a disaster or in order to avoid the impact of an immediate and foreseeable natural hazard. Such displacement results from the fact that affected persons are (i) exposed to (ii) a natural hazard in a situation where (iii) they lack the resilience to withstand its impacts. It is the effects of natural hazards, including the adverse impacts of climate change, that may overwhelm the resilience or adaptive capacity of an affected community or society, thus leading to a disaster that potentially results in displacement.

Note: Most disaster displacement, including in the context of climate change, takes place within national borders, however some individuals and/or groups may cross international borders in order to seek protection and assistance in another country.

Related terms climate migration, environmental migration and displacement related to the adverse effects of climate change are sometimes used.

disaster risk reduction (DRR)

A policy objective aimed at preventing new and reducing existing disaster risk and managing residual risk, all of which contribute to strengthening resilience and therefore to the achievement of sustainable development.

Note: A global, agreed policy of disaster risk reduction is set out in the United Nations endorsed Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, adopted in March 2015. The Sendai Framework forms part of the post-2015 development agenda alongside the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.


The movement of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence (whether within their own country or across an international border), in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters.

Source: adapted from United Nations, Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, 22 July 1998, ADM 1.1,PRL 12.1, PR00/98/109, para. 2.

distress at sea

A situation wherein there is reasonable certainty that a person, a vessel or other craft is threatened by grave and imminent danger and requires immediate assistance. Under international law, both shipmasters and States have an obligation to render assistance to those in distress at sea without regard to their nationality, status or the circumstances in which they are found.

See International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, 27 April 1979, amended 2000, Annex, Chapter 1, para. 1.3. available at UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Rescue at Sea, Stowaways and Maritime Interception: Selected Reference Materials, December 2011, 2nd Edition, page 25.

durable solutions

The means by which the situation of persons of concern to UNHCR can be satisfactorily and permanently resolved through ensuring national protection for their civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.

Note: In the refugee context a durable solution requires (re-)establishment of a permanent legal status and generally involves voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement. In the case of internally displaced persons, this is achieved when individuals no longer have specific assistance or protection needs linked to their displacement. For stateless persons durable solutions are linked to the provision or recognition of nationality.

duties of refugees

The obligations refugees must meet in the country of asylum. Under Article 2 of the 1951 Convention, refugees must conform to the laws and regulations of any country in which they find themselves. In particular, refugees must refrain from any acts that jeopardize the safety, security or public order of communities or countries of asylum.

duty of inquiry

The duty that lies with States, under the customary international law obligation of non-refoulement, to independently inquire into whether a person is a refugee and is to be protected from refoulement.

economic migrant

education complementary pathways

Any programmes, including scholarships, that facilitate the movement of persons in need of international protection to a safe third country for the purpose of higher education, while also having their protection needs met. Candidates’ eligibility for programmes is assessed based on their academic merit.

Eligibility Guidelines

Country-specific policy guidance issued by UNHCR on the eligibility for international protection of specific groups or profiles at risk in a particular country or territory. Eligibility Guidelines are legal interpretations of the refugee criteria in respect of specific profiles on the basis of social, economic, security, human rights and humanitarian conditions in the country or territory of origin concerned. In principle, Eligibility Guidelines provide more comprehensive guidance than UNHCR's International Protection Considerations.

emergency relief

Immediate survival assistance to the victims of crisis, disaster and violent conflict. Most relief operations are initiated on short notice and have a short implementation period (project objectives are generally completed within a year). The main purpose of emergency relief is to save lives. Related terms including emergency assistance and emergency response are also used.

Source: adapted from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Development Assistance Committee Guidelines on Conflict, Peace and Development Cooperation, May 1997, p. 10.

Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC)

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs also carries the title of Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) and leads the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC). In this role, the ERC coordinates response to emergencies requiring United Nations humanitarian assistance.

Note: In accordance with its mandated responsibilities and accountabilities, UNHCR leads interagency responses to refugee situations (including in complex emergencies involving refugees).

Emergency Transit Facility (ETF)

Facilities providing temporary emergency protection and the possibility to evacuate refugees who cannot be protected in their countries of asylum. ETFs offer a mechanism to UNHCR to provide a safe environment for refugees pending identification of durable solutions and subsequent processing. Some ETFs consist of physical facilities for housing evacuated refugees, while others make use of more decentralized housing options.

Related terms include: Emergency Transit Centre; Emergency Transit Mechanism; evacuation transit facility and temporary evacuation facility.

employment complementary pathways

Any programmes that facilitate the movement of persons in need of international protection to a safe third country for the purpose of employment, while also having their protection needs met. Candidates’ eligibility for programmes is assessed based on their professional qualifications and experience.


A participatory process that increases the capacity of people or groups to take greater control over the decisions, assets, policies, processes and institutions that affect their lives.

See World Bank, Empowerment in practice: From Analysis to Implementation, 2006; and United Nations Development Fund for Women, Women's Empowerment Principles, 2010.

enforcement and implementation mechanisms (international human rights)

The various means by which the international community monitors implementation of international human rights law obligations, and holds States accountable for violations. These differ from how States enforce their domestic laws in that they rely heavily on political pressure placed on States, and that it is the State, not individuals, that is responsible for human rights violations. The two principal ways to address human rights violations within the UN system are, first, by means of enforcement and complaint procedures established under individual conventions, and, second, by approaching other UN agencies and offices focused on human rights. Some complaint mechanisms are available regardless of whether a country has ratified a particular human rights convention.

entry into force (of a treaty)

The moment when a treaty becomes legally binding on its parties. The provisions of the treaty determine the moment of its entry into force. This may be a date specified in the treaty itself or a date on which a specified number of ratifications, approvals, acceptances or accessions have been deposited.

Source: adapted from United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, Treaty Handbook, 2012, glossary.

exclusion (from refugee status)

exclusion clause

Legal provisions that deny the benefits of international protection to persons who would otherwise satisfy the criteria for refugee status. In the 1951 Convention, the exclusion clauses are found in the first paragraph of Article 1D, Article 1E and Article 1F. These clauses apply to the following categories: persons who are receiving protection or assistance from UN agencies other than UNHCR; persons who are recognized by the authorities of the country as having the rights and obligations attached to the possession of nationality of their country of residence; and persons in respect of whom there are serious reasons for considering that they have committed a crime against peace, a war crime, a crime against humanity, a serious non-political crime, or acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Executive Committee (ExCom) Conclusions on International Protection

Formal texts embodying the results of the annual deliberations of UNHCR’s Executive Committee (ExCom) on questions of refugee protection. Although not formally binding, ExCom Conclusions represent collective international expertise on refugee matters including legal expertise, and contribute to the elaboration of principles and standards for the protection of refugees and other persons of concern to UNHCR.

Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme (ExCom)

United Nations General Assembly resolution [1166 (XII)] had requested that the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) establish an Executive Committee (ExCom) consisting of representatives from UN Member States or members of any of the specialized agencies. It specified that these representatives should “be elected by the Council on the widest possible geographical basis from those States with a demonstrated interest in, and devotion to, the solution of the refugee problem.”

Although established by ECOSOC, ExCom functions as a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly and its documentation is issued in a General Assembly series. ExCom's report is submitted directly to the General Assembly for consideration in the Third Committee.

UNHCR’s Statute [Article 3] directs that the High Commissioner "shall follow policy directives given him by the General Assembly or the Economic and Social Council." ExCom does not substitute for the policy-making functions of the General Assembly or ECOSOC but has its own executive and advisory functions.


A formal act by a State authority with the intention of securing the removal of a non-national from its territory. Refugees lawfully on the territory of the State can only be expelled for reasons of national security and public order, and the State remains bound by its non-refoulement obligations.

Note: The terminology used at the domestic or international level on expulsion and deportation is not uniform but there is a clear tendency to use the term expulsion to refer to the legal order to leave the territory of a State, and removal or deportation to refer to the actual implementation of such order in cases where the person concerned does not follow it voluntarily.

See W. Kälin, ‘Aliens, Expulsion and Deportation’ in R. Wolfrum (ed) Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, 2014.

extraterritorial processing

Measures adopted by States to process certain claims for international protection outside of their territory.

Note: The scope and purpose of such processing varies, and may range from screening to substantive refugee status determination procedures. These models include arrangements where responsibility for processing is transferred from the intercepting State to another State, as well as where the intercepting State retains responsibility for undertaking processing itself, but conducts this outside of its territory. Any extraterritorial processing arrangements are subject to applicable international and regional legal standards, notably under international refugee and human rights law.


is “…the fundamental unit of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of its members, particularly children…” (preamble of the UNCRC). The term “family” must be interpreted in a broad sense to include biological, adoptive or foster parents or, where applicable, members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom (UNHCRC Art. 5). The right to “family unity” is entrenched in human rights instruments and international humanitarian law.

family reunification

The process of reuniting family members who have been involuntarily separated through displacement. It has a special application in the pursuit of durable solutions.

family reunification procedures

The legal, rights-based and State-provided avenues that allow refugees to access their right to family unity regulated by national, regional and international law. Family reunification procedures include individuals with nuclear and extended family relations in line with the principle of dependency which ensures that family members – who may not be close family members but are nevertheless dependents – are able to enjoy the right to family life and family unity.

family unity principle

A principle that gives effect to the protection of the family as the fundamental group unit of society. Under this principle, derivative refugee status may be granted to the spouse and dependents of a person who meets the refugee criteria. Respect for the right to family unity requires not only that States refrain from action which would result in family separations, but also that they take measures to maintain the unity of the family and reunite family members who have been separated.

femme en danger

Women and girls who are in situations where displacement exposes them to a range of factors that may put them at risk of violations of their rights. These risk factors may be present in the wider protection environment or be a result of individual circumstances.

first country of asylum concept

A concept referring to the determination by a State that an asylum-seeker should be denied access to its refugee status determination procedures on the basis that they have already found protection in another country, can return there, and can avail themself of such protection.

Note: If a State wishes to return an asylum-seeker to a first country of asylum, it must make an individualized assessment as to whether they will be readmitted and can enjoy protection there, including – but not limited to – protection from refoulement. The asylum-seeker should also be given an effective opportunity to rebut any presumption that they would be protected in the first country of asylum.

The term country of first asylum is sometimes used descriptively to refer to the first country in which an asylum-seeker or refugee finds protection.


One of the first steps in a registration process, which provides a rapid and approximate means of defining a target population so that persons of concern can be more readily identified for further registration, using fixing tokens, wristbands, or ink marking. The goal of fixing is to ensure that only persons of concern are registered, that all persons of concern are registered, and that each person is registered only once.

See UNHCR, Handbook for Registration, 2003.

fixing token

Fixing tokens are pre-numbered tokens and offer a rapid means of fixing a population during a large influx. In fluid, high influx situations, tokens can be used without recording personal details. After a person has been registered, the token is deactivated by punching a hole in the designated box. Tokens have the advantage that they can also be used for other related purposes such as boarding tickets during organized movement or scheduling tool for registration.

flag state

The State in which a vessel is registered. The flag State has the primary responsibility for ensuring that its vessels conform to the relevant obligations under international law.

forced displacement

forced labour

All work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered themselves voluntarily.

Source: International Labour Organization (ILO), Convention Concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour, 28 June 1930, C029, Art. 2(1).

forced marriage

Any marriage where one or both parties have not personally expressed their full and free consent to the union. A child marriage is considered to be a forced marriage. It is considered to be a human rights violation.

Source: Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and Committee on the Rights of the Child, Joint general recommendation/general comment No. 31 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and No. 18 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on harmful practice (CEDAW/GC/31-CRC/GC/18), 4 November 2014, para. 6.2.22; and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

forced migration

forced return

The return of foreign nationals to their country of origin or country of transit against their will.

freedom of movement

A core human right that consists of three basic elements: freedom of movement within the territory of a country; the right to leave any country; and the right to return to one's own country.

Note: The right to freedom of movement does not entail a right to enter and remain in a State which is not the individual’s own country, except when the State has an obligation to admit the person under international law (e.g. in application of the principle of non-refoulement). Article 31 of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees specifically provides for the non-penalization of refugees (and asylum-seekers) having entered or stayed irregularly if they present themselves without delay and show good cause for their illegal entry or stay.

funded partner

A funded partner is an entity to which UNHCR has entrusted the implementation of projects specified in a signed partnership document or grant agreement along with the assumption of full responsibility and accountability for the effective use of resources and the delivery of outputs as set forth in such a document. Funded partners could be governmental, intergovernmental, or non-governmental bodies, UN organizations, or other non-profit organizations. The term is used in UNHCR policies and guidance documents instead of the term “implementing partner”.


Refers to the socially constructed roles for women and men, which are often central to the way in which people define themselves and are defined by others. Gender roles are learned, changeable over time, and variable within and between cultures. Gender often defines the duties, responsibilities, constraints, opportunities and privileges of people of different genders in any context.

gender analysis

A process or tool used to examine how differences in gender roles, activities, needs, opportunities and rights/entitlements affect all genders in certain situations or contexts. Gender analysis examines the power structures and relationships between genders, their access to and control of resources, and the constraints they face relative to each other. A gender analysis should be integrated into all sector assessments or situational analyses to ensure that gender-based injustices and inequalities are not perpetuated or exacerbated by interventions, and that where possible, greater equality and justice in gender relations are promoted.

gender budgeting

Application of gender mainstreaming in the budgetary process. It entails a gender-based assessment of budgets, incorporating a gender perspective at all levels of the budgetary process, and restructuring revenues and expenditures in order to promote gender equality.

gender equality

Gender equality refers to the equal enjoyment of rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of people of any gender.

gender gap

Refers to any disparity in conditions or positions in society. It is often used to refer to a difference in average earnings between people of different genders, e.g. “gender pay gap.” However, gender gaps can be found in many areas, such as the four pillars that the World Economic Forum uses to calculate its Gender Gap Index, namely: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment.

gender parity

Another term for equal representation of people of different genders in a given area, for example, gender parity in leadership structures or education. Working toward gender parity (equal representation) is a key part of achieving gender equality, and one of the twin strategies, alongside gender mainstreaming.

gender-based violence

In its Policy on the Prevention of, Risk Mitigation, and Response to Gender-Based Violence (2020) UNHCR adopted the IASC definition of Gender-based violence (GBV) as ‘an umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and that is based on socially ascribed (i.e. gender) differences between males and females. It includes acts that inflict physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion, and other deprivations of liberty. These acts can occur in public or in private.’

UNHCR’s GBV Policy further outlines that ‘GBV is based on patriarchal power relations and gender discrimination. The term ‘Gender-Based Violence’ ‘is most commonly used to underscore how systemic inequality between males and females, which exists in every society in the world, acts as a unifying and foundational characteristic of most forms of violence perpetrated against women and girls.’ GBV also describes ‘the violence perpetrated against women, girls, men and boys with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities as well as non-binary individuals because it is driven by a desire to punish those seen as defying gender norms.’

UNHCR has historically used the term sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), often used interchangeably with gender-based violence, but with the issuance of the 2020 Policy, it consciously decided to use the term gender-based violence (GBV).


A comprehensive strategy that aims to achieve greater gender equality by integrating a gender perspective into existing programme areas and policies. More specifically, it is defined as “the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programs, in all areas and at all levels. It is a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally, and inequality is not perpetuated. The goal is gender equality.


Refers to interventions that consider gender norms, roles, responsibilities and inequality with specific measures taken to actively address these and reduce their harmful effects.


Refers to interventions that address gender norms, roles and access to resources in so far as needed to reach intervention goals. Gender-sensitive interventions attempt to address existing gender inequalities.


Refers to interventions that do not take into account the different roles, responsibilities and diverse needs of people of different genders. A gender-silent intervention assumes that gender is not an influencing factor in projects, programmes, policies or processes. It also maintains the status quo and does not help transform the unequal structures of gender relations.

Note: Gender-silent is a preferred term to gender-blind which is considered inadequate as referring to blindness in an stigmatizing way.

gender-targeted action (gender equality)

Refers to specific interventions that respond to the disadvantage, discrimination or particular needs of women, girls, boys or men. All targeted actions should be based on gender and age analysis.


Refers to interventions that seek to target the structural causes, as well as the symptoms of gender inequality, leading to lasting changes in the power and choices people of any gender have over their own lives, rather than just a temporary increase in opportunities.

Global Action Plan to End Statelessness: 2014-2024

A 10-year plan, developed in consultation with States, civil society and international organisations, that sets out a guiding framework made up of 10 actions that need to be taken to end statelessness within 10 years.

Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM)

The first inter-governmentally negotiated agreement, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, covering all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner. It is a non-binding document that respects States’ sovereign right to determine who enters and stays in their territory and demonstrates commitment to international cooperation on migration. It presents a significant opportunity to improve the governance of migration, to address the challenges associated with today’s migration, and to strengthen the contribution of migrants and migration to sustainable development. The Global Compact is framed in a way consistent with target 10.7 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in which Member States committed to cooperate internationally to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration.

Global Compact on Refugees (GCR)

Affirmed by the UN General Assembly in 2018 following extensive consultations led by UNHCR, the Global Compact on Refugees is a framework for more predictable and equitable responsibility-sharing, recognizing that a sustainable solution to refugee situations cannot be achieved without international cooperation. It provides a blueprint for governments, international organizations, and other stakeholders to ensure that host communities get the support they need and that refugees can lead productive lives. It includes the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), as well as a programme of action to facilitate the application of comprehensive responses, and arrangements for follow-up and review.

The GCR's four key objectives are:

  1. easing pressures on host countries
  2. enhancing refugee self-reliance
  3. expanding access to third-country solutions
  4. supporting conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.

See Global Compact for Refugees, A/73/12 (Part II), 13 September 2018.

Global Refugee Forum (GRF)

Held every four years at ministerial level (starting in December 2019), the Global Refugee Forum is a platform for UN Member States and other stakeholders to announce concrete pledges and contributions that will advance the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees and achieve tangible benefits for refugees and host communities; and to highlight key achievements and exchange good practices, both with respect to specific country or regional situations, as well as at the global level.

good practice

An innovative, interesting and inspiring practice that has the potential to be transferred in whole or in part to similar contexts.

graduation approach (to economic inclusion)

An approach to economic inclusion involving sequenced, multi-sector interventions that support the poorest and most vulnerable households to achieve sustained income and move out of extreme poverty within a specified period.

Grand Bargain

An agreement between some of the largest donor countries and humanitarian organisations, launched during the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016, which sets out 51 commitments aimed at improving the effectiveness and efficiency of humanitarian action.

See Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), The Grand Bargain: A Shared Commitment to Better Serve People in Need, May 2016.

group-based determination of refugee status

A practice by which all persons forming part of a large-scale influx, or groups of similarly situated individuals who share a readily apparent common risk of harm, are considered for refugee status on a prima facie basis. Group determination ensures that protection and assistance needs are addressed quickly, without resorting to more time-consuming individual refugee status determination procedures.

group-based protection responses

Action taken to provide protection and assistance to groups of refugees or asylum-seekers quickly, without previously determining their refugee status on an individual basis. Such responses are appropriate where asylum-seekers arrive en masse and individualized procedures are neither feasible nor necessary (the cause of flight often being self-evident). The two main approaches are recognition of refugee status on a prima facie basis and the provision of temporary protection.


An independent person who safeguards a child’s best interests and general well-being and complements the limited legal capacity of the child.

The guardian is generally appointed by national jurisdiction, e.g. a court, and acts as a statutory representative of the child in all proceedings in the same way that a parent represents their child. (European Agency for Fundamental Rights, Guardianship for children deprived of parental care: A handbook to reinforce guardianship systems to cater for the specific needs of child victims of trafficking, June 2014, ISBN 978-92-9239-464-6; UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), General Comment No. 6: Treatment of Unaccompanied and Separated Children Outside their Country of Origin, 2005). Caregivers, where these are not parents, may or may not be formally appointed as guardians, depending on the national system.

Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement

A series of principles that articulate standards for protection, assistance and solutions for internally displaced persons. The Guiding Principles were presented to the Commission on Human Rights by the Representative of the Secretary General for Internally Displaced Persons in April 1998. They reflect and are consistent with human rights law, humanitarian law and refugee law, and provide guidance to States, other authorities, intergovernmental, and non-governmental organizations faced with issues of internal displacement.

See UNHCR, Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, 22 July 1998, ADM 1.1,PRL 12.1, PR00/98/109.

habitual residence

The place where a person resides on an ongoing and stable basis. Habitual residence is to be understood as stable, factual residence. Related term usual residence is sometimes used. Both terms are commonly used in reference to stateless persons.

See UNHCR, Handbook on Protection of Stateless Persons, 30 June 2014, p. 49.

host community

A community that hosts large populations of refugees or internally displaced persons, whether in camps, integrated into households, or independently.

See also: host country.

host country

The country in which a non-national stays or resides, whether legally or irregularly.

human capital

The knowledge, skills, competencies and attributes embodied in individuals that facilitate the creation of personal, social and economic well-being.

Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), How What You Know Shapes Your Life, 2007, p. 29.

Human Development Index (HDI)

A summary measure of a country or region's average achievement in key dimensions of human development: life expectancy, access to education, and gross income per capita.

human mobility

An umbrella term referring to various forms of population movement, including displacement, migration and planned relocation.

Note: Human mobility is a term used frequently in reference to the broad range of movements that may take place in the context of climate change.

human rights

The inalienable rights to which a person is entitled merely for being human. Human rights are built on underlying principles of universality, equality and non-discrimination, and are enshrined in international human rights law, rules of customary international law, national laws and other standards that define them and help to guarantee their full enjoyment. Human rights apply to all individuals over whom States have jurisdiction, including all persons falling within UNHCR’s mandate.

human rights mechanisms (United Nations)

The various human rights monitoring mechanisms of the United Nations system. These include UN Charter-based bodies (including the Human Rights Council, Universal Periodic Review and special procedures) and treaty-based bodies created under the international human rights treaties (known as treaty bodies).

human rights-based approach (HRBA)

A conceptual framework underpinning human development and humanitarian action that is normatively based on international human rights standards and operationally directed to promoting and protecting human rights. A human rights-based approach identifies rights-holders and their entitlements and corresponding duty-bearers and their obligations, and works towards strengthening the capacities of rights-holders to make their claims and of duty-bearers to meet their obligations. It is not only about achieving human rights goals and outcomes, but also about achieving them through a participatory, inclusive, nondiscriminatory, transparent and responsive process.

human trafficking

humanitarian assistance

Material or logistical assistance provided for humanitarian purposes, typically in response to crises and disasters. The primary objective of humanitarian assistance is to save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain human dignity. Forms of humanitarian assistance include direct assistance, indirect assistance, and infrastructure support. Humanitarian assistance is governed by the key humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. Related terms such as humanitarian aid and humanitarian action are sometimes used.

humanitarian coordination

An approach based on the belief that a coherent response to an emergency will maximize benefits and minimize potential pitfalls. In each country, the coordination of humanitarian assistance for non-refugees is entrusted to the UN Humanitarian Coordinator or Resident Coordinator. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), under the direction of the Emergency Relief Coordinator, is responsible for the coordination of a humanitarian response in the event of a crisis and carries out this role according to approved policies and structures set by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC). This coordination involves developing common strategies with partners both within and outside the UN system, identifying overall humanitarian needs, developing a realistic plan of action, monitoring progress and adjusting programmes as necessary, convening coordination forums, mobilizing resources, addressing common problems to humanitarian actors, and administering coordination mechanisms and tools.

humanitarian country team

A team led by the Humanitarian Coordinator/Resident Coordinator and composed of organizations undertaking humanitarian action for non-refugees in a given country that commit to participate in coordination arrangements. Its objective is to ensure that the activities of such organisations are coordinated, and that humanitarian action in-country is principled, timely, effective and efficient, and contributes to longer-term recovery.

humanitarian pathways

Programmes which offer a pathway for admission to individuals in need of international protection, through their identification and transfer from the country of asylum to a third country where they can enjoy effective protection. Eligibility criteria for such programmes are decided by the States, sometimes jointly with other actors in the receiving country, and are discretionary. Beneficiaries of these programmes may therefore be selected against broader eligibility criteria than those applicable to resettlement and may include general humanitarian needs or existing links to the receiving country. The admission upon arrival is typically granted on a temporary basis. They are often used as a response to large-scale displacement. Some programmes may rely on humanitarian visas issued prior to departure, which allows the beneficiaries to apply for asylum upon arrival.

humanitarian visa

A tool for legal entry into another country, where legislative framework allows States' discretionary use of this visa. A humanitarian visa may be used as a tool to facilitate admissions through various complementary pathways programmes, such as humanitarian corridors, employment or education opportunities or family reunification, but is not a pathway in itself. Humanitarian visa holders typically apply for asylum upon arrival to their destination country.

humanitarian-development-peace nexus

Humanitarian-development-peace nexus is intended to ensure strong cooperation, collaboration and coordination between humanitarian, development and peacebuilding efforts at the national level to ensure collective outcomes on the basis of joined-up, coherent, complementary and risk-informed analysis, planning and action.

Source: UNDP

'iBelong' Campaign to End Statelessness in 10 Years

A campaign launched by UNHCR in 2014 with the aim of ending statelessness by 2024 by resolving existing statelessness situations, preventing new cases from emerging, and better identifying and protecting stateless people.

Identity paper

Official document issued by the competent authority of a State designed as proof of legal identity of the person carrying it.

See UN General Assembly, Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 28 July 1951, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 189, p. 137, Article 27.

illegal migrant

immovable property

Property can be defined as anything that is owned or possessed by a person or entity. Immovable property (also referred to as “real property”) is generally understood to include land, real estate, and anything attached to or embedded in earth that cannot be moved (e.g. building).

Source: adapted from UNHCR Emergency Handbook, Housing, Land and Property (HLP).

See General Assembly, Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 28 July 1951, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 189, p. 137, article 13.


A gradual approach to ensure refugees and other persons we serve have access to national systems and services in law and practice and without discrimination in accordance with international norms and standards.

inclusion clause

Legal provisions that set out the criteria that a person must fulfil in order to be recognised as a refugee. The inclusion clauses are found in Article 1(A) of the 1951 Refugee Convention, in Article I (1) and (2) of the 1969 OAU Convention and Conclusion III of the 1984 Cartagena Declaration.

inclusion, presumption of

A presumption of inclusion (sometimes referred to as ‘’presumption of eligibility’’) may be said to exist where the objective evidence on the situation in a country of origin indicates that asylum-seekers with a particular profile will likely meet the criteria required to be recognized as refugees. A presumption of inclusion may be applied within individualized refugee status determination (RSD) procedures as well as within the context of a prima facie approach. Not every applicant within the profile or belonging to a specified group will automatically be recognized as a refugee, however, if they are found not to have international protection needs, or if they are otherwise subject to exclusion from refugee status.

income-generating activity

An activity designed to create income for persons of concern to UNHCR, and thus support their economic inclusion and self-reliance.

integrated approach (to planning)

A planning approach that brings together issues from across sectors and institutions on national and local levels, and different population groups.

Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)

The primary mechanism for inter-agency coordination of humanitarian assistance. The IASC was established in June 1992, in response to a UN General Assembly resolution, and involves key UN agencies as well as non-UN humanitarian partners. It is chaired by the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC).

interception measures

Any measure employed by a State to (i) prevent embarkation of persons on an international journey, (ii) prevent further onward international travel by persons who have commenced their journey, or (iii) assert control of vessels where there are reasonable grounds to believe the vessel is transporting persons contrary to international or national maritime law; where such person or persons do not have the required documentation or valid permission to enter the territory of the State.

Note: Interception measures should not result in asylum-seekers and refugees being denied access to international protection, or result in those in need of international protection being returned, directly or indirectly, to the frontiers of territories where their life or freedom would be threatened on account of a Convention ground, or where the person has other grounds for protection based on international law.

Interception measures undertaken for humanitarian reasons, which seek to retrieve people in potentially dangerous circumstances at sea and deliver them to safety before a distress situation arises, represent invaluable contributions to protection at sea so long as they are safely conducted and allow intercepted asylum-seekers and refugees to access international protection.

intergovernmental organization (IGO)

An organization made up of member States. Examples include the United Nations Organization (UN), the African Union (AU), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

internal displacement

The involuntary or forced movement, evacuation or relocation of persons or groups of persons within internationally recognized State borders.

internal disturbances and tensions

A situation characterized by acts of violence and disorder, but that falls short of armed conflict.

internal flight alternative (IFA)

A concept asserting that, where a well-founded fear of persecution based on a Convention ground has been established in one part of the country of origin, there may be a specific area of the country where there is no such risk and where, given the particular circumstances of an applicant’s case, they could reasonably be expected to establish themself and live a normal life. If a State wishes to apply this concept, as part of a holistic assessment of a claim to refugee status, it must assess whether it would be both relevant and reasonable for the refugee to relocate to a specific alternative location within the country. Related terms internal relocation principle and internal protection alternative are sometimes used.

internally displaced person (IDP)

A person who has been forced or obliged to flee from their home or place of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflicts, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who has not crossed an internationally recognized State border.

See UNHCR, Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, 22 July 1998, ADM 1.1,PRL 12.1, PR00/98/109, para. 2.

International Bill of Human Rights

Three texts that form the primary legal basis of United Nations activities to promote, protect and monitor human rights and fundamental freedoms. These include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CPED)

Adopted in 2006, this treaty requires States parties to enact specific laws establishing the crime of enforced disappearance. They must also investigate complaints and reports of enforced disappearance and bring those responsible to justice. Other obligations are of a preventive nature, such as the obligation to detain persons only in officially approved and monitored institutions. Compliance by States parties with their obligations under the Convention is monitored by the Committee on Enforced Disappearances.

International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and the Members of Their Families (ICMW)

Adopted in 1990, this treaty focuses on the protection of migrant workers’ rights. It emphasizes the link between migration and human rights and seeks to establish minimum standards that States parties should apply to migrant workers and members of their families, irrespective of their migratory status. Compliance by States parties with their obligations under the Convention is monitored by the Committee on Migrant Workers.

International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

Adopted in 1966, this treaty contains some of the most significant international legal provisions establishing civil and political rights, including the rights: to life; to not be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or to arbitrary arrest or detention; to be treated with humanity if deprived of liberty; to freedom of movement; to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, opinion and expression; to peaceful assembly and association; to special protection for children; and to equality before the law. While the application of the right to life and not to be subjected to torture provide protection against refoulement, the Covenant also forbids the arbitrary expulsion of resident aliens and requires such decisions to be able to be appealed and reviewed. Compliance by States parties with their obligations under the Covenant is monitored by the Human Rights Committee.

See UN General Assembly, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 16 December 1966, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 999, p. 171.

International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)

Adopted in 1966, this treaty contains some of the most significant international legal provisions establishing economic, social and cultural rights, including rights relating to work in just and favourable conditions, to social protection, to an adequate standard of living, to the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health, to education and to enjoyment of the benefits of cultural freedom and scientific progress. Compliance by States parties with their obligations under the Covenant is monitored by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

See UN General Assembly, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 16 December 1966, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 993, p. 3.

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)

Adopted in 1965, this treaty specifies measures that States parties agree to undertake to eliminate racial discrimination. Compliance by States parties with their obligations under the Convention is monitored by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.


See UN General Assembly, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 21 December 1965, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 660, p. 195.

international human rights law

The body of national laws, treaties, customary international law, general principles and other sources of international law that recognizes and protects human rights. International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups. International human rights law, international humanitarian law and international refugee law complement each other.

international humanitarian law

The body of law, regulations and principles that governs situations of international or non-international armed conflict. The core instruments of international humanitarian law are the four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and their two Additional Protocols of 8 June 1977. Virtually every State is a party to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. International humanitarian law is sometimes also referred to as the law of war or law of armed conflict. International humanitarian law, international human rights law and international refugee law complement each other.

international protection

The protection that is accorded by the international community to individuals or groups who are outside their own country, who are unable to return because they would be at risk there, and whose own country is unable or unwilling to protect them. Risks that give rise to a need for international protection classically include those of persecution or other threats to life, freedom or physical integrity arising from armed conflict, serious public disorder, or different situations of violence. Other risks may stem from famine linked to situations of armed conflict; disasters; as well as being stateless. Frequently, these elements are interlinked and are manifested in forced displacement.

Note: The concept of international protection, which is closely associated with refugee protection and asylum, is related to but distinct from the broader concept of protection which applies to all humanitarian action including outside refugee contexts.

Note: The international community provides international protection, on the one hand, through States, notably via the institution of asylum, and through international organizations in accordance with their mandates to individuals and groups.

Note: International protection includes measures to ensure that the human rights, security and welfare of affected people are recognized and safeguarded in accordance with relevant standards, notably under international refugee law, incorporating, inter alia, protection from refoulement, adequate standards of reception and treatment, and access to solutions.

International Protection Considerations

international protection, person in need of

A person outside their country of origin or habitual residence and who is unable to return because they would be at risk there, and their country is unable or unwilling to protect them. This includes refugees, who benefit from the protections of international, regional and national refugee law. It may also include those who do not qualify as refugees under such law but who are unable to return, e.g. persons displaced across an international border in the context of disasters or climate change, but who are not refugees. Host countries may accordingly offer protection on a humanitarian basis through a variety of means, including temporary protection or stay arrangements. Stateless persons who do not enjoy full national protection of their country of habitual residence may also be in need of international protection.

international refugee law

The body of customary international law and international instruments establishing standards for refugee protection. The cornerstone of refugee law is the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. International refugee law, international human rights law, and international humanitarian law complement each other.


Applying an intersectional lens means examining how diverse characteristics such as age, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, nationality, race, level of education, legal, social and family status come together to shape unique, individual identities and influence the distinct experiences of women, men, girls, boys and persons of all gender identities.

It requires that we analyze how intersecting or overlapping AGD characteristics may diminish or exacerbate barriers to accessing rights and that we consider those factors when designing protection and solutions programmes for forcibly displaced and stateless persons across the world.

irregular movement

Cross-border movement that takes place outside the regulatory norms of the countries of origin, transit and destination. The term is predominantly used from the perspective of host countries when referring to unauthorized entry and/or stay in the country.

joint programming

Programming of activities involving two or more UN organizations and national governmental partners, intended to achieve results aligned with national priorities as reflected in the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) or an equivalent development framework. Government entities, civil society organizations and the private sector may also be engaged as implementing partners in a joint programme.

Source: adapted from United Nations Development Group (UNDG), Guidance Note on Joint Programmes, August 2014.

jus sanguinis

This legal notion refers to the principle that citizenship is determined or acquired by the nationality of one or both parents, irrespective of the child’s place of birth.

jus soli

This legal notion also commonly known as birthright citizenship, refers to the principle that any person born in the territory of a State to nationality or citizenship.

justice for children

Justice for children refers to a UN framework and guiding principles aimed at ensuring that children are better served and protected by justice systems. It specifically aims at ensuring full application of international norms and standards for all children who come into contact with justice and related systems as victims, witnesses and alleged offenders; or for other reasons where judicial, state administrative or non-state adjudicatory intervention is needed, for example regarding their care, custody or protection.

Source: Guidance Note of the Secretary-General, UN Approach to Justice for Children.

juvenile justice

It refers to a justice system applied to a “juvenile”: a child or a young person who, under the legal system concerned, is to be dealt with for an offense in a manner which is different from an adult. The age limit used to define a juvenile varies between countries. States Parties are required to promote the establishment of laws, procedures, authorities and institutions specifically applicable to accused and convicted children, in particular the establishment of a minimum age for criminal responsibility and diversions.

Source: UNICEF

key informant

In the context of needs assessment or similar processes, a person within an affected population or host community with direct knowledge or experience of a crisis, or whose social position or expertise otherwise makes them a particularly valuable source of information.

lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) persons

LGBTIQ+: An acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and other diverse identities. The plus sign represents individuals with diverse sexual orientation, gender identities, gender expressions and sex characteristics who identify using other terms.

While the acronym LGBTIQ+ and its constituent terms (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and other diverse identities) are now used globally to describe persons with non-conforming SOGIESC, these terms are culturally specific and are not always used by forcibly displaced and stateless people to describe themselves. What is considered respectful terminology varies across countries, regions, linguistic communities and individuals.

Note: In some contexts, LGB, LGBT or LGBTI are used to refer to particular populations. Additional characters may be added, such as “A” for asexual, agender or ally, “2S” for two-spirit or “P” for pansexual. In many locations, the letter order varies, for example LGBTQI+ or GBLTQI+. SOGIESC-related acronyms are not static and continue to evolve over time. To ensure inclusivity and accuracy, they should be applied with careful consideration to the individuals or populations being referenced.

limitations on human rights

Limitations placed by States on the exercise of certain human rights where they have valid reasons to do so, such as to protect the rights and freedoms of others, for national security, or to protect public health or morals. The burden falls upon States to prove that a limitation imposed upon the enjoyment of the right is legitimate. Certain international human rights instruments contain explicit provisions setting out the conditions for such limitations.

Note: There are a number of fundamental, non-derogable rights which are absolute, and which cannot be limited, such as the right to be free from torture or slavery.


Activities that allow people to secure the basic necessities of life, such as food, water, shelter and clothing. Engaging in livelihoods activities means acquiring the knowledge, skills, social network, raw materials, and other resources to meet individual or collective needs on a sustainable basis with dignity.

local integration

A durable solution for refugees that involves their permanent settlement in a host country. Local integration is a complex and gradual process, comprising three distinct but interrelated dimensions: legal, economic, and socio-cultural. The process is often concluded with the naturalization of the refugee.

loss and damage

The actual and/or potential manifestation of impacts associated with climate change that negatively affect human and natural systems. Loss refers to those negative impacts which cannot be repaired or restored (such as loss of freshwater resources) and damage refers to those negative impacts which can be repaired and restored (such as windstorm damage to the roof of a building, or damage to a mangrove forest as a result of coastal surges).

mandate (UNHCR)

The role and functions entrusted to UNHCR as set forth in its Statute and subsequent resolutions of the UN General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). UNHCR is primarily mandated to provide international protection and humanitarian assistance, and to seek durable solutions for its persons of concern. UNHCR’s original core mandate covered only refugees, however, over time this has been expanded to cover returnees and stateless persons. Although UNHCR does not have a general mandate for internally displaced persons, it may be involved in certain circumstances to enhance protection and provide humanitarian assistance.

mandate refugee

A person who is determined to be a refugee by UNHCR acting under the authority of its Statute and relevant resolutions of the UN General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Mandate refugee status is especially significant in States that are not parties to the 1951 Convention or its 1967 Protocol.

manifestly unfounded (asylum claim)

An asylum claim which is either:

  1. clearly not related to the criteria for the granting of refugee status laid down in the 1951 Convention nor to any other criteria justifying the granting of asylum, or
  2. clearly abusive or fraudulent.

Whether a claim is deemed manifestly unfounded or not will depend upon the degree of linkage between the stated reasons for departure from the country of origin and the applicable refugee definition. Such claims may under some circumstances be subject to accelerated procedures.

manifestly well-founded (asylum claim)

An asylum claim that on its face meets the criteria for the granting of refugee status laid down in the 1951 Convention or any other criteria justifying the granting of asylum. This may be because the individual falls into the category of people for which a presumption of inclusion applies, for which a prima facie approach applies, or because of particular facts arising in the individual’s application for international protection. Such claims may be given priority processing or be subjected to accelerated procedures.

mass influx

A displacement situation which may, inter alia, have some or all of the following characteristics: (i) considerable numbers of people arriving over an international border; (ii) a rapid rate of arrival; (iii) inadequate absorption or response capacity in host States, particularly during an emergency; (iv) individual asylum procedures, where they exist, which are unable to deal with the assessment of such large numbers.


There is no universally accepted definition of the term migrant, and the term is not defined by international law.

Traditionally, the word migrant (or, more accurately, international migrant) has been used to refer to people who choose to move across international borders, not because of a direct threat of persecution, serious harm, or death, but exclusively for other reasons, such as to improve their conditions by pursuing work or education opportunities, or to reunite with family. Migrants in this sense of the word—unlike refugees—continue in principle to enjoy the protection of their own government, even when they are abroad. If they return, they will continue to receive that protection.

Nevertheless, the word migrant is used by some actors as an umbrella term to refer to any person who moves within a country or across a border, temporarily or permanently, and for a variety of reasons. In this sense, the term covers legally defined categories such as migrant workers and smuggled migrants, as well as others whose status or means of movement is not specifically defined under international law, such as international students.

UNHCR recommends that —except in very specific contexts (notably statistical: see below)— the word migrant should not be used as a catchall term to refer to refugees or to people who are likely to be in need of international protection, such as asylum-seekers. To do so risks undermining access to the specific legal protections that States are obliged to provide to refugees.

For the specific purposes of global statistics on international migration, the United Nations (UN DESA) defines an international migrant as any person who changes their country of usual residence (excluding short-term movement for purposes of recreation, holiday, visits to friends and relatives, business, medical treatment or religious pilgrimage).

migrant in a country in crisis

A migrant who is present in a country during a conflict or disaster. As noncitizens, such individuals may easily fall through the cracks of conflict or crisis response systems.

See Migrants in Countries in Crisis Initiative, Guidelines to Protect Migrants in Countries Experiencing Conflict or Natural Disaster, June 2016, p. 16.

migrant in a vulnerable situation

A migrant who is unable effectively to enjoy their human rights, is at increased risk of violations and abuse and who, accordingly, is entitled to call on a duty bearer’s heightened duty of care.

Note: Migrants may find themselves in vulnerable situations for a wide range of reasons, which often overlap. Broadly speaking, there are two categories. One is ‘situational’: arising from the conditions in which movement takes place, or from conditions in a host country. The other is more ‘individual’: relating to particular individual characteristics or circumstances. Some commentators suggest a third category: vulnerable situations linked to conditions in a migrant’s country of origin that precede their departure (e.g. socio-economic deprivation or lack of access to fundamental human rights). It is important to note, however, that such conditions in a country of origin could give rise to an international protection claim under refugee law, which must be the first line of enquiry.

migrant in an irregular situation

A migrant who, owing to unauthorized entry, breach of a condition of entry, expiry of a visa or stay permit, or failure to comply with an expulsion order, has no legal permission to stay in a host country.


UNHCR recommends that the word irregular be used only to characterize a process or a movement (irregular movement). It should not be used to characterize a person (irregular migrant), which can be read as stigmatizing or criminalizing. A number of other terms are also frequently used to refer to such persons, including undocumented migrant and illegal migrant.

migrant worker

A person who is to be engaged, is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which they are not a national.

Note: Article 3 of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families excludes from its protections “refugees and stateless persons, unless such application is provided for in the relevant national legislation of, or international instruments in force for, the State Party concerned.”


Source: UN General Assembly, International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, 18 December 1990, A/RES/45/158, Art. 2(1).

See also: migrant.


The word migration is often used as a general term referring to the movement of people away from their place of usual residence, either across an international border (international migration) or within a State.

Sometimes, migration is employed to include both ‘forced’ and ‘voluntary’ movements. In other contexts, the word migration is reserved for population movements that are considered to be solely or essentially voluntary, or not to raise refugee-protection concerns].

For cross-border or internal movements that take place in circumstances where the element of compulsion (due, for instance, to persecution, conflict, violence, or disaster) preponderates over the exercise of choice, UNHCR recommends using the term displacement, rather than migration. In particular, when referring to cross-border movements with a refugee character or otherwise involving people who require international protection, terms such as cross-border displacement or refugee flight should be preferred to migration.

UNHCR and other organizations often use human mobility or related terms as an overarching way of referring to various forms of population movement including displacement, migration, and planned relocation. IOM also uses this term in some contexts including in its 2019 Glossary on Migration.

For the specific purposes of global statistics on international migration, the UN defines an international migrant as any person who changes their country of usual residence (excluding short-term movement for purposes of recreation, holiday, visits to friends and relatives, business, medical treatment or religious pilgrimage). (UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs)

migration governance

A process in which the combined framework of legal norms and organizational structures regulate and shape how States act in response to international migration, addressing rights and responsibilities and promoting international cooperation.

Source: United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Migration and Human Rights – Improving Human Rights Based Governance of International Migration (2013) p. 9.

migration management

The management and implementation of the whole set of activities, primarily by States within national systems or through bilateral and multilateral cooperation, concerning all aspects of migration and the mainstreaming of migration considerations into public policies. The term refers to planned approaches to the implementation and operationalization of policy, legislative and administrative frameworks, developed by the institutions in charge of migration.

Source: International Organization for Migration, Glossary on Migration, 2019.


See child.

mixed migrant

See mixed-movement.

Note: The term mixed migrant is used by some as a shorthand way of referring to a person travelling in a mixed movement whose individual status is unknown or who may have multiple, overlapping reasons for moving. This term can cause confusion and mask the specific needs of refugees and migrants, and as such it is not recommended.

mixed migration

mixed movement

The cross-border movement of people, generally in an irregular manner, involving individuals and groups who travel alongside each other, using similar routes and means of transport or facilitators, but for different reasons. People travelling as part of mixed movements have different needs and profiles and may include asylum-seekers, refugees, victims of trafficking, unaccompanied or separated children, stateless persons, and migrants (including migrants in irregular situations or migrants in vulnerable situations).

Note: Related terms such as mixed flows, and complex or composite movements, are sometimes used to refer to mixed movements. The term *mixed migration is not recommended, as it can cause confusion (see migration).

UNHCR recommends using the phrase refugees and migrants to refer to people in mixed movements, particularly in contexts where some of those concerned be in need of international protection. The term *mixed migrant is meaningless and should be avoided. The term mixed movement should not be used to refer to cross-border population movements for which there are indications of a predominantly refugee character. All people travelling or present in a country as part of a mixed movement are entitled to the protection of their human rights; however not all require international protection, which is a specific concept closely associated with international refugee law.


The continuous review of programme implementation to confirm whether planned activities are on track to deliver the expected outputs and contribute to the expected impact. Monitoring also helps identify negative and unforeseen effects of programme implementation on persons of concern.

See also: assessment.

multi-year strategic planning

Multi-year strategic planning is the first phase of the multi-year programme cycle and provides direction on how UNHCR organizes itself to achieve protection and solutions for forcibly displaced and stateless persons at a given time and place. The multi-year strategy is developed during multi-year strategic planning, which concludes at the end of April of the year preceding the start of implementation.

national (n)

An individual who holds the nationality of a State. This term is often used synonymously with citizen.

national human rights institution (NHRI)

A State institution established by law or Constitution with a broad mandate to promote and protect human rights. NHRIs are independent institutions that function without interference from the State or any other stakeholders. Their mandate and competencies are established by the Paris Principles, adopted by the General Assembly in 1993. NHRIs promote respect for the human rights of everyone within a given country, regardless of status, and including persons of concern to UNHCR.

national referral mechanism (NRM)

A cooperative framework through which State actors fulfil their obligations to protect and promote the human rights of trafficked persons, coordinating their efforts in a strategic partnership with civil society. The basic aims of an NRM are to ensure that the human rights of trafficked persons are respected and to provide an effective way to refer victims of trafficking to services.

Source: Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), National Referral Mechanisms: Joining Efforts to Protect the Rights of Trafficked Persons, A Practical Handbook, 2004, p. 15.


The legal bond between a person and a State, which entitles the individual to the State’s protection as its national and entails legal rights and responsibilities. Nationality can be established at birth by a person's place of birth (jus soli) and/or bloodline (jus sanguinis) or can be acquired through naturalization. The concept is referred to as citizenship in some national jurisdictions.

See also: statelessness.

nationality, person of undetermined

A person who has links to several States that may form the basis of a claim to nationality, but for whom it is unclear to which State(s) – if any – they belong. For UNHCR, a person may be assessed as being of undetermined nationality following a review verifying the following:

  1. they lack proof of possession of a nationality; and either
  2. have links to more than one State (on the basis of birth, descent, marriage or habitual residence); or
  3. are perceived and treated by authorities in the State of residence as possessing such links to other States.


The procedure whereby a non-national applies to the State for nationality, usually subject to satisfying a number of legal and procedural requirements.


Article 34 of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and Article 32 of the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons require States parties to facilitate the naturalization of refugees and stateless persons respectively, in particular by expediting naturalization procedures and reducing the charges and costs of such procedures.

Naturalization is the preferred culmination of the durable solutions of local integration and resettlement.

New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants

A set of commitments to enhance the protection of refugees and migrants, adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2016 (A/RES/71/1). The Declaration affirms that although the treatment of refugees and migrants is governed by separate legal frameworks, refugees and migrants have the same universal human rights and fundamental freedoms. It notably outlines elements for a comprehensive response to refugee displacement based on principles of international cooperation and responsibility sharing, as well as greater inclusion of refugees in local communities. It also acknowledges that States have a shared responsibility to manage large movements of refugees and migrants in a humane, sensitive, compassionate and people-centred manner. The Declaration led to the affirmation by the UN General Assembly of the Global Compact on Refugees in 2018, and its endorsement of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

non-derogable rights

Those human rights which cannot be subjected to limitations or suspensions under any conditions, including in times of public emergency. They include the right to life; the right not to be subjected to torture, or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; freedom from slavery and servitude; freedom of thought, conscience and religion. These rights are also known as peremptory norms of international law or jus cogens norms.


An approach that aims to ensure that all persons are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law without distinction based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. The term anti-discrimination implies a more proactive approach to tackling the causes and impacts of discrimination.

See also: human rights.

non-funded partner

A non-funded partner is any organization or agency (governmental, inter-governmental, non-governmental or UN) with which UNHCR collaborates to provide protection, assistance and to achieve durable solutions for forcibly displaced and stateless persons, but which does not receive funds from UNHCR to implement activities on its behalf.

non-governmental organization (NGO)

An organized entity that is functionally independent of, and does not represent, a government or State. This term is often applied to not-for-profit organizations devoted to humanitarian and human rights causes or to other social, political, scientific, professional or public-interest issues. NGOs are also often referred to as civil society organizations (CSOs). International NGOs are composed of private individuals or organizations rather than member States. NGOs with suitable standing in their field of competence may be granted consultative status with the United Nations (notably at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)), or with other international organizations. Many refugee-related programmes are implemented by NGOs in partnership with UNHCR and other organizations.

non-penalization (of refugees for unauthorized entry or stay)

The obligation on States party to the 1951 Convention (as outlined in Article 31) not to penalize refugees on account of their unauthorized entry or presence in the State if they are coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom is threatened, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their unauthorized entry or presence. This provision is based on the recognition that refugees are often compelled to enter a territory without the requisite documents or prior authorization.


A core principle of international human rights and refugee law that prohibits States from returning individuals in any manner whatsoever (whether directly or indirectly) to territories where they may be at risk of persecution, torture, or other forms of serious or irreparable harm. The most prominent expression of the principle of non-refoulement in international refugee law is Article 33(1) of the 1951 Convention. The principle also is part of customary international law and is therefore binding on all States, whether or not they are parties to the 1951 Convention.

Non-Return Advisory

Country-specific policy guidance issued by UNHCR for States and others with regard to the reasonableness and feasibility of return of persons of concern, based on the conditions in a particular country of origin.

non-state agent of persecution

People or entities responsible for acts or threats of persecution, which are not under the control of the government, and which may give rise to refugee status if they are facilitated, encouraged, or tolerated by the government, or if the government is unable or unwilling to provide effective protection against them. Non-state agents of persecution may include armed groups, criminal or organized gangs, family members or the general population.

OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (OAU Convention)

The regional instrument adopted in 1969 which complements the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. The OAU Convention provides for a broader refugee definition than the 1951 Convention which also encompasses “those fleeing from external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or events seriously disturbing public order in either part or whole of the country of origin”.

Note: The Organization of African Unity is now called the African Union.

See Organization of African Unity (OAU), Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa ("OAU Convention"), 10 September 1969, 1001 U.N.T.S. 45.

older persons

An older person is defined by the United Nations as someone over 60 years of age. However, families and communities often use other socio-cultural referents to define age, including family status (grandparents), physical appearance (grey hair and wrinkles), or age-related health conditions. Some people may display characteristics of ageing earlier in life due to traumatic experiences, poverty or hardship. And where life expectancy is low, people in their 50s may be considered older and this may be reflected in national policy. Within this group, people aged over 60 years and people aged over 80 years are likely to require very different types of support in displacement.

For more information, see UNHCR – Older persons.

onward movement

Movement by refugees and asylum-seekers from one country where they enjoyed international protection, or could have sought and received such international protection, to another where they may request it.

Note: Although the terminology has no international definition, it is preferred over the term ‘secondary movement’, because such movements may involve tertiary or multiple stages.

Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatmentor Punishment (OPCAT)

Adopted in 2002, this Optional Protocol obliges States parties to designate independent national bodies for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment. It also establishes a Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which carries out country visits to States parties to visit places of detention and which provides assistance and advice to States Parties on the establishment of their national mechanisms.


A child both of whose parents are known to be dead..

Palestinian refugee

The term Palestinian refugee refers to persons who are “Palestine refugees” or “displaced persons” as per the following elaboration, as well as their descendants.

“Palestine refugees” are those within the sense of UN General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948 and subsequent resolutions and who, as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, were displaced from that part of Mandate Palestine which became Israel and who have been unable to return there.

“Displaced persons” are those within the sense of UN General Assembly Resolution 2252 (ES-V) of 4 July 1967 and subsequent resolutions, and who, as a result of the 1967 conflict and subsequent hostilities, have been displaced from the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967 and have been unable to return there.

Note: Palestinian refugees residing in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) fall under the mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Palestinians outside the areas where UNRWA operates who are unable to (re)avail themselves of UNRWA’s protection or assistance for objective reasons fall under UNHCR’s mandate.


Worker who typically works next to or supports the work of a professional in the same field. A para-professional worker – such as paralegal or para-social worker – performs certain functions to support professionals in the same field, though the para-professional is not always legally certified or licensed to practice as a full professional, which generally requires college/university degrees or specialized training.

participatory approach

An approach to development or humanitarian programming in which key stakeholders (and especially those affected by decisions made) of a policy or intervention are closely and systematically engaged in the process of identifying problems, their root causes, priorities and capacities, and have considerable control over analysis and the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of solutions to the issues identified.

particular social group, membership of a

One of five possible grounds on the basis of which persecution may be established under the 1951 Convention, and based on which a person may be recognized as a refugee. A particular social group is a group of persons who either share a common characteristic (other than the risk of persecution) or who are perceived as a group by society. The characteristic will often be one which is innate, unchangeable, or which is otherwise fundamental to identity, conscience, or the exercise of fundamental human rights.

party (to an international treaty)

A State or other entity with treaty-making capacity that has expressed its consent to be bound by a treaty by an act of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, etc., where that treaty has entered into force for that particular State. This means that the State is bound by the treaty under international law. Related term State party is often used.


Activities and processes aimed at preventing the outbreak, recurrence or continuation of armed conflict, and at laying the foundation for sustainable peace and development. Peacebuilding therefore encompasses a wide range of political, development, humanitarian and human rights programmes and mechanisms.

periodic review placement

Periodic review of placement refers to the right of a child who has been placed by competent authorities for the purposes of care, protection or treatment for their physical or mental health to periodic review of the treatment provided and all other circumstances relevant to the child’s placement [CRC Art.25].

Source: UNICEF


There is no universally accepted definition of persecution, and the term is not defined in the 1951 Convention. It can be considered to encompass serious human rights violations, including a threat to life or freedom, as well as other kinds of serious harm. In addition, lesser forms of harm may cumulatively amount to persecution. Discrimination will also amount to persecution where the effect leads to a situation that is intolerable or substantially prejudicial to the person concerned. What amounts to persecution will depend on the asylum-seeker’s individual circumstances, including their age, gender, opinions, feelings and psychological make-up. Persecution can be related to action by the authorities of the State, but may also emanate from non-state agents, such as armed groups, criminal or organized gangs, family members or the general population, where the State is unable or unwilling to provide protection.

The core concept of persecution was deliberately not defined in the 1951 Convention, suggesting that the drafters intended it to be interpreted in a sufficiently flexible manner so as to encompass ever-changing forms of persecution.

person displaced in the context of disasters and climate change

A person who is forced or obliged to leave their home or place of habitual residence as a result of disaster or in order to avoid the impact of an immediate, foreseeable natural hazard including the adverse impacts of climate change. Most often, such persons are displaced within their own country, but they may also be displaced across an international border.

Related terms climate refugee/migrant, climate change refugee/migrant, environmental refugee/migrant and environmentally displaced person are sometimes used. UNHCR does not recommend use of climate refugee, climate change refugee or environmental refugee (see above entry for climate refugee).

person in a refugee-like situation

A term sometimes used for statistical purposes to refer to persons who are not admitted to a host country as asylum-seekers, but have nonetheless fled persecution, disturbances to public order, war, violence, etc. in their country of origin or habitual residence. This group may include, for example, people who enter the country: (i) on tourist, student or work visas; (ii) pursuant to humanitarian stay programs; or (iii) in accordance with treaties guaranteeing free movements within a defined area, provided that the underlying reason for their presence in the host country is tied to their need for international protection.

Note: Persons falling within this statistical definition may in fact be refugees under international law.

person in need of international protection

person with a refugee background

A term sometimes used for statistical purposes to refer to persons who are not currently in need of international protection but who have a refugee background, including: persons who previously held refugee status but have been naturalised and acquired citizen status; those born in the host country of refugee parents or grandparents with the citizenship of the family’s host country; those permitted to join refugee family members and be in the country under family reunification schemes and others.

person with specific needs (used interchangeably with ‘person at heightened risk’)

Any person who experiences particular protection risks or barriers due to the intersection of their personal characteristics with the environments, which requires specific targeted actions in order to enjoy the full range of their human rights. Children (especially unaccompanied and separated children), victims of trafficking, women and girls at risk, older persons, and persons with disabilities are among the groups that often have specific protection needs. These persons have the same basic needs as other refugees but often face barriers to having these needs met.

Note: This term is less favoured to other terms such as persons at heightened risk. The term ‘person with specific needs' should be avoided to the extent that it has a disempowering connotation. It is important to note that not all persons categorized as having specific needs require specialized assistance.

persons of concern (to UNHCR)

“Persons of concern” is a term traditionally used to refer to all persons for whom UNHCR is mandated to provide protection, solutions and assistance. This includes refugees, asylum-seekers, refugee returnees, stateless persons, and, in many situations, internally displaced persons (IDPs) including those who may also receive protection and assistance from State and other partners.

While “Persons of concern” appears in many UNHCR and UN documents, alternative terminologies, primarily “forcibly displaced and stateless people” or “displaced and stateless people” or “people with and for whom UNHCR works” are frequently used in the organization’s communications. These formulations aim to demonstrate consideration for the views expressed by refugees, incorporate their feedback in UNHCR’s work, and to emphasize the equal and human relationship that UNHCR has with displaced and stateless people and with communities that host them.

Note: Persons of concern is sometimes used in UNHCR documents as a shorthand, generic term to designate all people falling, or considered likely to fall, under its mandate. It is not a legal term of art and it will in most instances be preferable to use more specific terms.

See UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Persons in need of international protection, June 2017 and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 'Migrants in vulnerable situations' UNHCR's perspective, June 2017.

See also: mandate (UNHCR).

persons of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and/or sex characteristics (SOGIESC)

Umbrella term for all persons whose sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and/or sex characteristics place them outside socioculturally normative categories.

Note: Terminology relating to sex characteristics, sexual orientation and gender identity is still evolving. While UNHCR most commonly uses the term persons of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and/or sex characteristics and related ‘umbrella’ terms, it is acknowledged that a wide variety of terms and abbreviations are currently in use, and different terms may be preferred at different times and in different places.

persons with disabilities

A person with a long-term physical, psychological, intellectual or sensory impairment which, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

Source: adapted from UN General Assembly, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 13 December 2006, A/RES/61/106, Annex I.

place of safety

A location where sea rescue operations are considered to terminate. It is a place where the survivors' safety of life is no longer threatened and where their basic human needs (such as food, shelter and medical needs) can be met. Further, it is a place from which transportation arrangements can be made to the survivors' next or final destination. A place of safety may be on land, or it may be on board a suitable vessel or facility at sea that can serve as a place of safety until the survivors are disembarked at their next destination.

Note: In the case of asylum-seekers and refugees rescued at sea, due consideration must be given not to disembark in territories where their lives or freedom may be threatened.

The term “port of safety” is often used as a synonymous, especially in the media. UNHCR does not endorse and discourages its use as restrictive and legally incorrect.

Source: adapted from International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual Vol. I, 2019 Edition, glossary; and IMO, Resolution MSC.167(78), Guidelines on the Treatment of Persons Rescued At Sea, 20 May 2004, p. 8.

planned relocation

A planned process in which persons or groups of persons move or are assisted to move away from their homes or places of temporary residence, are settled in a new location, and provided with the conditions for rebuilding their lives. Planned relocation is undertaken to protect people from risks and impacts related to disasters and environmental change, including the effects of climate change, and may be carried out at the individual, household, and/or community levels. It can be voluntary or involuntary, and usually takes place within the country, but may, in very exceptional cases, also occur across State borders.

Note: "planned relocation" is recognised as one of three forms of human mobility or population movement, along with displacement and migration, under the UNFCCC Cancun Adaptation Framework (paragraph 14f). It is most commonly understood as a preventative or adaptive measure of last resort, undertaken before groups of households or entire communities become permanently displaced from their current home areas under deteriorating environmental conditions and increasingly unmanageable disaster risk.

Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD)

A State-led initiative working towards better protection for people displaced across borders in the context of disasters and climate change. The main objective of the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD) is to follow up on the recommendations of the Nansen Initiative Agenda for the protection of cross-border displaced persons in the context of disaster and climate change. UNHCR is a standing invitee to the PDD Steering Group and a member of its Advisory Committee.

postponement of removal

Temporary suspension of removal of a third-country national who has received a return decision but whose removal is not possible either for humanitarian reasons (as their removal would violate the principle of non-refoulement or due to the third-country national’s physical state or mental capacity) or for technical reasons (such as lack of transport capacity or failure of the removal due to lack of identification or the country of origin’s refusal to accept the person). Related terms tolerated stay and discretionary leave to stay are sometimes used.

Source: adapted from European Migration Network, Asylum and Migration Glossary 6.0, 2018.

prima facie recognition of refugee status

Recognition of refugee status on the basis of readily apparent, objective circumstances in the country of origin or former habitual residence. A prima facie approach acknowledges that those fleeing such circumstances are at risk of harm that brings them within the applicable refugee definition. Although such an approach may be applied within individual refugee status determination procedures, it is more often used in group situations, where individual status determination is impractical or unnecessary. It operates only to recognize refugee status; decisions to reject require an individual status determination assessment.

Note: Prima facie recognition of refugee status is not to be confused with a temporary or provisional status. Rather, once refugee status has been determined on a prima facie basis, it remains valid in that country unless the conditions for cessation are met, or their status is otherwise cancelled or revoked.

prima facie refugee

A person recognized as a refugee, by a State or UNHCR, on the basis of objective criteria related to the circumstances in their country of origin or former habitual residence and of their flight, which justify a presumption that they meet the criteria of the applicable refugee definition. A person recognized as a prima facie refugee does not undergo individual refugee status determination procedures, but enjoys the same status as a person who has been granted refugee status individually.

prioritization (for RSD)

An approach used in refugee status determination procedures whereby certain types of asylum cases are given preference over others, for example based on specific needs or for persons manifestly in need of a protection intervention (e.g. applicants with identified heightened physical and/or legal protection needs, including persons who may be subject to a risk of immediate refoulement or arbitrary arrest or detention in the host country). Prioritization differs from acceleration, as prioritization does not affect processing timelines per se. However, cases that have been prioritized can also be processed in an accelerated manner.

procedural standards (for RSD under UNHCR's mandate)

Procedural guidelines meant to ensure harmonized, efficient and quality refugee status determination (RSD) procedures. They address every stage of the RSD process under UNHCR’s mandate, from the reception and registration of asylum-seekers to the final determination of their asylum claims.


prospective asylum-seeker

A term sometimes used for statistical purposes to refer to a person with the intention of filing an application for asylum, but who has not yet done so because of practical or administrative obstacles. Asylum-seekers in transit to another country are not included in this group.

Source: adapted from Expert Group on Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons Statistics, International Recommendations on Refugees Statistics, March 2018, p. 31.


All activities aimed at achieving full respect for the rights of the individual in accordance with the letter and spirit of international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law. Protection involves creating an environment conducive to respect for human beings, preventing and/or alleviating the immediate effects of a specific pattern of abuse, and restoring dignified conditions of life through reparation, restitution and rehabilitation.

Note: This concept of protection which applies to all humanitarian action including outside refugee contexts is related but distinct from the concept of international protection.

See International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Strengthening Protection in War: A Search for Professional Standards, May 2001, p. 19 and Inter-Agency Standing Committee, Protection of Internally Displaced Persons, December 1999.

protection at sea

Coordinated actions aimed at preventing loss of life at sea; reducing exploitation, abuse and violence experienced by people travelling irregularly by sea; establishing protection-sensitive responses to irregular mixed movements by sea; and addressing the drivers and consequences of such movements.

Protection Information Management (PIM)

The principled, systematized, and collaborative processes to collect, process, analyse, store, share, and use data and information to enable evidence-informed action for quality protection outcomes.

See Protection Information Management (PIM) Initiative, PIM Quick Reference Flyer, 2018.

See the PIM guide for more information.

See also: data protection.

protection of civilians in armed conflict

Structures and policies developed by the UN, States and other humanitarian actors, and based in international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law, to protect vulnerable populations from the effects of armed conflict, ranging from the most immediate priorities of minimizing civilian casualties to more long-term priorities of promoting the rule of law and security, law and order within a State.

See UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Glossary of Humanitarian Terms, 2008.

protection-sensitive migration policy and practice

Migration policies and practices that differentiate between and provide appropriate measures to meet the needs of all persons travelling as part of mixed movements, including refugees, other people with international protection needs, as well as people with specific needs (e.g. unaccompanied or separated children or victims of trafficking or trauma).

See UNHCR, 10-Point Plan in Action, 2016 update.


An addition to the original text of a treaty. It may include further agreements or involve clarifications or amendments to the original text due to new circumstances. It can be procedural or substantive in nature. The advantage of a protocol is that, while it is linked to the parent agreement, it can focus on a specific aspect of that agreement in greater detail.

Note: A protocol is ‘optional’ because it is not automatically binding on States that have already ratified the original treaty. States must independently ratify or accede to a protocol.

See United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, Treaty Handbook, 2012, glossary; and UNICEF, Introduction to the Convention on the Rights of the Child: Definition of key terms.

Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees (1967 Protocol)

A protocol to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, agreed in 1967. The Protocol lifts the time and geographic limits found in the 1951 Convention and applies most of the Convention’s articles (2–34) to all persons covered by the Protocol’s revised refugee definition.

See UN General Assembly, Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, 31 January 1967, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 606, p. 267.

protracted refugee situation

A situation in which refugees are in a long-lasting state of limbo. Their lives may not be at risk, but their basic rights and essential economic, social and psychological needs remain unfulfilled after years in exile. A refugee in this situation is often unable to break free from enforced reliance on external assistance. For statistical purposes UNHCR defines a protracted refugee situation as one in which 25,000 or more refugees have been in exile for five years or more in a given asylum country.

quick impact project (QIP)

Small, rapidly set-up projects aimed at helping create more stable conditions in the longer-term while fostering social cohesion. They allow communities to take advantage of development opportunities, help strengthen the resilience of communities and nurture a community spirit. In addition to helping all community members, QIPs can also greatly assist persons of concern, including those with special needs, in becoming involved in community life.

racial discrimination

Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.

Source: UN General Assembly, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 21 December 1965, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 660, p. 195, Art. 1(1).


The act whereby a State establishes its consent to be bound by a treaty. Most multilateral treaties expressly provide for States to express their consent to be bound by signature subject to ratification, acceptance or approval. Providing for signature subject to ratification allows States time to seek approval for the treaty at the domestic level and to enact any legislation necessary to implement the treaty domestically, prior to undertaking the legal obligations under the treaty at the international level.

reception arrangements

The set of measures to address the material and psycho-social needs of asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants upon arrival to a country. In the initial post-arrival phase, reception arrangements are provided to all non-nationals regardless of their status. Following referral to differentiated substantive procedures, reception arrangements may vary according to the needs and status of each group.

reception centre

A facility dedicated to the management of reception arrangements for asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants. Reception centres provide an organized setting that allows authorities and other stakeholders to target their responses while individuals await decisions on applications for admission or international protection. They can be managed by government authorities, NGOs and/or international organizations. Private contractors are also sometimes employed to help manage reception centres. Support services are often provided by a number of different actors according to their respective mandates and areas of expertise. Related term reception facility is sometimes used.


Interventions which not only seek to build, repair damage or return to the status quo ante, but also address medium- and long-term needs and the need for improvements in policies, programmes, systems and capacities to avert the recurrence of crisis or reduce future disaster risk.


A focus on how best to restore the capacity of governments and communities to rebuild and recover from crisis or disaster and to prevent relapses into armed conflict or reduce future disaster risk. In so doing, recovery seeks not only to catalyse sustainable development activities, but also to build upon earlier humanitarian programmes to ensure that their inputs become assets for development.


The removal of a person to a territory where they would be at risk of being persecuted (direct refoulement), or of being moved to another territory where they would face persecution (indirect refoulement). Under international refugee law and customary international law, refoulement is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.

refoulement, constructive

A form of refoulement that occurs when host countries deliberately deny persons their economic, social and cultural rights in order to leave them with no choice but to return to a territory where they would be at risk of persecution or of being moved to another territory where they are at risk of persecution. Constructive refoulement is, therefore, a form of refoulement that is not committed directly (e.g. through border closures and pushbacks) but indirectly (e.g. through policies and practices that compromise the legal, material, and physical safety of asylum-seekers and refugees).

Note: States may commit constructive refoulement by denying asylum-seekers access to fair and effective refugee status determination procedures; limiting or denying access to employment opportunities; denying access to basic services; and subjecting asylum-seekers and refugees to human rights abuses.

refoulement, indirect

The transfer of a person to a third country, which in turn transfers that person to a territory where they are at risk of persecution, torture, or other forms of serious or irreparable harm.


Any person who meets the eligibility criteria under an applicable refugee definition, as provided for in international or regional refugee instruments, under UNHCR’s mandate, or in national legislation.

Under international law and UNHCR’s mandate, refugees are persons outside their countries of origin who are in need of international protection because of feared persecution, or a serious threat to their life, physical integrity or freedom in their country of origin as a result of persecution, armed conflict, violence or serious public disorder.

Note: Under international law, a person is considered a refugee as soon as they meet the relevant criteria, whether or not they have been formally recognized as a refugee. A person does not become a refugee because of recognition, but rather is recognized because they are a refugee.

Sometimes—notably in statistical contexts—the word refugee is used to designate individuals or groups who have been formally recognized by States or UNHCR as entitled to refugee status following an asylum or other status-determination procedure. When this limited nonlegal meaning is intended, it should be clearly indicated. The clearest designation in such contexts is recognized refugee.

Note: The 1951 Convention, at Article 1A(2), defines a refugee as any person who ‘…owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of [their] nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail [themself] of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of [their] former habitual residence … is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.’ Notable regional refugee instruments include the 1969 OAU Convention and the 1984 Cartagena Declaration, which complement the 1951 Convention and build upon its definition, by reference to a number of ‘objective’ circumstances compelling refugees to flee their countries of origin, such as ‘external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or events seriously disturbing public order’ (1969 OAU Convention, art 1(2)) or ‘generalized violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violations of human rights or other circumstances which have seriously disturbed public order’ (1984 Cartagena Declaration, para III(3)). UNHCR’s statute (1950) sets out the Office’s competence and international protection responsibilities towards refugees, by reference to a definition in very similar terms to that contained in the 1951 Convention (UNHCR Statute, art 6(A)(ii). The scope of UNHCR’s refugee-protection mandate has been clarified and broadened notably by subsequent UN General Assembly and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) resolutions.

refugee camp

A plot of land temporarily made available to host refugees in temporary homes. UNHCR, host Governments and other humanitarian organizations provide essential services in refugee camps including food, sanitation, health, medicine and education. These camps are ideally located at least 50 km away from the nearest international border to deter camp raids and other attacks on its civilian occupants.

Refugee Coordination Model (RCM)

A framewok that, in line with the High Commissioner’s mandate, outlines UNHCR’s role and responsibilities and re-articulates and standardizes UNHCR’s responsibility to lead and coordinate international actions relating to refugees with all partners engaged in the response through an inter-agency platform and under the overall leadership of the host government.

refugee law

refugee status

The formal recognition (whether by UNHCR or a State) of a person as fulfilling the criteria required to designate them as a refugee according to international, regional or national law.

refugee sur place

A person who was not a refugee when they left their country of origin, but who become one at a later date, owing to intervening events. Refugees sur place may owe their fear of persecution to a change in the country of origin, such as through a coup d’état, or to bona fide political, religious or other activities undertaken in the host country.

refugee, recognized

See refugee.

Note: Sometimes—notably in statistical contexts—the word refugee is used to designate only those individuals or groups who have been formally recognized by States or UNHCR as entitled to refugee status following an asylum or other status-determination procedure. UNHCR follows a more inclusive use of the term refugee, and recommends that when a more limited nonlegal meaning is intended, it should be clearly indicated. The clearest designation in such contexts recognized refugee.

refugee-producing country

regional refugee instrument

An international legal document relating to refugees that is adopted by States or intergovernmental organizations within a geographical region or sub-region. Such instruments normally complement the 1951 Convention and reflect the specific character of refugee issues within the particular geographical area. Notable examples of regional instruments are the OAU Convention of 1969 and the Cartagena Declaration of 1984.


The recording, verifying and updating of information on individual persons of concern to UNHCR with the aim of protecting, assisting and documenting them and of implementing durable solutions.

registration card

A card issued to a refugee or asylum-seeker, containing an individual identification number and, in some cases, basic personal identity and family information. Used as a beneficiary card for ration and other distribution, or access to services. The identification number is linked to a registration form, which contains fuller information on the household.

registration form

The form completed at the time of an individual's or household's registration with UNHCR. It is designed to ensure that a standard set of information is collected from all persons of concern, and serves as the basis of a unique registration record providing the information needed to protect, assist and find solutions for persons of concern. It is completed prior to distribution of a registration card.


A process which enables returnees to regain the physical, social, legal and material security needed to maintain life, livelihood and dignity and which eventually leads to the disappearance of any distinction or discrimination vis-à-vis their compatriots.

rejected asylum-seeker

A person who, after due consideration of their asylum claim in fair procedures, is found not to qualify for refugee status, nor to be in need of international protection. Once their claims have been rejected, such persons are no longer authorized to stay in the host country unless they are granted permit to stay on other grounds.

rescue at sea

An operation to retrieve persons in distress, provide for their initial medical or other needs, and deliver them to a place of safety.

Note: The obligation to render assistance to those in distress at sea without regard to their nationality, status or the circumstances in which they are found is a longstanding maritime tradition as well as an obligation enshrined in international law.

See UNHCR, General legal considerations: search-and-rescue operations involving refugees and migrants at sea, November 2017; Rescue at Sea. A Guide to Principles and Practice as Applied to Refugees and Migrants, January 2015.

Source: adapted from the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, Annex, Chapter 1.3.2.


A declaration made by a State by which it purports to exclude or alter the legal effect of certain provisions of a treaty in their application to that State. A reservation may enable a State to participate in a multilateral treaty as a whole by giving it the possibility not to apply certain provisions with which it does not want to comply. Reservations cannot be contrary to the object and purpose of the treaty. Furthermore, a treaty may prohibit reservations or only allow for certain reservations to be made.


The selection and transfer of refugees from a State in which they have sought treaty protection to a third State that has agreed to admit them – as refugees – with permanent residence status. The status provided ensures protection against refoulement and provides a resettled refugee and their dependents with access to rights similar to those enjoyed by nationals. Resettlement also carries with it the opportunity to eventually become a naturalized citizen of the resettlement country. As such, resettlement is a mechanism for refugee protection, a durable solution, and an example of international burden and responsibility sharing.

resettlement country

A country – other than the country of origin or the country of first asylum – that offers opportunities for the transfer and permanent settlement of refugees. Such countries provide resettled refugees with legal and physical protection, including access to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights similar to those enjoyed by nationals.

resettlement selection criteria

Criteria by which UNHCR and resettlement countries select candidates for resettlement. Resettlement under the auspices of UNHCR is strictly limited to mandate refugees who have a continued need for international protection and who meet the criteria of the UNHCR Resettlement Handbook. Individual countries use a wide range of their own resettlement criteria.


The ability of individuals, households, communities, national institutions and systems to prevent, absorb and recover from shocks, while continuing to function and adapt in a way that supports long-term prospects for sustainable development, peace and security, and the attainment of human rights.

Source: Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Program (ExCom), Resilience and self-reliance from a protection and solutions perspective, 1 March 2017, p. 3.

results framework

UNHCR has developed a global results framework to facilitate a systematic approach to planning, budgeting and reporting through a hierarchy of pre-defined impact and outcome areas (called results areas), enabling areas as well as standardized core indicators to measure achievements. UNHCR’s budget structure is strictly aligned to the results framework to ensure a link between resource allocation and expected results. This organisational framework for planning and implementation allows UNHCR to present results and global resources in a structured manner. The application of the global results framework at country level is the basis for the design of a context-specific results framework.

Return Advisory

return in adverse circumstances

The return of a refugee or asylum-seeker to their country of origin or habitual residence which does not fulfil the international standards for voluntary repatriation. This may occur when protection is not adequately guaranteed in the country of asylum, making return the only viable alternative, and thus not entirely free. The lack of adequate protection may be due to deliberative tactics of the authorities or to generally deteriorating conditions in the country of asylum.


A former refugee who has returned from a host country to their country of origin or former habitual residence, spontaneously or in an organized fashion, with the intention of remaining there permanently and who is yet to be fully integrated. Returnees include those returning as part of the operationalisation of the cessation clauses in the 1951 Convention and regional equivalents. The High Commissioner has a protection and solutions mandate for returnees as former refugees.

Note: the term returnee carries a broader meaning outside the refugee context, and may include, for example, internally displaced persons who return to their previous place of residence.

revocation (of refugee status)

The term used by UNHCR to refer to withdrawal of refugee status from a person who was rightly recognized as a refugee, but whose conduct after recognition comes within the scope of Article 1F(a) or (c) of the 1951 Convention.

rights of refugees

The range of rights set out in Articles 3 to 34 of the 1951 Convention, some of which apply to asylum-seekers and refugees as soon as they come under the jurisdiction of the State, such as protection from refoulement and expulsion and non-penalization for illegal entry. Other rights are acquired progressively depending on the refugee’s level of attachment to and stay in the country of asylum. International human rights law also sets out rights that apply to refugees, when they are not conditioned upon citizenship.

rule of law

A principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It requires, as well, measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency.

safe country of origin concept

A concept applied in refugee status determination (RSD) procedures whereby an asylum-seeker’s application may be determined under armed conflict under an accelerated procedure on the basis that they come from a safe country of origin, and the resulting presumption that their asylum claim is likely to be unfounded.


An assessment of a country as safe must be based on precise, reliable, objective and up-to-date information from a range of sources; must take account not simply of international instruments ratified and legislation enacted, but also of the country’s respect for human rights and the rule of law in practice; and must be able to be adjusted promptly to take account of changing circumstances.

The general assessment of certain countries of origin as safe should give each asylum-seeker an effective opportunity to rebut any general presumption of safety based on their particular circumstances and to have the claim referred to regular RSD procedures and examined in full.

safe third country concept

A concept used in the asylum procedure to transfer responsibility for the examination of an asylum request from the host country to another country where they had found, could have found or, pursuant to a formal agreement, can find international protection.

Note: If a State seeks to apply the safe third country concept, the burden of proof in establishing that the third country is safe for the individual asylum-seeker concerned lies with its authorities. In keeping with relevant international law standards, the host State must individually assess whether the third State will: (re)admit the person; grant the person access to a fair and efficient refugee status determination procedure and other international protection needs; permit the person to remain while a determination is made; and accord the person standards of treatment commensurate with the 1951 Convention and international human rights standards, including – but not limited to – protection from refoulement. The asylum-seeker should also be given an effective opportunity to rebut the presumption of safety.

safe zone

An area established by agreement between parties to an armed conflict in order to protect civilians and provide access to humanitarian assistance. The terms and conditions of establishing safe zones are governed by international humanitarian law. A number of related terms may also be used, including but not limited to: safe area, safe haven, protected area, humanitarian corridor, humanitarian protection zone, de-escalation zone, and neutralized zone.


A non-binding process used mainly in the context of managing mixed movements that precedes any formal status determination procedures and aims to identify the needs of and differentiate between categories of persons, including asylum-seekers. Its core elements include: providing information to and gathering information on new arrivals; establishing a preliminary profile for each person; counselling; and referring persons to the relevant entities or procedures that best meet their protection or assistance needs.

search and rescue (SAR)

The performance of distress monitoring, communication, co-ordination and search and rescue functions, including provision of medical advice, initial medical assistance, or medical evacuation, through the use of public and private resources including co-operating aircraft, vessels and other craft and installations.

Note: The obligation of States to render assistance to persons in distress at sea is an enshrined principle of maritime law. Article 98 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) requires every coastal State to promote the establishment, operation and maintenance of an adequate and effective search and rescue service and to cooperate with neighbouring states for this purpose. The detail of search and rescue obligations is to be found in the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR).

See International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR), adopted 27 April 1979, 1405 UNTS 118; and UNHCR, Background Note on the Protection of Asylum-Seekers and Refugees Rescued at Sea (Final version, including Annexes), 18 March 2002, p. 2, footnote 4.

secondary movement

sector-wide approach (SWAp)

An approach to development assistance wherein all significant funding for a given sector supports a sector-wide policy and expenditure programme, under government leadership, adopting common approaches across the sector, and progressing towards relying on government procedures to disburse and account for all funds.

self-help organizations and projects

Organizations and projects initiated, created and managed by refugees and other persons of concern for their own benefit.


The ability of an individual, household or community to meet essential needs and to enjoy social and economic rights in a sustainable manner and with dignity.

separated child

A child separated from both parents, or from their previous legal or customary primary care-giver, but not necessarily from other relatives. This may, therefore, include a child accompanied by other adult family members.

Source: adapted from UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), General comment No. 6 (2005): Treatment of Unaccompanied and Separated Children Outside their Country of Origin, 1 September 2005, CRC/GC/2005/6, para. 8.

sexual orientation

signatory (to a treaty)

A State that expresses its intention to consent to be bound by a treaty. The interim stage between the signing of a treaty and its ratification enables States to obtain any necessary parliamentary approval and/or to enact required legislation to bring the treaty into force domestically. Some forms of signature (simple signature) are subject to further processes of ratification, acceptance or approval, whereas others (definitive signature) express a State’s consent to be bound without need for further procedures. Signature of any form, however, creates an obligation to refrain, in good faith, from acts that would defeat the object and the purpose of the treaty.

slow-onset disaster

A disaster that evolves gradually from incremental changes occurring over many years or from an increased frequency or intensity of recurring events. Slow-onset disasters relate to environmental degradation processes such as droughts and desertification, increased salinization, rising sea levels or thawing of permafrost.

Note: The interaction of events with each other and with existing vulnerabilities may put peoples’ human rights, means of subsistence, employment and livelihoods at risk, which in may prompt displacement. In addition, slow-onset events, although they are not a direct catalyst for violent conflict, can exacerbate already fragile situations. They can fuel conflict over resource scarcity and are often described as a multiplier or magnifier of pre-existing conflicts.

smuggling (of migrants)

The procurement, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit, of the irregular entry of a person into (the territory of) a State of which the person is not a national or a permanent resident.


Refugees and asylum-seekers often resort to the use of smugglers in order to flee their countries of origin. UNHCR is directly concerned with ensuring that national laws on smuggling do not criminalise smuggled persons under its mandate nor persons who support refugees across State borders for humanitarian reasons.

When distinguishing between smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons it is important to note the following points: Smuggling of migrants necessarily involves an irregular border crossing and entry into another State, whereas trafficking in persons may occur within a single country. A smuggler commits a crime against the State, and the commodity involved is a service: the facilitation of an irregular border crossing for financial or other material benefit. A human trafficker commits a crime against the individual, who is the commodity. The relationship between smuggler and migrant is based on a commercial transaction, which usually ends after the border crossing, whereas the trafficking relationship often involves ongoing exploitation that generates a benefit (financial or otherwise) for the trafficker alone.

social assistance

The provision of social security benefits financed from the general revenue of the government rather than by individual contributions, with benefits adjusted to the person’s needs. Many social assistance programmes are targeted at those individuals and households living under a defined threshold of income or assets. Social assistance programmes can focus on a specific risk (for example, social assistance benefits for families with children), or on particularly vulnerable groups (for example, poor elderly people).

Source: International Labour Organization, Social protection assessment-based national dialogue: A global guide, 2016.

social protection

Social protection or social security is a set of policies and programmes designed to reduce and prevent poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion throughout the life cycle. Social protection includes:

  • child and family benefits
  • maternity protection
  • unemployment support
  • employment injury benefits
  • sickness benefits
  • health protection (medical care)
  • old age benefits
  • disability benefits
  • survivors’ benefits.

Social protection systems address all these policy areas by a mix of contributory schemes (social insurance) and non-contributory tax-financed benefits (including social assistance, public works programs and other schemes guaranteeing basic income security and access to essential services).

Note: sometimes the term “social protection” is used with a wider variety of meanings than “social security”, including protection provided between members of the family or members of a local community.

social welfare sector

Refers to the governance sector that encompasses social services, child and family welfare services, social benefits and other assistance to vulnerable persons and families, including children who are in need of protection from all forms of abuse, exploitation, violence and neglect as well as care for unaccompanied and separated children.


An acronym for sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics. All people have SOGIESC, but not everyone’s SOGIESC makes them the target of stigma, discrimination or abuse.

special procedures (human rights)

Mechanisms established by the United Nations Human Rights Council to report and advise on human rights from either a thematic or country-specific perspective. Special procedures:

  • undertake country visits
  • act on individual cases or concerns of a broader nature by bringing alleged violations or abuses to the attention of States and other actors
  • conduct thematic studies
  • contribute to the development of international human rights standards
  • engage in advocacy
  • raise public awareness
  • provide advice for technical cooperation.

They operate under a variety of names, including special rapporteurs, independent experts and working groups.

Sphere Project

The Sphere Project was launched in 1997 by a group of humanitarian NGOs and the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement. The project has developed several tools, including a handbook, in order to improve the quality of assistance provided to people affected by disasters, and to enhance the accountability of the humanitarian system in disaster response.

sponsorship pathways

Pathways in which private entities or organizations (nomination sponsors) directly engage in admission efforts by identifying, selecting, and supporting the entry and stay of nominated individuals in need of international protection. Sponsorship can often include the provision of financial, emotional, social and/or settlement support in a third country (see community sponsorship).

standards of treatment

Parameters derived from the 1951 Refugee Convention and other international and regional human rights instruments that set the parameters for the treatment of persons of concern to UNHCR.

Note: The 1951 Convention provides for various standards of treatment, depending on the particular rights in question. These are: treatment not less favourable than that generally accorded to aliens in similar circumstances; the most favourable treatment accorded to nationals of a foreign country in the same circumstances; the same treatment as is granted to nationals; and treatment as favourable as possible.

stateless person

A person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law, either because they never had a nationality, or because they lost it without acquiring a new one.

Note: Not all stateless persons are refugees, but they may qualify as such if they are unable or unwilling to return to their place of habitual residence due to fear of persecution on one of the 1951 Refugee Convention grounds. That said, the protection of all stateless persons falls within UNHCR’s mandate.

stateless population, in situ

A stateless population that has never crossed an international border, but finds itself in its “own country” i.e. that have significant and long-term ties to the country, generally through birth or long-term residence. For these individuals, statelessness is often the result of problems in the framing and implementation of nationality laws.


The condition of not being considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law.

Note: Statelessness can occur for a variety of reasons, including discrimination against particular ethnic or religious groups, or on the basis of gender; the emergence of new States and transfers of territory between existing States; gaps in nationality laws; or lack of birth registration. Regardless of its cause, statelessness results in a lack of those rights attributable to nationality.

statelessness determination procedure

Procedure that serves to identify stateless persons among migrant populations to ensure that they enjoy the rights to which they are entitled until they acquire a nationality.

statelessness status

The formal recognition (whether by UNHCR or a State) of a person as fulfilling the criteria required to designate them as a stateless person. Individuals eligible for statelessness status may be identified through statelessness determination procedures.

Statute of the Office of the United Nations High Commmissioner for Refugees (UNHCR Statute)

The document, adopted by the General Assembly in 1950, that establishes UNHCR’s mandate and structure and provides the criteria under which persons may come within the competence of UNHCR. UNHCR’s mandate was subsequently extended by the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and by various General Assembly and ECOSOC resolutions.

See UN General Assembly, Statute of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 14 December 1950, A/RES/428(V).

statutory refugee

A person considered to be a refugee under the provisions of the international instruments that were in force before the 1951 Refugee Convention.

stay or residence permit

A document issued by a State to a non-national confirming that they have the right to live in that State during the period of validity of the permit.

stranded migrant

A migrant who is unable to return to their country of origin, cannot regularize their status in the country where they reside, and does not have access to legal migration opportunities that would enable them to move on to another State. The term may also refer to migrants who are stranded because of practical, humanitarian or security reasons in the country of destination, transit or origin preventing them from returning home while leaving them unable to go elsewhere.

Source: adapted from UNHCR and Global Migration Group, Building partnerships for identifying, protecting, assisting and resolving the situation of stranded and vulnerable migrants, Practitioners Symposium, Background Paper (Geneva, 27–28 May 2010), p. 1; and International Organization for Migration (IOM), Glossary on Migration, 2019

subsidiary protection

A form of international protection granted in some countries to persons found not to meet the Convention definition of a refugee but who face a real risk of serious harm in their country of origin or country of former habitual residence. This includes the death penalty or execution, torture or inhuman or degrading treatment, or a serious and individual threat to their life or person by reason of indiscriminate violence in situations of armed conflict.

succession (of states)

The situation whereby a State emerged from the disintegration or division of its predecessor State is in principle bound by the treaties to which the predecessor State was party. Such States should accordingly notify the Secretary-General of their succession to the relevant treaties.

sudden-onset disaster

A disaster triggered by a hazardous event that emerges quickly or unexpectedly. Sudden-onset disasters may be climate-related (e.g., floods, cyclones, tornadoes, landslides, earthquakes, tsunamis, wild fires or volcanic eruptions) or not (e.g., chemical explosion or critical infrastructure failure). Depending on their severity and the affected community’s vulnerabilities and adaptive capacity, they may also result in temporary (or sometimes protracted) displacement.

See United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Terminology on Disaster Risk Reduction; UNHCR, Key Concepts on Climate Change and Disaster Displacement; and Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Annual report: The slow onset effects of climate change and human rights protection for cross-border migrants, 22 March 2018.

supervisory role of UNHCR

The role assigned to UNHCR under its Statute, the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol of supervising implementation of international instruments on refugees. UNHCR’s supervisory responsibility is also reflected in regional instruments and in the asylum laws of many countries.

See also: mandate (UNHCR).

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

17 goals that form part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda), along with a Declaration and 169 related Targets. The 2030 Agenda and its related components offer a universal, integrated, transformative and human rights-based vision for sustainable development, peace and security, which is applicable to all countries, including the most developed. The 2030 Agenda, and its commitment to ‘leave no-one behind’ provide a basis for the inclusion of refugees, the internally displaced and stateless people in economic development planning, as well as in all other measures taken by States to achieve the SDGs.

See UN General Assembly, Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 21 October 2015, A/RES/70/1.

temporary protection or stay arrangements (TPSAs)

An arrangement developed by States to offer protection of a temporary nature to those fleeing humanitarian crises, without undergoing prior individual refugee status determination procedures, and where their protection needs are anticipated to be of short duration. TPSAs are complementary to the international refugee protection regime, being used at times to fill gaps in that regime as well as in national response systems and capacity, especially in States not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

territorial asylum

Form of asylum granted by a State within its borders.

See UN General Assembly, Declaration on Territorial Asylum, 14 December 1967, A/RES/2312(XXII).

third country solutions

Safe and regulated avenues that provide recognised refugees and other persons in need of international protection with lawful stay in a country other than the country of origin or first host country.

third-country national (TCN)

In situations in which two States are concerned, any person who is not a national of either State; or, in the context of regional organizations, nationals of States who are not member States of such organization.

tolerated stay


In the refugee context, efforts to ascertain the whereabouts of family members or close associates of persons of concern to UNHCR. Tracing may be conducted for the purposes of family reunification, in the context of durable solutions, or simply to facilitate contact between family members. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) runs a Central Tracing Agency that has special competence in this area.

trafficking in persons

The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the treat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation. Such exploitation includes, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.


  • The consent of a victim of trafficking is considered irrelevant where any of the coercive means outlined above have been used.
    Note, however, that children cannot give consent to exploitation. For children, there is no need to demonstrate ‘threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person’.
  • The term human trafficking is commonly used to refer to trafficking in persons.
  • When distinguishing between smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons it is important to note the following points: Smuggling of migrants necessarily involves an irregular border crossing and entry into another State, whereas trafficking in persons may occur within a single country. A smuggler commits a crime against the State, and the commodity involved is a service: the facilitation of an irregular border crossing for financial or other material benefit. A human trafficker commits a crime against the individual, who is the commodity. The relationship between smuggler and migrant is based on a commercial transaction, which usually ends after the border crossing, whereas the trafficking relationship often involves ongoing exploitation that generates a benefit (financial or otherwise) for the trafficker alone.

transfer arrangement

A bilateral or multilateral agreement whereby asylum-seekers are transferred from one State to another for the purpose of processing their asylum claims outside the country where they are seeking international protection.

Note: It is UNHCR’s position that asylum-seekers and refugees should ordinarily be processed in the territory of the State where they arrive, or which otherwise has jurisdiction over them. Where transfer arrangements are put in place, they must guarantee that each asylum-seeker will be admitted to the proposed receiving State; will be protected from refoulement; will have access to fair and efficient asylum procedures to determine their need for international protection and will be treated in accordance with accepted international standards. An individual assessment of the appropriateness of transfer must be undertaken in each case, subject to procedural safeguards, prior to transfer. The asylum-seeker must have an opportunity to challenge the legality of the transfer before a court or tribunal.

Transformative Agenda

The Transformative Agenda of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), adopted in December 2011, is a set of concrete actions aimed at transforming the way in which the humanitarian community responds to emergencies. It focuses on improving the timeliness and effectiveness of the collective response through stronger leadership, more effective coordination structures, and improved accountability for performance and to affected people.

transit centre

A temporary shelter for new arrivals used to provide short-term accommodation for displaced populations pending registration and transfer to a more suitable, safe and longer term settlement. Transit centres provide a habitable covered living space and a secure and healthy living environment to persons of concern to UNHCR for a short period while they wait for new settlements to be constructed or until shelter can be found in other accommodation or host communities. These facilities can be used at the very onset of an emergency or within the context of a repatriation operation, as a staging point for return. Transit centres are usually constructed on land allocated by governments. Sometimes referred to as holding centres or processing centres.


A generic term embracing all instruments binding under international law, regardless of their formal designation, concluded between two or more international juridical persons. Treaties may be concluded between:

  1. States;
  2. International organizations with treaty-making capacity and States; or
  3. International organizations with treaty-making capacity.

The application of the term treaty, in the generic sense, signifies that the parties intend to create rights and obligations enforceable under international law. Usually the term is employed for instruments of some gravity and solemnity.

Source: adapted from United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, Treaty Handbook, 2012, glossary.

treaty bodies (human rights)

Committees of independent experts that monitor implementation of the core international human rights treaties. This is typically done by reviewing periodic reports submitted by States parties and information from other stakeholders, holding a constructive dialogue with the State party under review, and the Committee’s concerns and recommendations, referred to as “concluding observations”. Some treaty bodies may also be competent to receive petitions from individuals on alleged violations of their rights under a particular treaty. Currently, there are nine international human rights treaties, and one optional protocol, from which the ten treaty bodies have been established.

unaccompanied child

A child who has been separated from both parents and other relatives and is not being cared for by an adult who, by law or custom, is responsible for doing so.

Note: some States refer to these children as unaccompanied minors in their legislation and policies. UNHCR uses the term “unaccompanied children”.

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)

A relief and human development agency providing assistance and protection to Palestine refugees and those displaced by the 1967 conflict in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. UNRWA human development and humanitarian services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance and emergency assistance, including in situations of armed conflict.

Note: For its own operational purposes, UNRWA defines the term “Palestine refugee” as any person whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 and 15 May 1948 and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict and descendants through the male line.

United Nations Security Levels System (UNSLS)

System used for assigning a security grade or level to an area where the United Nations operates to identify the overall level of threat or danger in that area.

United Nations standards

Standards (also called principles, declarations, or rules) passed by resolution of a UN body, usually the General Assembly. States cannot become party to them since they are not treaties, and they do not create binding legal obligations. However, UN standards are considered authoritative and States are expected to respect them.

United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF)

The UNSDCF, or ‘Cooperation Framework’, is the most important instrument for planning and implementation of UN development activities at the country level in support of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda). The Cooperation Framework represents a significant shift from its predecessor, the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), and guides the entire programme cycle, driving planning, implementation, monitoring, reporting and evaluation of collective UN support for achieving the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Source: adapted from UNSDG website.

Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

A unique process, established under the Human Rights Council, which involves a regular review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. It provides an opportunity for States to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to receive recommendations from other States for possible future improvements.

Source: adapted from Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

victim of trafficking

Any person who is subject to the crime of trafficking in persons.

Note: Although there are several factors that make certain people vulnerable to trafficking in persons (including irregular or undocumented migrants, ethnic minorities and unaccompanied or separated children), anyone can be a victim of trafficking, regardless of their age, sex, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnic or social origin, disability or circumstances.

voluntary repatriation

The free and informed return of refugees to their country of origin in safety and dignity. Voluntary repatriation may be organized (i.e. when it takes place under the auspices of the concerned States and/or UNHCR) or spontaneous (i.e. when refugees repatriate by their own means with little or no direct involvement from government authorities or UNHCR).


The limited capacity to avoid, resist, cope with, or recover from harm. This limited capacity is the result of the unique interaction of individual, household, community, and structural characteristics and conditions.

Note: Vulnerability implies exposure to and susceptibility to some form of harm, which can take a variety of forms (including economic hardship, crisis and disaster, discrimination, violence, or human rights abuses). Among the groups most susceptible to harm are children, the elderly, persons with disabilities, ethnic or religious minorities, and persons of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and/or sex characteristics (SOGIESC).

Wage-earning employment

Concerns work governed by an employment relationship between employer and employee, and for the performance of which the employee is provided a periodic wage or remuneration.

well-founded fear of persecution

A key element of the refugee definition contained in the 1951 Convention. A fear is considered well-founded if it contains both a subjective element (the individual’s personal fear of persecution) and an objective element (the fear must have an objectively justifiable basis). The 1951 Convention requires that the persecution feared must be linked to one or more of the five specified refugee recognition grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.

Women, Peace, Security (WPS) agenda

The Security Council resolution (S/RES/1325) on women and peace and security (31 October 2000) reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.

wrongful termination (of refugee status)

Refers to the ending, withdrawing or termination of refugee status in any manner that does not conform with international law. Under international law cessation, revocation or cancellation of refugee status are the legal grounds for ending refugee status.


Attitudes, prejudices and behaviour that reject, exclude and often vilify persons, based on the perception that they are outsiders or foreigners to the community, society or national identity.

Source: International Labour Office (ILO), International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), International Migration, Racism, Discrimination and Xenophobia, August 2001, p. 2.


There is no universally agreed international definition of the youth age group. For statistical purposes, however, the United Nations—without prejudice to any other definitions made by Member States—defines ‘youth’ as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years.


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