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General Conclusion on International Protection

Executive Committee Meetings

General Conclusion on International Protection
No. 79 (XLVII) - 1996

11 October 1996
Executive Committee 47th session. Contained in United Nations General Assembly document A/AC.96/878 and document No. 12A (A/51/12/Add.1).

The Executive Committee

(a) Recognizes that the complexity of current refugee problems underlines both the fundamental importance of the High Commissioner's primary function of international protection and the difficulties inherent in the exercise of this function;

(b) Reiterates that the High Commissioner's international protection function can only be carried out effectively with the full support of Governments, in particular through the provision of durable solutions; and welcomes the continued readiness of States to receive and protect refugees as well as to make available resources to meet refugee needs;

(c) Recalls in this regard the fundamental importance of the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol, in particular their implementation in a manner fully compatible with the object and purpose of these instruments; and welcomes the accession of South Africa and Kyrgyzstan to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, bringing to 132 the number of States parties to one or both instruments;

(d) Urges all States that have not yet done so to accede to and implement fully the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol and relevant regional instruments for the protection of refugees, as applicable, thereby strengthening the framework of international protection;

(e) Invites States parties to the 1951 Convention and/or the 1967 Protocol which, at the time of accession, made reservations with respect to any provisions of these instruments to review such reservations with a view to their withdrawal;

(f) Recalls its reaffirmation of the competence of the High Commissioner in supervising the application of international instruments for the protection of refugees, and reminds States parties to the 1951 Convention and/or the 1967 Protocol of their undertaking to provide the High Commissioner with detailed information on the implementation of those instruments;

(g) Recalls also the importance of addressing the problem of statelessness, including through accession to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, welcomes the accession of Brazil and Guatemala to the 1954 Convention and of Azerbaijan to both statelessness conventions, and calls upon other States to consider accession to these instruments;

(h) Recognizes that countries of asylum carry a heavy burden, including in particular developing countries with limited resources and those which, due to their location, host large numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers; reiterates in this regard its commitment to uphold the principles of international solidarity and burden-sharing and calls on Governments and UNHCR to continue to respond to the assistance needs of refugees until durable solutions are found;

(i) Distressed at the widespread violations of the principle of non-refoulement and of the rights of refugees, in some cases resulting in loss of refugee lives, and seriously disturbed at reports indicating that large numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers have been refouled and expelled in highly dangerous situations; recalls that the principle of non-refoulement is not subject to derogation;

(j) Reaffirms the fundamental importance of the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits expulsion and return of refugees, in any manner whatsoever, to the frontiers of territories where their life or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, whether or not they have formally been granted refugee status, or of persons in respect of whom there are grounds for believing that they would be in danger of being subjected to torture, as set forth in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;

(k) Deplores violations of the right to personal security of refugees and asylum-seekers, including sexual and other attacks, especially on women and children, and appeals to all States to abide by their international obligations to protect the physical security of refugees and asylum-seekers and to take measures to ensure that such practices cease immediately;

(l) Expressing concern at the misuse of asylum procedures, calls upon States that have adopted measures aimed at discouraging abusive use of asylum procedures to ensure that these measures have no detrimental effect on the fundamental principles of international protection, including on the institution of asylum;

(m) Recalls its conclusion 77 (XLVI), which encouraged the High Commissioner to engage in consultations and discussions concerning measures to ensure international protection to all who need it and called on UNHCR to organize informal consultations on this subject; supports UNHCR's activities to date in respect of such consultations and discussions; and encourages UNHCR to continue this process, keeping the Executive Committee informed;

(n) Notes with satisfaction UNHCR's activities with regard to the promotion and dissemination of refugee law and protection principles and calls upon the High Commissioner to continue to expand and strengthen the promotion and training activities of the Office, including in the area of prevention and reduction of statelessness and related nationality issues, with the active support of States and through increased cooperation with other international organizations, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and other relevant organizations;

(o) Recalls its request that UNHCR support and promote efforts by States towards the development and implementation of criteria and guidelines on responses to persecution specifically aimed at women, welcomes in this context the convening by UNHCR in February 1996 of the Symposium on Gender-Based Persecution, the purpose of which was to share information on States' initiatives in this respect, and encourages UNHCR to continue and strengthen its efforts for the protection of women having a well-founded fear of persecution; and calls on States to adopt an approach that is sensitive to gender-related concerns and which ensures that women whose claims to refugee status are based upon a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons enumerated in the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol, including persecution through sexual violence or other gender-related persecution, are recognized as refugees;

(p) Stresses the importance of UNHCR's being granted access to asylum applicants and refugees in order to enable the Office to carry out its protection functions in an effective manner;

(q) Notes that voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement are the traditional durable solutions for refugees, while reaffirming that voluntary repatriation of refugees is the most preferred solution, where feasible;

(r) Reaffirms its conclusion 67 (XLII) on resettlement as an instrument of protection and as a durable solution, and welcomes the action taken recently by UNHCR, including the issuance of the Resettlement Handbook on criteria and procedures, and encourages training activities to support resettlement operations in the field;

(s) Acknowledges the resettlement efforts undertaken by Governments and the efforts being made by UNHCR to take full advantage of resettlement opportunities and to find solutions for individual refugees considered in need of resettlement, and in this connection urges Governments to respond actively to the resettlement needs of refugees in a spirit of burden-sharing;

(t) Encourages the regular exchange of information as part of the ongoing consultations of UNHCR with Governments and NGOs on resettlement;

(u) Reiterates the right of all persons to return to their countries and the responsibility of all States to accept and facilitate the return and reintegration of their nationals, and recommends to States that strategies for facilitating the return, in safety and with dignity, of persons not in need of international protection be examined within a framework of international cooperation;

(v) Encourages UNHCR in this context, in cooperation with other appropriate international organizations, to continue the consultative process initiated in 1995 on the question of how the return process can be facilitated;

(w) Recalling the interrelationship between protection and solutions, as well as the desirability of prevention, including through the respect for human rights and the implementation of relevant instruments and standards, with particular attention to the responsibilities of States to resolve refugee situations and, especially with respect to countries of origin, to eliminate causes of refugee flows, calls on UNHCR to continue its activities in support of national legal and judicial capacity-building where appropriate, and to cooperate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and other relevant organizations in this regard.