Report of the 13-14 April Meeting of the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection
1. The Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection (Sub-Committee) met on 13 and 14 April 1992 under the chairmanship of Ambassador Bernard de Riedmatten (Switzerland). The following agenda EC/1992/SCP/CRP.7) was adopted:
(1) Draft Report of the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection;
(2) Protection of stateless persons;
(3) Protection aspects of voluntary repatriation;
(4) Protection of persons of concern to UNHCR who fall outside the 1951 Convention; and
(5) Any other business.
I. DRAFT REPORT OF THE SUB-COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE ON INTERNATIONAL PROTECTION
A. Adoption of the draft report of the 23 January 1992 meeting of the Sub-Committee
2. In his opening remarks, the Chairman observed that this was the first meeting of the Sub-Committee with Mr. Leonardo Franco, the newly appointed Director of International Protection. The Chairman noted that the former Director, Mr. Michel Moussalli, had retired, and paid tribute to the commitment and expertise demonstrated throughout his many years of service with UNHCR. He asked the Secretariat to convey to Mr. Moussalli the Sub-Committee's sincere gratitude for his achievements in advancing the cause of refugee protection. He then welcomed Mr. Franco and assured him of the Sub-Committee's support and cooperation.
3. In his introductory comments, the Director of International Protection thanked the Chairman for his remarks, praised Mr. Moussalli's contribution to refugee protection, and stated that it was a great privilege to work with the Sub-Committee which was dealing with matters of such fundamental importance to the Office. He recalled the three goals which the High Commissioner had outlined in her address to the forty-second session of the Executive Committee - improving the emergency response capability of the Office, promoting voluntary repatriation, and focusing on prevention - and raised the question of how refugee law should fit into this strategy. In this regard, he noted the forward-looking contributions of the Report of the Working Group on Solutions and Protection (EC/SCP/64, EC/SCP/64/Corr.1 and 2) and the decision by the Executive Committee to convene inter-sessional meetings of the Sub-Committee to continue to discuss the pending issues in the Report and other relevant matters. He also drew attention to the Executive Committee's conclusion last year on the need for debate on new directions for protection and on further development of the law. He informed the Sub-Committee of an internal Working Group on International Protection established recently by the High Commissioner to examine these issues and to report to her.
4. All delegations, when taking the floor for their initial statements, joined the Chairman in commending Mr. Moussalli for his enduring contribution to refugee protection and in congratulating Mr. Franco and welcoming him to his new post.
5. The Sub-Committee adopted the draft report of its 23 January 1992 meeting without debate.
B. Draft conclusions on the "ceased circumstances" cessation clauses
6. The Chief of UNHCR's General Legal Advice Section recalled that it had been agreed at the previous meeting of the Sub-Committee that delegations would refer the draft conclusion on the "ceased circumstances" cessation clauses to their respective capitals for consideration. A number of delegations had subsequently forwarded comments to the Secretariat. While some comments were of a more general nature, others contained specific proposals for textual amendments. These specific suggestions had been tabulated in a separate document and distributed to delegations. Taking into consideration the comments received, UNHCR had prepared a revised draft conclusion which aimed at accommodating and reconciling the various views expressed and therefore, necessarily should be seen as a compromise text. One delegation had submitted its comments at a very late stage and it had therefore not been possible to consider those comments for inclusion in the revised draft. That delegation's proposal was circulated separately.
7. In the ensuing debate, a number of delegations made specific comments on the revised draft. Some delegations felt that some of their comments had not been adequately reflected in the draft and, while recognizing the need to reach agreement on a compromise text, recommended that some further revisions be made. Among the points discussed was whether States had an exclusive right under the Convention to decide on the application of the cessation clauses and the role of UNHCR in this regard. UNHCR's role under Art. 35 of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (the 1951 Convention) was widely recognized, and particular reference was made in this connection to the importance of UNHCR assisting States in a consultative evaluation process of conditions in countries of origin. One delegation noted, however, that in some situations UNHCR's assistance may not be required when bilateral negotiations between countries of origin and asylum involve the refugees directly. Another delegation stated that UNHCR's involvement should be seen as a guarantee for a correct application of the cessation clauses. The desirability and practicality of harmonized decision-taking in this area was questioned by a number of delegations.
8. The importance of arrangements facilitating the return of refugees following the application of the cessation clauses was widely recognized. Several delegations felt, however, that it was preferable not to make a detailed specification of possible measures in a conclusion. Arrangements would necessarily vary according to the specific situation. A number of delegations noted that an alternative status, rather than a continuation of refugee status, should be found for those refugees who, for strong humanitarian reasons or trauma arising out of past persecution, should not be requested to return following an application of the cessation clauses.
9. One delegation noted, with particular reference to the conditions necessary for the application of the cessation clauses, that as refugee flows were the result not only of human rights violations but also of armed conflict and natural calamities, significant improvements in the human rights situation in a country was not necessarily sufficient for the invocation of these clauses. Another delegation stressed that the main criteria for applying these clauses should be the removal of any well-founded fear of persecution among the refugees concerned, in accordance with the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol.
10. In the course of the debate on the revised draft conclusion, several delegations suggested that the Sub-Committee discuss whether and how most appropriately to reach conclusions on its deliberations as well as what drafting mechanism should be considered. The discussion on this matter is summarized in Section V ("Any other business").
11. In responding to the debate, the Chief of the General Legal Advice Section clarified a number of the issues raised in the debate and stressed that the scope of the conclusion was limited to refugees under the 1951 Convention. She took due note of the various comments made and proposed to prepare a second revision of the draft. She reiterated that conclusions must necessarily be seen as compromise texts reflecting the broad consensus of delegations based on recognized protection principles.
II. PROTECTION OF STATELESS PERSONS
12. The Chairman introduced the topic of protection of stateless persons by noting that the seriousness of the phenomenon was generally underestimated. He said there were often grave legal and human implications to statelessness and commented that the subject was even more topical at this time because of the potential for future problems of statelessness. He observed that an Executive Committee conclusion would strengthen the High Commissioner's position in dealing with such cases.
13. In her introductory remarks, the Chief of the General Legal Advice Section concurred with the Chairman's comments, noted that a major problem facing stateless persons was getting the international community to focus on their difficulties and, therefore, she welcomed the inclusion by delegations of the topic on the Sub-Committee's agenda. She explained that two documents had been provided to the Sub-Committee: "Stateless Persons: A Discussion Note" (EC/SCP/1992/CRP.4) and its annex, a paper which had been presented previously by UNHCR to the Working Group on Solutions and Protection. She also noted the timeliness of the issue since recent political developments had generated new problems of statelessness or had a strong potential to do so. In addition, there are persisting situations which require UNHCR's regular intervention. UNHCR is involved with certain stateless persons because of a specific, albeit limited, mandate from the General Assembly, its experience with handling the types of problems that many of them face, and because both governments and individuals often turn to the Office for assistance.
14. She pointed out that, although statistics are imprecise, there are tens or even hundreds of thousands of stateless persons on several continents. These individuals are vulnerable to a variety of restrictions in the enjoyment of civil and political rights, including limited access to social services, education and employment opportunities, and difficulties in obtaining travel documents. She noted that UNHCR's papers presented the problem in its humanitarian aspect, but that from a State perspective there were also complex political and private international law issues to be dealt with. She recalled that every individual has a right to a nationality and that reducing statelessness has beneficial effects, including for refugees. In conclusion, she drew attention to para. 10 of EC/1992/SCP/CRP.4, which gathers several proposals which have already been made for improving the international community's response to the problems of statelessness.
15. A few delegations felt that Executive Committee Conclusion no. 50 (XXXIX) of 1988, para. (1), adequately addressed the issue. While acknowledging the serious humanitarian problems of stateless persons, many delegations requested additional information before taking a position on the need for a new conclusion. They expressed interest in knowing more precisely who was stateless and why, whether such persons were refugees, their location, and what had been done to assist them in practical terms. Another delegation suggested that any new conclusion would have to be substantive and should truly advance the treatment of the issue. Otherwise, it would be better to study the matter further.
16. The Chief of the General Legal Advice Section observed that Conclusion no. 501 did not fully cover the problem or possible responses. Its main emphasis was on promoting adherence to existing instruments, which was a necessary but partial response. The most recent information available showed that only 36 States were Parties to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and only 14 States were Parties to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Exacerbating the lack of broad adherence to the legal regime is an institutional void, as the two instruments on statelessness do not provide for a supervisory body. As a result, there is much ambiguity at the international level, and much uncertainty for individuals. In addition, human rights instruments provide for a "right to a nationality," but the content of this right is unclear. These and other issues could be addressed in a new conclusion and would lend themselves to follow-up by the Executive Committee.
17. On the issue of the lack of an institution charged with responding to the problems of statelessness, several delegations argued for strengthened cooperation and coordination with other organizations which could or should be involved with stateless persons, including the International Organization on Migration (IOM), the Commission on Human Rights and other United Nations bodies, such as the General Assembly, as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs). One delegation stated that the Sub-Committee's role should be to draw attention to the fundamental aspects of the problem and to make recommendations to the international community. Another delegation said that States have a responsibility to deal individually with the problem at the national level, and then to consider the issue at the international level.
18. On the issue of a right to a nationality, several delegations agreed that human rights concerns were at issue in statelessness situations. One delegation suggested, however, that the Executive Committee should prioritize those issues which it wished to refer to the Commission on Human Rights, in view of the latter's heavy agenda, and wondered whether nationality issues were a priority.
19. The Director of International Protection underlined the existing and potential problems of statelessness and the complexity of the legal and institutional/jurisdictional issues at stake. He offered to provide further information on statelessness situations and problems if this would be useful, but stressed that such material could only be offered on an informal basis. A number of delegations welcomed this offer.
20. In conclusion, the Chairman observed that no one had questioned the genuineness of the problem and that continued discussion of the topic would be useful. He proposed that the subject be kept on the agenda of the Sub-Committee, Secretariat be requested to provide further information and formulate a draft conclusion, and that the Centre for Human Rights and other United Nations bodies be asked what efforts they had made in this area. In connection with the provision of further information, the Chairman noted the sensitivity of some of this material and requested that delegations treat any documentation furnished by UNHCR with caution. He also recalled that Governments had agreed that it would be useful to supplement discussion notes prepared by UNHCR for the Sub-Committee with others to be submitted by Member States. The Chairman said that he would be pleased if a State would volunteer to present a paper on this topic. There was no objection to the Chairman's proposals, although one delegation reserved its position on when a draft conclusion should be discussed in light of other priorities for the Sub-Committee.
21. At the conclusion of the discussion on this item, the Secretariat was asked to circulate a potential draft conclusion, indicating the main issues which it was felt an Executive Committee conclusion could usefully address. Accordingly, the following text was circulated:
Protection of Stateless persons
The Executive Committee,
Concerned that situations of statelessness for individuals and for large groups, entailing complex and serious problems for the persons involved, continue to persist in a number of countries in different parts of the world;
Aware that new statelessness problems have been generated recently, or have the potential to emerge, as a result of political developments and conflict situations in various countries;
Noting that there is no international body with a general mandate to assist and protect stateless persons;
Believing that there is a pressing need to strengthen the framework for protection of stateless persons both at the national and the international levels;
Recommended the following:
- all States should give serious consideration to becoming a party, if they have not yet done so, to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, as well as to enactment of specific national legislation to implement, effectively, responsibilities undertaken pursuant to these Conventions;
- more generally, through adoption or revision of national legislation, whichever is appropriate, States should work to avoid new situations of statelessness and to attenuate or eliminate existing ones; - States should refrain from acts, such as arbitrary or discriminatory deprivation of nationality, leading to situations of statelessness;
- the practice of arbitrary deprivation of nationality should be examined by appropriate human rights bodies with a view to an authoritative statement condemning this practice;
- the significance of the absence of an effective nationality, as well as the responsibilities of States to provide for acquisition or reacquisition of nationality, should be similarly examined and the meaning and content of the right to a nationality elaborated;
- the protection of the rights of stateless persons, in accordance with the principles set out in the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, should be formally entrusted to an appropriate international agency;
- in the interim, UNHCR should continue to exercise the functions mandated to it by the General Assembly(1), pursuant to Article 11 of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, and to consider as part of its responsibilities the promotion of adherence to and implementation of the international instruments relating to statelessness;
- UNHCR should also continue its general efforts on behalf of stateless individuals, including, as and where appropriate, activities which would positively contribute to avoiding new situations of statelessness possibly leading to displacements.
III. PROTECTION ASPECTS OF VOLUNTARY REPATRIATION
22. In introducing this agenda item, the Chief of the General Legal Advice Section noted that the principles constituting the framework for planning and implementing voluntary repatriation programmes had already been elaborated in detail by the Executive Committee in Conclusions 18 (XXXI) and 40 (XXXVI). She proposed, therefore, that the Sub-Committee consider ways to follow up on the Executive Committee recommendation in Conclusion 40 (XXXVI) on the further elaboration of an instrument reflecting all existing principles and guidelines relating to voluntary repatriation for acceptance by the international community as a whole. A first step in this process could be an internationally endorsed set of guidelines to strengthen planning and implementation of future voluntary repatriation operations. Such guidelines could capitalize on the important lessons learned from UNHCR's operational experience with both small- and large-scale repatriation programmes throughout the world, thereby facilitating the work of all involved in making voluntary repatriation a viable and durable solution.
23. In order to facilitate the discussion, the Chairman proposed that delegations address the following three issues in their interventions: the appropriateness of guidelines on voluntary repatriation, States' experience with voluntary repatriation programmes, and whether the development of an international instrument incorporating the basic principles relating to voluntary repatriation was considered appropriate as a longer term goal.
24. In the ensuing debate, many delegations commended UNHCR for preparing a valuable background paper containing useful suggestions for discussion. There was general agreement that the existing principles contained in previous Conclusions form an adequate basis for planning and implementing repatriation programmes. It was noted by some delegations that repatriations to areas where safety was only relative were becoming increasingly frequent and that the implications of this development should be considered further. The security situation of repatriants and relief workers was mentioned as a particular concern in this connection. Several delegations suggested that the protection of individual and spontaneous repatriants be given more careful consideration.
25. There was broad agreement that the elaboration of a non-binding instrument, in the form of guidelines consolidating the basic, recognized principles in voluntary repatriation with the practical experience in planning and implementing repatriation programmes accumulated by UNHCR over the years, would be desirable and of significant value to all parties concerned. Some delegations stressed that the guidelines should only deal with the repatriation of 1951 Convention refugees. Different arrangements were to be agreed for the return of other groups. The particular protection needs of vulnerable groups, notably women and children, were noted by several delegations as an important issue which they would like to see included in the guidelines. Discussion of other issues of relevance to the guidelines included the role of NGOs in repatriation programmes and the link between voluntary repatriation and cessation. It was noted by some delegations that the guidelines would need to be sufficiently flexible to provide adequate leeway for the countries concerned to negotiate all the practical modalities of the operation.
26. Some delegations from regions where major repatriation programmes have been carried out noted the importance of observing basic principles governing voluntary repatriation, notably respect for the voluntariness of the decision to repatriate and the need to create conditions conducive to return. The removal of root causes and the establishment of returnee assistance programmes, with the support of the international community, to facilitate the reintegration process were emphasized as essential elements in ensuring an effective and durable solution to refugee problems. Such programmes could also have a positive impact on the restoration of peace. Several delegations noted the important achievements made under the International Conference on Central American Refugees (CIREFCA) in Central America, notably through its focus on returnee aid and development. Another delegation made reference to the recent Summit on the situation in the Horn of Africa where participants, in the Declaration of the meeting and in the resulting programme of action, stressed the desirability of voluntary repatriation of refugees with assistance from the international community. Delegations were encouraged to study carefully the documents of the Conference.
27. Other delegations recommended that repatriation programmes be considered in a comprehensive manner to include the situation of internally displaced, development aspects and, where necessary, an inter-agency response which would pay due regard to protection concerns. Many delegations emphasized the responsibility of the country of origin to facilitate the safe return of refugees, reinstate their full rights as citizens and allow UNHCR effectively to perform its monitoring role. Effective monitoring of the situation of returnees should be seen as assisting refugees in their decision whether to return and as an incentive for countries of origin to demonstrate their willingness to respect the rights of the returnees.
28. Many delegations expressed the view that, at this stage, a decision on the question of an international instrument was premature. In addition, several delegations voiced concern as to the need and usefulness of a binding multilateral instrument on voluntary repatriation. However, some delegations felt that an international instrument would be an appropriate long-term goal.
29. The Chief of the General Legal Advice Section stated that she had taken due note of the various concerns expressed by the delegations and would consider how they most appropriately could be included in the guidelines.
30. At the end of the debate, the Chairman summarized the discussion, noting that the Sub-Committee had agreed on the appropriateness of UNHCR elaborating guidelines on voluntary repatriation. The guidelines should consolidate recognized basic principles and UNHCR's experience. They should be sufficiently flexible to adapt to the various situations of repatriation and to address the issues raised by delegations in the debate. The Chairman concluded that many delegations were of the view that a decision on a binding multilateral instrument was premature at this stage.
IV. PROTECTION OF PERSONS OF CONCERN TO UNHCR WHO FALL OUTSIDE THE 1951 CONVENTION
31. The Chairman introduced this item by stressing the complexity of the question of whether to create an international regime for this category of persons. He observed that the discussion note prepared by the Secretariat outlined the issues cautiously, without prejudging the debate, and that everyone would benefit from a frank and open dialogue. One question to be considered was the forum for continued discussion, which could be within the Sub-Committee or a more restricted group.
32. In her introductory comments, the Chief of the General Legal Advice Section noted that this topic was the first of the Category II topics listed in the Sub-Committee's plan of work. She explained that the discussion note, EC/1992/SCP/CRP.5, set out certain of the main issues which the Sub-Committee might want to address. The issues were presented as open-ended, with the aim of encouraging discussion. The topic is pertinent not only because of the large number of people affected, but also because of the complications that can arise when States must deal with such persons in an ad hoc manner that may not be understood or supported by public opinion. In addition, there is a growing gap between the responsibilities which States have been prepared to assume and those which they have asked UNHCR to perform.
33. Although five groups of persons are generally considered to be of concern to UNHCR, only the group made up of those fleeing generalized situations of violence is considered in the discussion note. One issue, however, is how to define the group of persons who would be the subject of any new protection regime. Other issues are whether a new international protection regime is needed and, if so, how it should be devised and where it should be discussed. What degree of protection should be provided is another issue. She concluded by noting that even if an international regime is enacted, it can only be part of an overall strategy including prevention, burden-sharing and international solidarity.
34. The Swedish delegate then presented his views on the question of what he called a regional solution for Europe. He affirmed that the 1951 Convention is the basis for the protection of refugees, but pointed out that there were no internationally accepted standards for protecting persons fleeing armed conflict or other disturbances in Europe. Liberal interpretation of the 1951 Convention definition will not suffice in mass flight situations where there is no individual persecution and, in any event, the solutions provided for in the Convention might not sufficiently address the situation.
35. One feature of mass flight situations in Europe is that the need for protection usually is temporary, and swift and safe return is realistic once the conflict has been settled. A "European regime" might include establishment of regional criteria for targeting persons in need of protection, creation of burden-sharing schemes between States, elaboration of a mechanism for designating countries or areas where those who fled could be harboured safely, and establishment of a system for evaluating the possibility and timing of safe return.
36. One problem to be looked into is whether a legal concept should be devised which would define when protection is needed, or whether States should decide among themselves about a given situation. Another problem is finding a mechanism for group determinations without using asylum procedures, while at the same time respecting the provisions of the 1951 Convention as far as refugees are concerned. Still another is the definition of the category of persons who will be protected. In conclusion, the Swedish delegate said that a European solution to the problem of mass flight would not conflict with the interests of those from other continents who require protection and assistance, that the time might not yet be ripe for a global approach, and that with an evolving United Nations mechanism and the experience of countries in other regions with the OAU Convention and the Cartagena Declaration, many parties could give substantial advice to Europe as it sought its own solutions. Finally, he said that a major question was the forum in which the question should be discussed: UNHCR or a regional body such as the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), the Council of Europe or a special body.
37. The Chairman requested, in particular, those countries having experience with the OAU Convention or the Cartagena Declaration to contribute to the debate. Many delegations noted that they would be happy to learn from the experience of others, and a few said they would support a dialogue between European countries on the one hand and Latin American and African countries on the other.
38. In the ensuing discussion, delegations agreed that it was necessary to address the protection needs of this group. Many delegations said that they would study seriously the notion of a regional solution for Europe. One delegation observed that the issue of mass migration of people was among the most important facing the international community. In this connection, the needs of three groups of people, in particular, ought to be addressed: 1951 Convention refugees, people falling within the broader refugee definition and migrants. It was noted that there is a humanitarian challenge of how to deal with the second group. Another challenge was migration control and management of the third group. These challenges were related because the tremendous pressures put on the asylum system by the third group of persons undercut efforts to deal with the second group.
39. On the question of codification, one delegation said that guidelines for a pragmatic approach would be useful, based on further Sub-Committee discussions of problems that arise. This delegation was hesitant to endorse codification at present, since it might be counter-productive to the rapid, flexible response needed. A few delegations observed that an international framework was not the right approach, because of the risk that it would only codify the lowest common denominator of protection, and suggested increased focus on using regional instruments as a basis for national legislation.
40. However, one delegation suggested that five outcomes might be obtained by arriving at an alternative framework to the 1951 Convention: a faster and surer international response; lessened pressure on the 1951 Convention; increased confidence on the part of the host country that its burden would be shared by other countries; promotion of increased international scrutiny of human rights practices in countries of origin, since state responsibility would be highlighted; and strengthened emphasis on repatriation as the desirable solution, which could also serve to discourage persons seeking only to migrate from joining a mass outflow. Several delegations said that no progress had been made from the time of the discussion on this topic in the Working Group on Solutions and Protection and urged that the refugee concept be expanded on the international level. Some delegations said that the experience of the Persian Gulf conflict demonstrated the need for one unified definition to deal with refugees, and commented that there was an imperative need to bring international law into conformity with reality by redefining the term refugee.
41. With regard to the question of a forum, a few delegations thought that it was not necessary for the Sub-Committee to establish a working group at this time, as it was too soon to provide such a group with a focused, task-oriented mandate. Several delegations preferred to have the topic remain on the agenda where it could be the subject of a frequent exchange of views. However, another delegation supported the creation of a working group, to avoid fragmentation between regions. This delegation said that there was a need for a universal solution to allow UNHCR to act as the multilateral body that it is. Another delegation suggested that UNHCR be encouraged to take an active role in regional dialogues, such as on implementation of regional instruments and regional standard-setting, and also commented that this issue would be an important part of the High Commissioner's internal Working Group on International Protection. Global action would indeed be preceded by regional action. Two delegations noted that the discussion of these problems among European Community countries had already produced results and, thus, this framework was important for future action.
42. With respect to related issues that could be addressed, one delegation commented that the issue of humanitarian access also deserved the Sub-Committee's attention. Other aspects of the problem were early warning, and conflict prevention and resolution. A few delegations said that root causes should be at the forefront of the discussion. Another delegation commented that a legal approach does not preclude a preventive approach. Two delegations suggested that the papers they had submitted to the Working Group on Solutions and Protection on this topic might be useful in further discussions. It was also stated that it was of particular importance to consider protection standards appropriate for regions not covered by the OAU Convention or the Cartagena Declaration or with low accession rates to the 1951 Convention.
43. The Director of International Protection said that it had been an interesting and fruitful discussion. Although finding a solution will not be easy, all delegations had requested that the question remain on the agenda, thereby showing a desire to seek such a solution. He noted that looking at the problem in its regional dimensions was not contrary to a universal regime, and recalled that the 1951 Convention was originally devised in response to a European problem. He said that all comments and contributions would be studied carefully and would be reflected in the internal Working Group on International Protection. He concluded by thanking the members of the Sub-Committee for their words of welcome, and said that he would transmit their messages of appreciation to Mr. Moussalli.
44. The Chairman stated that he was pleased with the discussions on such a delicate and controversial subject and appreciated their frank and open nature. His personal assessment of the discussions was that there was a broad consensus that the situation was far from satisfactory and that there was a need for this increased protection. He also felt that there was a fairly broad consensus that a working group was premature, and that all delegations had thought the topic should be kept on the agenda so that regional developments would have a certain coherence.
V. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
45. As indicated under agenda item 1, the discussion on the revised draft conclusion on cessation led to a wider general discussion on the extent to and manner in which the Sub-Committee could most appropriately reach conclusions on its deliberations and which drafting mechanism should be considered. Several delegations stressed that conclusions on protection issues provide valuable guidance to the international community and UNHCR for future reference. Conclusions were also useful in the sense that they encouraged the Sub-Committee to focus its debate on concrete recommendations. It was recognized, however, that not all issues discussed necessarily require or lend themselves to conclusions. Some issues might be addressed more appropriately in a summary by the Chairman.
46. It was generally recognized that the Sub-Committee, in plenary session, was not a suitable forum for conducting drafting exercises. Resort to the Friends of the Rapporteur at the annual Executive Committee meeting was recommended by some delegations as the most appropriate drafting mechanism. This would allow the Sub-Committee more time for discussion on the substance of issues. Other delegations felt that such a procedure might prove cumbersome. They suggested that the Sub-Committee designate a small drafting committee which would meet during the inter-sessional meetings. A delegation noted that the current procedure, where UNHCR prepares a first draft which is then considered in capitals and comments referred back to UNHCR for preparation of a revised draft, is an adequate mechanism which allows for the necessary consultations on complex protection issues. Its efficiency was dependent, however, on delegations providing general comments on the substance under discussion rather than drafting proposals. Another delegation stressed that the Sub-Committee should not proceed to discuss the possible wording of a conclusion before the substance had been fully discussed. One delegation stressed that whatever drafting mechanism the Sub-Committee chose, it should be understood that only the Executive Committee is competent to adopt conclusions.
47. At the end of the debate, the Chairman summarized the discussion as follows. The role of the Sub-Committee is to facilitate the work of the Executive Committee. The inter-sessional meetings provide delegations with the opportunity to exchange views in preparatory discussions on protection issues. As appropriate, the Sub-Committee could also look at other protection problems which usually are discussed at the annual Executive Committee meeting. With regard to conclusions, the Sub-Committee should maintain a pragmatic and flexible approach, while recognizing that they are extremely useful to many Governments and UNHCR. Where it was felt that a formal set of conclusions was not necessary, a summary by the Chairman would suffice. When conclusions were needed, a drafting committee should be established during the inter-sessional meetings. Such conclusions would be considered by the Executive Committee. This procedure should allow sufficient time for delegations to consult their capitals.
48. At the end of the session, the Chairman informed the Sub-Committee that the Secretariat had undertaken consultations with delegations on the agenda and timing for the next meeting. There was broad consensus on the suitability of Thursday, 25 June. As the next session will be a one day meeting, the Chairman proposed that, of the three remaining issues in Category I, implementation of the 1951 Convention be considered by the Sub-Committee on 25 June.
1 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 3274 (XXIX) of December 1974 and UNGA resolution 31/36 (XXXI) of November 1976.