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UNHCR's Activities for Refugee Law Promotion, Dissemination and Training

Executive Committee Meetings

UNHCR's Activities for Refugee Law Promotion, Dissemination and Training

30 May 1997


1. This information note provides an overview of activities undertaken by UNHCR in the area of refugee law promotion, dissemination and training in 1996 and the first half of 1997. It updates information contained in the Information Note on UNHCR's Activities for Refugee Law Promotion, Dissemination and Training (EC/SCP/91), submitted to the twenty-seventh meeting of the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection in September 1995, in regard to promotion and dissemination activities by region and their financial implications. These activities continue to follow the global trends identified in that note, namely, the development of promotion networks; the dissemination of refugee law by electronic means; the promotion of accession to international instruments; and the promotion of the adoption of domestic legislation which implements international instruments related to refugee law.

2. Information additional to that contained in this present note may be found in the Follow-up on the Implementation of the Programme of Action of the CIS Conference (EC/47/SC/CRP.35), and the Note on UNHCR and Statelessness Activities (EC/47/SC/CRP.31) submitted to this meeting of the Standing Committee. Reference can also be made to Enhancing UNHCR's Capacity for Policy Research, Analysis and Dissemination (EC/46/SC/CRP.49 of 19 August 1996); Information Note; Documentation Recently Issued by the Division of International Protection (EC/46/SC/CRP.39 of 28 March 1996); and UNHCR's Role in National Legal and Judicial Capacity-Building (EC/46/SC/CRP.31 of 28 May 1996).

3. The Division of International Protection manages the UNHCR Central Fund for the Protection of Refugees in Various Countries. This project's approved budget for 1997 stands at $ 790,000, of which $ 440,000 have been earmarked for activities relating to the promotion of refugee law. In addition, the financial management of protection training activities for non-UNHCR staff, which constitute an important segment of UNHCR's refugee law promotion activities world-wide, has been, to a very large extent, delegated to Field Offices.

4. The Division's technical support to regional and national promotion initiatives consists of advising Field Offices regarding their strategies and planned activities, and in coordinating approaches at the regional level; in facilitating and fostering exchanges of information and documentation among Field Offices; and in training protection staff in acquiring or enhancing promotion and training skills, and techniques. With regard to this last support activity, 72 staff members have been trained as protection trainers between September 1995 and March 1997.

I. Africa

5. The number and quality of promotional activities within the countries of the African continent have risen considerably in 1996 and 1997, and a more systematic approach to these activities has been facilitated by the establishment of sub-regional coordinators in Dakar, Senegal, Nairobi, Kenya, and Pretoria, South Africa. Contacts have been developed with the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and other human rights institutions, as well as with the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Southern African Development Community, resulting in an increased number of joint promotion activities. The teaching of refugee law has been actively supported in universities in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Senegal, South Africa, the United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Refugee law and protection courses have been, or will be, organized this year in Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, the Sudan, the United Republic of Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

II. Asia and Oceania

6. UNHCR's promotion activities in Asia and Oceania have revolved around three main axes: support of an initiative launched by the Australian Government to harmonize refugee reception policies in East and South-East Asia and the Pacific; continued sponsoring of Consultations on Refugee Issues and Migratory Movements in South Asia; and assistance to the Asian-African Legal Consultative Committee (AALCC) in laying the groundwork for a re-examination of the 1966 Bangkok Principles on Status and Treatment of Refugees. In regard to the latter assistance, an important seminar, hosted in December 1996 by the Government of the Philippines, with the financial support of the Government of Japan, led to the adoption by the AALCC, at its thirty-sixth session in May 1997 in Tehran, the Islamic Republic of Iran, of a resolution calling for the convening of a group of experts which will prepare an updated set of principles.

7. Refugee law and protection courses have been, or will be organized this year in Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Thailand and Viet Nam. The teaching of refugee law has been actively supported by UNHCR in universities in Bangladesh, China, India and Thailand.

III. Europe

8. Issues related to the implementation of the 1951 Convention/1967 Protocol and the development of refugee status determination procedures were at the heart of training activities undertaken by UNHCR in Central and Eastern Europe. In Western Europe, training of government counterparts and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) remains an important component of UNHCR's protection activities, increasingly taking into account European Union policies and standards. Refugee law training activities have been carried out in 1996 and the first months of 1997 in all European countries, including, for the first time, the former Yugoslavia. In Central and Eastern Europe, UNHCR activities also focused on capacity and institution-building, including in the context of implementation of the CIS Conference Programme of Action. UNHCR continued its cooperation with the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) to enhance the capacity of NGOs in Central European countries.

9. Activities for refugee law promotion, dissemination and training in Europe, which also include the translation and printing of reference and teaching materials into over a dozen languages, are facilitated by the existence of a regional coordination unit, based at Headquarters, which administers a project for these purposes. In 1997, this project amounts to $ 730,000.

IV. The Americas

10. UNHCR's activities in Latin America and the Caribbean have continued to focus on capacity-building for the dual purpose of consolidating refugee reception structures and preventing the resurgence of conditions that might lead to further displacements of population. In this connection, particular emphasis has been placed on strengthening links with the expanding network of human rights institutions, including ombudsmen, in Latin America. In 1996 and 1997, refugee law and protection training courses have been or will be carried out in Argentina, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.

V. Central Asia, South West Asia, North Africa and the Middle East

11. The promotion and dissemination of refugee law and protection principles remains a priority for UNHCR in the region, particularly where UNHCR's presence is relatively recent, as in the Persian Gulf or in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) republics of Central Asia. A major promotion and training drive has been undertaken in this last area as a follow-up to the CIS Conference. In September 1997 UNHCR and the International Institute of Humanitarian Law in San Remo, Italy, will organize in Cairo, Egypt, in cooperation with the League of Arab States, the first international refugee law course in Arabic for government officials. The teaching of refugee law and research on refugee issues has been actively supported by UNHCR in universities and migration study centres in Egypt, Jordan, the West Bank, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Refugee law and protection training courses have been or will be organized in 1996 and 1997 in Cyprus, Egypt, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Yemen.