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UN adopts draft resolution to strengthen UNHCR's mandate for refugees

UN adopts draft resolution to strengthen UNHCR's mandate for refugees

The UN General Assembly's Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) has approved and adopted a draft resolution that includes removing the time limit on the refugee agency's mandate and encouraging other UN partners to include refugees in their plans.
14 November 2003
In Sri Lanka, this young returnee's family was able to buy goats with UNHCR assistance as part of the agency's efforts to find durable solutions for refugees and returnees.

NEW YORK, Nov 14 (UNHCR) - A UN General Assembly committee has adopted a draft resolution to strengthen the UN refugee agency's capacity to carry out its work more effectively by removing the time limit on its mandate and encouraging other UN partners to include refugees in their plans.

On Thursday, member States of the UN General Assembly's Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) approved and adopted by consensus the draft resolution on the outcome of the "UNHCR 2004" process, an initiative to help the agency better position itself to carry out its commitment to refugees, returnees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other persons of concern.

Effectively, this will lift the time limitation on UNHCR's mandate and extend it until the refugee problem is solved. Currently, the agency has to renew its mandate every five years.

The time limitation is "anachronistic and no longer reflects today's realities," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers in a presentation to the committee in New York last week. He added that removing it will "strengthen the multilateral approach to managing global challenges" relating to persons of concern and "translate into stronger commitment from States to UNHCR's mandate, thus leading to improved standards of care and protection and opening up more opportunities for finding durable solutions."

There is a need for effective coordination and partnerships in times of crisis, stressed the High Commissioner, noting that UNHCR is actively working with relevant UN partners to improve strategies aimed at ensuring better preparedness, timelier interventions and more comprehensive delivery of services and solutions, both for refugees and IDPs.

The resolution, tabled by Denmark following the presentation of the High Commissioner's report, will streamline reporting requirements through the Economic and Social Council and to the General Assembly, and encourage other actors within the UN system to include refugees and other persons of concern in their planning and activities.

In particular, it calls for refugees to be included in development processes and highlights the need for strategies that integrate durable solutions for refugees and IDPs in situations where both groups are returning home.

At the same time, the resolution encourages UNHCR to play an active role in joint efforts with the UN Departments of Political Affairs and Peacekeeping Operations to find durable solutions for refugees in conflict and post-conflict situations.

A collaborative approach is crucial when it comes to IDPs, Lubbers noted, cautioning that the usual approach is often too ad hoc.

"More needs to be done to strengthen this approach, to ensure more rapid agreement on the interagency division of labour, better planning, faster operational deployment and improved funding," he said, pointing to partnerships with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Looking at longer-term solutions, the High Commissioner reiterated, "I continue to insist that the search for durable solutions must become more systematic and must begin at the outset of each new refugee crisis."

As part of this effort, UNHCR has started the Framework for Durable Solutions, which is now accepted in the UN family. Ongoing projects in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Zambia are concrete examples of this initiative, which consists of three elements.

First, it aims to better target Development Assistance for Refugees (DAR) to countries hosting large numbers of long-time refugees. Second, it promotes an integrated approach to repatriation, reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction (4Rs) in post-conflict situations. Third, it encourages host countries to tap on the productive potential of refugees through the strategy of Development through Local Integration (DLI).

Overall, Lubbers, in his presentation, called for more international burden-sharing and focus on achieving durable solutions. These, he said, could be achieved by developing multilateral agreements under the Convention Plus initiative he has launched to strengthen and complement the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol.

To finance all these undertakings, the High Commissioner said the current ad hoc approach to funding must be adapted to reflect UNHCR's global responsibilities and the expectations of the international community.

He proposed new measures to broaden the agency's funding base and diversify its sources beyond its current dependence on a small group of donors. While voluntary contributions remain the primary source of UNHCR's funding, the agency has developed a 30-percent base level model for willing states and is seeking donations from the private sector.

In addition, States have called for the application of the provision in UNHCR's Statute whereby its administrative expenses should be covered by the regular budget of the UN.

The draft resolution is expected to be formally adopted by the General Assembly Plenary next month.