Addendum to the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
REPORT OF THE TWENTY-NINTH SESSION OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE HIGH COMMISSIONER'S PROGRAMME1
(Geneva, 9-17 October 1978)
1. The Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme held its twenty-ninth session from 9 October to 17 October 1978 at the Palais des Nations, Geneva.
A. Election of officers
2. Under rule 10 of the rules of procedure, which provides that officers shall be elected for the whole year, the Committee elected the following officers by acclamation:
|Chairman:||Mr. R. Harry Jay (Canada)|
|Vice-Chairman:||Mr. A. A. Mohammed (Nigeria)|
|Rapporteur:||Mr. H. Griffin (Venezuela)|
B. Representation on the Committee
3. The members of the Committee were represented at the session as follows:
|Germany Federal Republic of||Turkey|
|Holy See||United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland|
|Iran||United Republic of Tanzania|
|Israel||United States of America|
4. The Governments of the following States were each represented by an observer:
5. The United Nations system was represented as follows:
Office of the United Nations Disaster relief Co-ordinator (UNDRO)
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
World Food Programme (WFP)
International Labour Organisation (ILO)
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)
World Health Organisation (WHO)
6. The following intergovernmental organizations were represented by observers:
Commission of European Communities
Council of Europe
Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM)
League of Arab States
Organization of American States (OAS)
Organization of African Unity (OAU)
7. The following were also represented at the meeting:
African National Congress of South Africa (ANC)
Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC)
South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO)
Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU)
Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU)
C. Adoption of the agenda
Decision of the Committee
8. The Executive Committee decided to adopt the following agenda:
1. Election of officers.
2. Adoption of the agenda (A/AC.96/551/Rev.2).
3. Statement by the High Commissioner and general debate (A/AC.96/INF-154 and A/AC.961/INF.155).
4. International protection (A/AC.96/555).
5. Voluntary funds accounts for 1977 and report of the Board of Auditors (A/AC.96/552 and Add.1).
6. UNHCR assistance activities (A/AC.96/553, Add.1 and Add.2, A/AC.96/556 and 557).
7. Status of contributions and over-all financial situation for 1978 and 1979 (A/AC.96/554).
8. Any other questions.
9. Consideration of the draft report on the session.
II. STATEMENT BY THE HIGH COMMISSIONER AND GENERAL DEBATE
A. Statement by the High Commissioner2
9. In reviewing his first nine months of office, the High Commissioner said that in the course of his missions to 25 countries on four continents he had everywhere met with expressions of trust and appreciation by Governments for the activities of UNHCR. He was also very gratified to note the wide representation of Governments, liberation movements, and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations at this session of the Executive Committee, which was a clear indication of the universality of problems of refugees and displaced persons as well as of the search for solutions to those problems.
10. Since assuming office, and following his missions to Africa and South-East Asia he had no doubts as to the multitude of essential tasks facing his Office. In accordance with its Statute UNHCR must seek permanent solutions to the problems of refugees, through voluntary repatriation, or through their assimilation either in countries of first asylum or of resettlement. The High Commissioner was able to report on positive developments in this respect. He emphasized, however, that for all durable solutions UNHCR and the individuals concerned were dependent on the will of Governments, and he stressed the desirability of rapid decisions in the interests of economy and the welfare of the refugees.
11. Turning to the grave refugee situation in Africa, the High Commissioner said that his first mission on assuming office was to southern Africa, where UNHCR was deeply engaged in assisting many thousands of refugees from Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, as well as a growing number of South African student refugees. In the Horn of Africa UNHCR was coordinating a United Nations programme of humanitarian assistance to refugees and displaced persons. The Governments of Angola and Zaire had recently requested his Office to assist with the repatriation between their countries of large numbers of refugees. Furthermore, UNHCR stood ready to undertake an important role in the return home of Namibians,
12. As regards South-East Asia, the High Commissioner emphasized the need for a coordinated policy to provide a real impact on the problem of the continually increasing numbers of persons of concern to his Office. He emphasized the interrelationships in the situation and urged that help be provided to refugees and displaced persons wherever they are, in all parts of the region. The High Commissioner said that the situation called for a continuing process of consultation between his Office and interested Governments, and he proposed to call consultative meetings as the need arose, on this and on other problems. The need for concerted action was all the more important since the pace of resettlement had an influence on asylum policy in the region and on the development of local possibilities for self-sufficiency.
13. There was also an urgent need for resettlement opportunities in Latin America, notably in Argentina. However, the High Commissioner believed that a further effort on the part of Governments could solve a major problem which had already existed for too long. UNHCR had also recently responded to requests from Governments in Central America for assistance for newly arrived refugees.
14. In Europe, the Office's traditional efforts had continued, particularly in the field of protection. Many countries in Europe were facing new problems relating to the settlement of arrivals from other continents.
15. With regard to the financing of UNHCR's programmes, the High Commissioner told the Committee that, thanks to the generosity of Governments in responding to his appeals for funds, the 1978 General Programmes were now fully financed and that over $55 million had been provided for the Special Programmes. For 1979, the General Programmes, as proposed to the Committee, amounted to $87.8 million, a figure substantially higher than the revised programme for 1978. However, this increase was largely due to the proposed transfer to the General Programmes of certain continuing measures, notably the programme of assistance to refugees and displaced persons from the Indo-Chinese peninsula. The increase in total expenditures was expected to be minimal.
16. In an attempt to give Governments earlier notice of likely financial requirements in order to facilitate their budget planning, and following discussions with Governments in various capitals, the High Commissioner said that he had submitted a tentative estimate at $360 million based on past experience and in respect of the anticipated requirements for the three-year period beginning in 1979, or an average of $120 million per year. It was hoped that this would enable Governments to announce increased contributions at the Pledging Conference. Such a development would make for more organized programme implementation at the beginning of each year and result in greater cost-effectiveness, to the benefit of the refugee and to the countries of asylum which already did so much at national cost for these people.
17. The foundation from which all other aspects of the Office's work sprang, however, was the protection function, for which the interest and support of the Executive Committee were critical. The Office had continued to promote accessions to the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, and the High Commissioner was concerned that there remained geographical areas where accessions were minimal. The Office also continued to work to ensure that obligations under the basic instruments were implemented in municipal law.
18. The question of asylum continued to cause grave concern, by the number of cases that were refused, and the fate of "boat people" continued to be of particular concern. The High Commissioner drew attention to the joint UNHCR/Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO) appeal to shipmasters, urging that the international principles relating to rescue at sea be scrupulously followed and he expressed the hope that Governments would take the decision to accept for resettlement those "boat people" rescued by ships flying their flags.
19. The High Commissioner went on to express his appreciation for the continuing co-operation received from the United Nations system, and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.
20. In the course of the year the Executive Committee itself had been the subject of Economic and Social Council resolution 1978/36 recommending to the General Assembly that membership of the Committee be increased by up to nine additional members. The High Commissioner welcomed this development and looked forward to the eventual increase in membership of the Executive Committee in the hope that it would advance the work on which UNHCR and Governments were jointly embarked.
B. General debate
21. Representatives and observers paid tribute to the efforts of the High Commissioner and his staff for their devotion to the cause of refugees and displaced persons and for the manner in which his Office had discharged its task despite the increasing complexity and scale of problems confronting it throughout the world. Representatives stressed the non-political and humanitarian character of the High Commissioner's work, as provided for in the Statute, which remained the key to his effectiveness. Recognizing the growing interest in the work of UNHCR, many speakers welcomed the Economic and Social Council resolution recommending to the General Assembly that membership of the Executive Committee be increased by up to nine members. Certain delegations stressed that the increase should be from among countries faced with large-scale refugee problems, particularly in Africa. Others stressed that the new members should be drawn from those with a demonstrated interest in and devotion to the solution of the refugee problem and that particular attention should be given to those that had acceded to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol.
22. Representatives reaffirmed the prime importance of the protection function of the High Commissioner's Office and the continuing necessity for accession by a greater number of countries to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol. Equally important was the implementation in national law and practice of the obligations thus assumed, in order to ensure the observance of the basic rights of refugees. Since States which were not parties to the instruments were being increasingly faced with refugee problems, it was also felt that these States should be encouraged to give favourable consideration to the principles enshrined in the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol. The Committee regretted the slow rate of accessions to international instruments. Many representatives stressed the importance of the observance of the principle of non-refoulement, while some mentioned the need for harmonizing the application of criteria for determining refugee status.
23. The question of more universal participation in UNHCR programmes was placed before the Committee by a number of speakers. Representatives recognized the heavy burden imposed on countries of first asylum, notably those with low per capita incomes, which nevertheless extend hospitality and help to the maximum of their capacity. The traditional donors therefore called on other countries, especially those with the means to do so, to contribute generously to the General and Special Programmes, and on the High Commissioner to make every effort to encourage the widening of the base of regular financial support. The addition of new contributors would, of course, not be expected to reduce the level of support from the present donors. On this subject, the High Commissioner was pleased to inform the Committee that most traditional donors had increased their contributions and that major financial participation had been secured from Governments not previously among the main contributors.
24. Speakers from countries of first refuge, notably those that have shared their resources and land with masses of newcomers in urgent need of immediate relief, stressed that, while they were fully committed to bearing their humanitarian responsibilities, it was necessary that their burden be more equitably shared. Immigration countries and other countries of resettlement were called upon to admit larger numbers of refugees and displaced persons so as to reduce the caseload in those countries which, owing to their geographical location, were obliged to ensure the initial survival of the newcomers. The introduction or expansion of annual immigration quotas was suggested in order to achieve better planning and to avoid accumulation resulting from sudden massive influxes in countries of first refuge.
25. As regards refugees and displaced persons from the Indo-Chinese peninsula, the Committee expressed the view that closely coordinated efforts were needed for maximum impact on a situation of growing complexity. The view was widely expressed that countries of first refuge should be relieved of the disproportionate burden which they are currently bearing and could ill afford, and that a greater number of countries should become involved in the resettlement of refugees. The Committee welcomed the High Commissioner's intention to call well-organized and substantive consultative meetings with all interested Governments and noted, in particular, the view of the Australian delegation that the first of these consultations should be held before the end of 1978.
26. Deep concern was also expressed by a number of representatives regarding the dramatic situation of refugees and displaced persons who left their countries in small, frequently unseaworthy, boats and risked the perils of the high seas. While some of these persons were generously admitted for temporary residence by countries in South-East Asia and others were rescued by passing ships, the Committee deplored the persisting incidence of ships disregarding distress signals. A number of representatives informed the Committee that ship owners and operators registered in their country had been directed to respect international maritime law and tradition in this respect. Further, they gave the assurance that persons thus rescued would be admitted for resettlement in their country if not accepted by any other country. Moreover many representatives stressed that persons rescued at sea should be allowed to disembark at the first port of call against assurances that they would be resettled elsewhere. It was added that UNHCR should inform the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO) of the names of ships that ignored signals of distress, so that such information could be brought to the attention of countries of ownership or registration.
27. Many delegations, including the observers of the OAU and the liberation movements, spoke of the vast refugee problems in Africa, the strain that these imposed on host countries and, in particular, on the front-line States that were faced with an increasing number of arrivals from Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. They condemned the armed attacks on refugees in southern Africa. Furthermore, they emphasized that the countries of Africa had been most generous in granting asylum by making land and other facilities available. However, there was need for the international community to help to the maximum to alleviate the burden being borne by African States, particularly those of the front-line. In this connexion, speakers urged the closest co-operation between UNHCR and the OAU and, in particular, called for support for the Pan African Conference on the Situation of Refugees in Africa, to be held at Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania in May 1979.
28. Several representatives commented on the considerable efforts of the High Commissioner in various areas of Africa, notably in the southern region and in the Horn. Many welcomed the developments between Zaire and Angola and urged the High Commissioner and all Governments to give every help in facilitating the voluntary repatriation of refugees. As concern was expressed by certain representatives that the volume of assistance for refugees in Africa was declining, the High Commissioner explained that this was not the position. Indeed, the General Programmes for 1979 contained a higher allocation than those for 1978, and additional funds would be sought for further tasks which were presently being planned.
29. Certain representatives stressed the flow of refugees into Europe in recent years, particularly from other continents. The role of UNHCR as a catalyst in Europe was underlined, as was the support of European countries for the efforts of the High Commissioner. Referring to Latin America, members of the Committee took note of recent developments and urged, in relation to refugees who had been in Argentina and other countries for some years, that a concerted effort be made to resettle them.
30. In referring to the question of displaced persons in Cyprus, several representatives agreed on the continuing need for United Nations humanitarian assistance, which was coordinated by the High Commissioner at the request of the Secretary-General. Tribute was paid to the High Commissioner for the manner in which he was accomplishing this task. Appreciation and gratitude were also expressed for the generosity of all donor countries in their assistance to all displaced persons in Cyprus.
31. The representative of Greece referred to the 200,000 displaced persons in Cyprus who had been expelled by force from their homes in 1974. In spite of United Nations resolutions, these persons were still not allowed to return to their homes in safety, and therefore were in need of continuing international assistance. The presence among the displaced persons of huge numbers of children and aged persons made the situation facing the Cypriot Government even more difficult, especially in view of the continuing occupation of 40 per cent of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus. Unacceptable practices such as colonization further aggravated the problem. If the party which held the key to a solution did not apply the United Nations resolutions, another permanent refugee problem would be created.
32. The representative of Turkey said that the Executive Committee should be kept out of politics and the discussion should be confined exclusively to the genuine refugee problems. He pointed out that using he problem of displaced persons in Cyprus as political capital not only undermined the prospects of its solution, but also seriously affected the work of the Committee. It was obvious that the purpose behind remarks made was not to deal with the particular refugee problem but to exploit the humanitarian concern of the international community. He said that it was regrettable that there should be a question of displaced persons in Cyprus, and that the Turkish Community was well aware of the hardship this contained, since two thirds of that community had experienced it for the previous 15 years. He stated that he did not desire to analyse the reasons which had brought about this hardship, but just wished to point out that a State could not be relieved of its past responsibilities through a change of government.
33. In the course of the debate, many speakers commended the High Commissioner on the comprehensive presentation of the General Programmes. Others stressed the need to ensure that the transfer of certain activities from the Special Programmes took into account the requirements of refugees in all regions of the world. Commenting on the new presentation of the General Programmes, several representatives expressed the view that the proposed three-year estimate would assist Governments in planning their contributions to UNHCR.
34. Representatives felt that, since the inception of the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection, the work of the Committee had been expedited and made more efficient. Certain representatives therefore made the proposal that a sub-committee on assistance might also be established or additional time be accorded to the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection prior to the full session. Therefore, once the session started, it would be possible in the first instance to concentrate attention and time more methodically, first on protection and then on assistance programmes. The High Commissioner expressed the view that, subject to further consideration and consultation, the work of the Committee would gain in efficiency by having two days set aside for the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection, prior to the full session.
35. In regard to recent administrative arrangements in UNHCR, two speakers felt that the reclassification of certain functions at the senior level was not urgent, whereas others endorsed the High Commissioner's proposals to reorganize his Office in the interests of better management and efficiency, given the increase in and complexity of the problems facing the Office. Two representatives recalled that posts initially financed from Voluntary Funds which related to the statutory functions of the Office should in principle be transferred to the regular budget of the United Nations. A spokesman for the Office agreed that efforts would continue to be made to transfer such staff expenditure to the regular budget as soon as possible.
36. Warm tribute was paid to the invaluable co-operation between UNHCR and other members of the United Nations system, voluntary agencies, governmental and non-governmental organizations. Government speakers expressed appreciation of the close co-ordination between UNHCR and other organizations; the resulting complementarity of effort ensured effective implementation of projects, the avoidance of duplication and the optimum use of all available resources.
37. The observer for the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) put before the Committee some of the current concerns of the Council with regard to refugee problems throughout the world. He drew attention to the plight in which refugees and displaced persons found themselves and spoke of their loneliness and alienation, as well as of areas where refugees were particularly exposed to murder and kidnapping. He deplored political motivations that led to the denial of asylum. It was necessary to clarify and reinforce the concept of territorial asylum and a convention on the subject was still required. The observer stated that, in response to an invitation from the High Commissioner, ICVA members were considering the creation of a contact group in order to work more closely with UNHCR.
Decision of the Committee
38. The Executive Committee,
(a) Expressed appreciation of the introductory statement by the High Commissioner and noted with grave concern the many problems confronting his Office;
(b) Commended the High Commissioner for the eminently humanitarian manner in which he had approached and discharged his functions during his first months in office, for the considerable effort he had personally made to visit major groups of refugees and displaced persons of concern to his Office, and for his efforts to mobilize international support and understanding on the widest possible basis;
(c) Stressed the need for further accessions to the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol, and fully shared the High Commissioner's preoccupations regarding the international protection of refugees;
(d) Expressed grave concern that refugees too often faced the threat of refoulement, arbitrary detention and the denial of asylum and that,, particularly by the racist régimes in southern Africa, their security was imperilled by armed assaults across international borders which the international community had consistently condemned;
(e) Welcomed the High Commissioner's intention to call consultative meetings in Geneva, or elsewhere, with all interested Governments on matters that require continuing or urgent attention;
(f) Commended the High Commissioner for his comprehensive presentation of the General Programmes for 1979 and stressed the need to ensure that, in the transfer of certain measures from Special to General Programmes, the needs of refugees in all regions of the world are appropriately and fully taken into account;
(g) Recognized, in this connexion, the value of communicating to Governments an estimate of global financial requirements over a three-year period and noted that, on the basis of current annual needs, this would amount to some $360 million; it was understood that the refugee problem, by its very nature, was unpredictable and might nevertheless require special appeals on occasion;
(h) Noted with appreciation the continuing co-operation between UNHCR and the various agencies and programmes of the United Nations system, as well as with other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations with a view to using the widest assistance for the benefit of refugees and displaced persons;
(i) Welcomed the recommendation of the Economic and Social Council, through its resolution 1978/36 to "increase the membership of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme";
(j) Commended the close co-operation between UNHCR and the various regional organizations and requested in particular that every possible support be extended to the Pan African Conference on the Situation of Refugees in Africa due to be held at Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania,, in May 1979.
The Executive Committee,
(a) Noted with interest the statements on behalf of the Organization of African Unity and the observers from the African National Congress of South Africa, the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania, the South West Africa People's Organization, the Zimbabwe African National Union and the Zimbabwe African People's Union;
(b) Urged all States and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to increase their assistance through UNHCR or bilaterally to African States, especially to those in the front-line, in order to alleviate the burden resulting from the care, maintenance and settlement of the growing number of refugees in Africa, and particularly those from Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa;
(c) Noted the progress in the discussions between UNHCR and the British authorities to regularize the status of Zimbabweans holding British concessionary passports and requested to be kept informed of developments;
(d) Commended the High Commissioner for the humanitarian operation he is coordinating for refugees and displaced persons in the Horn of Africa and urged all States to respond generously to his efforts;
(e) Welcomed the progress in the consultations on the refugee situation between the parties concerned in Angola and Zaire, as well as the efforts of the High Commissioner to promote the voluntary repatriation of these refugees; invited Governments to respond generously to appeals for funds which the High Commissioner may have to launch in order to finance the appropriate measures of assistance.
The Executive Committee,
Having heard with great sympathy the statement of the delegate of Lebanon on the vast problems confronting the displaced persons in his country as a result of recent events, and having heard his appeal for assistance on their behalf,
Urged the High Commissioner to continue his humanitarian efforts for the displaced persons in Lebanon and called upon Governments to contribute urgently through UNHCR or bilaterally in this regard.
The Executive Committee,
Having recorded its concern about the growing number of refugees in South-East Asia, and recognizing the difficulties encountered by countries of first refuge, particularly since current resettlement programmes did not provide sufficient places for the numbers involved,
(a) Undertook to continue to support the High Commissioner's efforts to draw the attention of the international community to the increasing magnitude of the problem, the human suffering involved and the burden on countries of first refuge;
(b) Urged all concerned to give full consideration to means of resolving this problem by giving appropriate assistance for programmes in countries of first refuge and by intensifying action to promote resettlement of the refugees in a wider range of countries;
(c) Welcomed the intention of the High Commissioner to call well-organized and substantive consultations on the above matters with all interested Governments, and noted that he intended to call the first such consultation before the end of 1978.
The Executive Committee,
Having recalled the obligation of ships to rescue persons in distress at sea, a practice established by customary international law and embodied in international agreements, and having recognized that while large numbers of refugees had been so rescued, some ships had continued to refuse to rescue those in distress on the high seas;
(a) Commended the High Commissioner for his efforts on behalf of refugees at sea;
(b) Further commended the masters and owners of ships who had acted in accordance with the humane traditions of the maritime community and the States that had offered temporary or permanent asylum to refugees rescued at sea;
(c) Called on all States to instruct ships flying their flags to rescue refugees in distress at sea and on all coastal States to provide at least temporary asylum to refugees coming to their shores as a first port of call or otherwise in grave jeopardy;
(d) Called on the international community to co-operate with the High Commissioner in this regard and to support his continuing efforts to obtain resettlement assurances that would facilitate disembarkation;
(e) Recommended that the High Commissioner inform the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization of ships that disregard distress signals at sea, so that such information can be brought to the attention of countries of ownership or registration;
(f) Called upon all States to apply special and accelerated procedures for the examination of requests for permanent asylum and resettlement of those refugees who are rescued at sea by ships flying flags other than their own.
III. INTERNATIONAL PROTECTION (Item 4 of the agenda)
39. Introducing the note on international protection (A/AC.96/555), the Director of Protection said that international protection had two principal aspects. Firstly, there was the need to strengthen and develop its legal framework, the basis of which was the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, and to ensure that the provisions of these instruments were effectively implemented. Secondly, there was the need to exercise international protection, sometimes on an emergency basis, on behalf of individuals or groups of refugees.
40. The Director of Protection said that pursuant to a recommendation made by the Committee at its twenty-eighth session, the High Commissioner had taken action with a view to promoting further accessions to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol. He gave information on recent accessions to these instruments as well as to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, and to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.
41. With respect to the implementation of various international instruments established for the benefit of refugees, it was gratifying to note that there had been some measure of progress in the field of economic and social rights. Implementation gave rise to special problems in those States in which the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol had not been incorporated into internal law.
42. The establishment of procedures for the determination of refugee status constituted an important aspect of implementation. Due to the great diversity of administrative systems and attitudes the Executive Committee at its twenty-eighth session had decided to adopt certain minimum requirements which all procedures for the determination of refugee status should fulfil. The High Commissioner had accordingly addressed an inquiry concerning procedures to Governments of States parties to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol. To date the number of replies received had been very small and it would be necessary to maintain a constant dialogue with Governments on this important matter.
43. As to the Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status, which had been prepared pursuant to the recommendation contained in conclusion 6 (g) under section III of the report3 on the twenty-eighth session of the Executive Committee, an advance copy of the English version had already been sent to Governments.
44. The strengthening of the legal framework of international protection and the effective implementation of internationally recognized standards called for a general awareness of the principle of international protection not only among Governments but also within national and international public opinion. In paragraph 18 of document A/AC.96/555, mention had been made of the need to promote a favourable climate of opinion among government officials, practising lawyers and interested legal circles. In seeking to promote the wider recognition of the principles of refugee law, the Office co-operated regularly with a number of intergovernmental organizations and agencies on the universal and regional levels, with the International Committee of the Red Cross and with various academic institutions and non-governmental organizations.
45. As regards the Office's direct day-to-day activities, the question of asylum was a major preoccupation, as was that of the abusive detention of refugees for purely administrative or political reasons. Recently, the Office had been successful in a number of cases in securing the release of refugees from arbitrary detention.
46. With regard to the reunification of separated refugee families, some 5,820 family members had been reunited with the refugee head of family with the assistance of UNHCR between January 1976 and September 1978. The reunification of families of displaced persons from Viet Nam had been discussed in very positive terms during the High Commissioner's recent visit to that country.
47. Replying to a question raised by a representative in the general debate concerning a request made at the twenty-eighth session of the Executive Committee, the Director of Protection explained that the Office had approached the authorities of the United Kingdom regarding the status of Zimbabweans who were holders of United Kingdom concessionary passports. It was gratifying to note that some progress had been achieved in this matter. The authorities of the United Kingdom had recently signified their agreement to the issue of 1951 Convention Travel Documents to Zimbabweans instead of concessionary passports if this was preferred. The Convention Travel Documents would have the same value as concessionary passports for entry into the United Kingdom.
48. In the ensuing discussion a number of representatives expressed warm appreciation for the statement made by the Director of Protection and expressed agreement with the conclusions contained in paragraph 19 of document A/AC.96/555. The fundamental importance of international protection was emphasized and support expressed for the work of the Office in this field. It was also recognized that this work could only be carried out effectively if the Office was provided with sufficient protection staff.
49. Satisfaction was expressed that further States had acceded to the 1951 Convention and to the 1967 Protocol, with support offered for the High Commissioner's efforts to promote further accessions. One representative made specific mention of the possible withdrawal of the geographic limitation and of other reservations made by States upon becoming parties to the 1951 Convention.
50. It was rioted with concern that there were still cases in which the basic rights of refugees had been disregarded. One representative shared the preoccupation of the Director of Protection regarding the detention of refugees on purely administrative or political grounds. He considered that a concerted effort should be made to secure the release of all persons detained on political grounds who were refugees or potential refugees.
51. The need to improve standards for the treatment of refugees and to ensure effective implementation on the national level of the provisions of the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol was stressed. A number of representatives stated that legislation concerning aliens was currently under review in their respective countries, and that in connexion with this review the special situation of refugees would be taken into account in order to ensure that the treatment accorded to them was in line with the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol.
52. One representative considered that while it was the obligation of States parties to an international instrument, such as the 1951 Convention, to apply its provisions, the question of whether or not the instrument itself should be incorporated into national law was a constitutional matter to be determined exclusively by the acceding State.
53. The importance of procedures for the determination of refugee status was generally recognized and the formal determination of refugee status was considered by one representative to be an essential precondition for the enjoyment by a refugee of the rights defined in the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol. Three representatives mentioned procedures for the determination of refugee status recently established in their respective countries.
54. One representative pointed out that neither the 1951 Convention nor the 1967 Protocol provided for any procedure for the determination of refugee status. His Government recognized, however, that such a procedure might well be desirable. A procedure already existed in his country but present administrative arrangements were being reviewed in the light of the recommendations made by the Executive Committee at its twenty-eighth session. It was proposed to institute in the near future a procedure whereby a letter of recognition would be issued to every convention refugee upon confirmation of his refugee status, a practice which would be in line with article 27 of the 1951 Convention.
55. In connexion with the determination of refugee status, appreciation was expressed for the efforts to harmonize the application of criteria being undertaken by the Office and also within the Council of Europe. Two representatives indicated that such harmonization would facilitate the acceptance of a determination of refugee status previously made by other States parties to the 1951 Convention.
56. Reference was made to the Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status recently issued by the Office and the belief expressed that the Handbook would contribute to a clarification of the issues involved and to a harmonization of practice. The possible holding, in co-operation with UNHCR, of international conferences or seminars of experts to discuss the application of criteria for the determination of refugee status was also mentioned.
57. The importance of asylum was stressed by several representatives who indicated that large numbers of refugees had been admitted to their countries either for first asylum or for permanent settlement. One representative referred to legislation recently adopted in his country with a view to accelerating procedures for examining requests for asylum. Several representatives of first asylum countries mentioned the particular burden which their countries had to bear as a result of their geographical situation. One representative considered that it was important in the field of international protection to emphasize that the granting of asylum was not an unfriendly act but a humanitarian responsibility. The importance of scrupulous observance of the principle of non-refoulement was also recognized.
58. One representative, referring to the question of the boat cases of displaced persons from Viet Nam, considered that the problem of boat cases should be resolved in the context of asylum taking into account the responsibility of the captain of the rescuing ship, the responsibility of the country of the next port of call, and that of the country where permanent settlement was ultimately requested. He hoped that procedures for the acceptance of boat cases for resettlement to countries of durable asylum would be accelerated.
59. The positive developments which had been reported regarding the reunification of separated refugee families were welcomed. Family reunification gas, according to one observer, an important preoccupation of a body called upon to deal with humanitarian questions. He recalled that an impressive number of cases had been successfully settled within the framework of fruitful co-operation between his Government and UNHCR, and indicated that his Government would continue to offer full humanitarian understanding for family reunion requests which would be examined on an individual basis.
60. As regards the issue of travel documentation to Zimbabwean refugees, which had been raised by a representative in the general debate, the representative of the United Kingdom confirmed that his Government had agreed that Zimbabwean refugees might apply for 1951 Convention travel documents rather than for United Kingdom concessionary passports. It was, however, preferable that persons who were eligible for them apply for concessionary passports. Criteria for the issue of concessionary passports had recently been relaxed and considerable discretion was now exercised over the acceptability of supporting evidence. The requirement for the production of a birth certificate had been waived and in many cases a baptismal certificate or other approved document would be sufficient.
61. The need to promote dissemination of the principles of international protection and refugee law was recognized by a number of representatives.
62. It was generally recognized that the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection fulfilled a valuable function in providing a forum for the discussion of concrete problems in the field of international protection and in recommending appropriate solutions. It was noted with satisfaction that the conclusions reached by the Sub-Committee at its second meeting in 1977 had already led to positive results.
63. In regard to the question of the extraterritorial effect of the determination of refugee status, considered by the Sub-Committee at its third meeting, one representative recalled that the obligations of his country under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol were subject to the geographical limitation. He therefore reserved his position with respect to subparagraphs (f) and (g) of the Sub-Committee's Conclusions on the matter.
64. A suggestion was made by one representative and supported by several speakers that the next meeting of the Sub-Committee be held for two days in the week preceding the thirtieth session of the Executive Committee and that the Committee consider International Protection as the first substantive item on its agenda.
65. A suggestion was also made that the agenda of the next meeting of the Sub - Committee make provision for a discussion on experience gained in using the Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status, issued by UNHCR. It was further suggested that another agenda item for future Sub-Committee meetings be the evaluation of the follow-up given to earlier recommendation of the Sub-Committee. One representative believed, however, that a discussion of this Question at the next meeting of the Sub-Committee might be premature, but that it could usefully be considered at a later date. On the other hand, the question which he had raised at the twenty-eighth session concerning expulsion measures taken in respect of refugee delinquents could usefully be examined by the Sub-Committee with a view to the ultimate adoption of a Convention, or at least a resolution on the matter. It was generally agreed that early in 1979 the Office would consult with a cross section of States Members of the Executive Committee with a view to establishing the agenda of the Sub-Committee's next meeting.
66. The Committee approved the report of the third meeting of the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection held during the session. This report is contained in document A/AC.96/558.
67. At the close of the discussions the Committee adopted the Conclusions, including those recommended by the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection, as follows:
Conclusions of the Committee
68. The Executive Committee:
(a) Reiterated the fundamental importance of international protection, welcomed the action taken by the High Commissioner and the progress achieved in this field since the Committee's twenty-eighth session and recognized the need for efforts to be continued and further intensified;
(b) Was seriously concerned that various problems arising in this field had not yet been resolved and that cases of non-observance of the basic human rights of refugees still continued to arise;
(c) Recalled the Conclusions adopted at the twenty-eighth session concerning the importance of the observance of the principle of non-refoulement and was gravely preoccupied that this principle had, in a number of cases, still been disregarded;
(d) Recalled the Conclusions adopted at the twenty-eighth session regarding asylum and expressed concern that refugees still encountered difficulties in obtaining permanent or even temporary asylum in certain areas;
(e) Reaffirmed the principle of international solidarity as a primary condition for the practice of liberal asylum policies and for the effective implementation of international protection in general;
(f) Welcomed the accession by additional States to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees but noted with concern that a large number of States including States having sizable refugee problems, had not acceded to either of these instruments;
g) Recalled the Conclusions adopted in this matter at its twenty-eighth session and expressed the hope that additional States would accede to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol in the near future;
(h) Recognized the need for appropriate legislative or administrative measures on the national level with a view to the effective implementation of the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol and urged all States parties to these instruments which had not yet done so to initiate necessary measures in this regard;
(i) Recalled in particular the conclusions adopted at the twenty-eighth session concerning procedures for the determination of refugee status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, reiterated the importance of such procedures, welcomed their establishment by a number of States since the Committee's twenty-eighth session and expressed the hope that further States would give favourable consideration to the establishment of such procedures;
(j) Recognized the value of efforts to secure a wider dissemination of the principle of refugee law through closer relations with educational and scientific institutions and more generally with circles concerned with humanitarian and refugee questions, and recommended that the High Commissioner pursue such efforts;
(k) Welcomed the efforts made by the High Commissioner to make available additional staff members entrusted with protection duties both in UNHCR field offices and at UNHCR headquarters, and acknowledged with appreciation the support given to the High Commissioner in this respect by the Administrative Management Service;
(l) Noted with appreciation the work of the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection and expressed its belief that the Sub-Committee had proved its value as an institution for the examination of specific problems arising in the field of international protection and for the recommendation of appropriate solutions.
(2) Extraterritorial effect of the determination of refugee status
(a) Considered that one of the essential aspects of refugee status, as defined by the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, is its international character;
(b) Recognized the desirability for maintenance and continuity of refugee status once it has been determined by a Contracting State;
(c) Noted that several provisions of the 1951 Convention enable a refugee residing in one Contracting State to exercise certain rights - as a refugee - in another Contracting State and that the exercise of such rights is not subject to a new determination of his refugee status;
(d) Noted that persons considered as refugees under Article 1 A (1) of the Convention maintain their refugee status unless they fall under a cessation or exclusion clause;
(e) Noted that refugees, holders of a Convention Travel Document issued by one Contracting State, are enabled to travel as refugees to other Contracting States;
(f) Considered that the very purpose of the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol implies that refugee status determined by one Contracting State will be recognized also by the other Contracting States-
(g) Recognized, therefore, that refugee status as determined in one Contracting State should only be called into question by another Contracting State in exceptional cases when it appears that the person manifestly does not fulfil the requirements of the Convention, e.g. if facts become known indicating that the statements initially made were fraudulent or showing that the person concerned falls within the terms of a cessation or exclusion provision of the 1951 Convention;
(h) Further recognized that a decision by a Contracting State not to recognize refugee status does not preclude another Contracting State from examining a new request for refugee status made by the person concerned.
(3) Travel documents for refugees
(a) Reaffirmed the importance of the issue of travel documents to refugees for temporary travel outside their country of residence and for resettlement in other countries;
(b) Urged all States parties to the 1951 Convention and/or the 1967 Protocol to issue to all refugees, lawfully staying in their territory and who wish to travel, travel documents as provided for in the 1951 Convention (article 28, schedule and annex),
(c) Recommended that such Convention Travel Documents should have a wide validity, both geographically and in time, and should contain - as provided for in paragraph 13 of the schedule - a return clause with the same period of validity, in the absence of very special circumstances, as that of the travel document itself,
(d) Recommended that in order to avoid unnecessary hardship a refugee requesting an extension of validity or renewal of his Convention Travel Document should not be required to return to the issuing country for that purpose and should be enabled to secure such extension of validity or renewal of the Convention Travel Document, also for periods beyond six months, by or through the diplomatic or consular representatives of the issuing State;
(e) Recommended that, with a view to avoiding divergent interpretations of paragraphs 6 and 11 of the schedule and the resulting hardships to refugees, Contracting States make appropriate arrangements, including the adoption of bilateral or multilateral agreements, concerning the transfer of responsibility for the issue of Convention Travel Documents,
(f) Expressed the hope that bilateral and multilateral arrangements, concluded with a view to facilitating travel by their nationals, e.g. as regards the simplification of visa formalities or the abolition of visa fees, be extended by Contracting States also to refugees lawfully residing in their respective territory
(g) Expressed the hope that States which are not parties to the 1951 Convention or the 1967 Protocol will issue to refugees lawfully residing in their territory appropriate travel documents under conditions as similar as possible to those attaching to the issue of 1951 Convention Travel Documents;
(h) Expressed appreciation for the Note on Travel Documents for Refugees (EC/SCP/10) submitted by the High Commissioner, was in general agreement with its contents and recommended that, in an appropriate form and together with the above conclusions, it be communicated to Governments by the High Commissioner in support of his efforts to promote the issue of travel documents to refugees in accordance with internationally accepted standards.
IV. UNHCR ASSISTANCE ACTIVITIES (Item 6 of the Agenda)
69. Introducing the report on UNHCR assistance activities in 1977/1978 and proposed voluntary funds programmes and budget for 1979 (A/AC.96/553 and related documents), the Director of Assistance pointed out that, with a proposed programme for 1979 in a total amount of $119 million, against revised figures of $120 million for 1977 and $130 million for 1978, UNHCR voluntary funds activities were relatively constant in financial terms. However, it would be wrong to draw conclusions from this fact concerning general tendencies in the development of problems of refugees. The international community had created the instrument to protect and assist refugees, but could not control their number nor consequently the financial requirement.
70. The Director of Assistance went on to review briefly some significant principal activities in the various areas of the world. In Africa, the High Commissioner had been asked to aid in the voluntary repatriation of large numbers of refugees to Zaire and Angola, and following upon events in the Horn of Africa a $12 million programme had been prepared for the assistance of refugees and displaced persons in Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia.
71. In Latin America, the problem of Chilean refugees appeared to be on the way to solution, through local integration or resettlement. On the other hand, recent events in Nicaragua had resulted in requests from Governments for assistance to Nicaraguans in Costa Rica and Honduras.
72. In Lebanon it was hoped, despite current tragic events, to start once again programmes planned for the north and south of the country. A request had been received from Yemen with respect to a recent influx of refugees. The Vietnamese Government had requested assistance in respect of a large number of persons arriving from Democratic Kampuchea. Elsewhere in South-East Asia there remained the major problem of refugees and displaced persons from the Indo-Chinese peninsula. In addition, the Office had been called upon to assist with refugees from Burma in Bangladesh and with their voluntary repatriation.
73. In Europe, apart from the programme of humanitarian assistance for Cyprus, the constant budgetary provisions represented a reduction in activity in real terms, despite the fact that European countries were having to face new refugee problems at considerable cost. Many of these countries were admitting non-European refugees and displaced persons for permanent settlement. Furthermore, there were large influxes of refugees, into Spain and Portugal in particular. Other refugees arriving from overseas by their own means, notably from Africa, were turning more and more to UNHCR for assistance, whether or not they were officially recognized as refugees of concern to the office.
74. In concluding, the Director of Assistance paid tribute to the indispensable co-operation provided by other members of the United Nations system, governmental organizations and voluntary agencies.
75. The Director for Special Assignments, in presenting the related documents, said that the presentation of the report on assistance activities generally followed the pattern of the previous year, attempting nevertheless to improve the presentation in accordance with recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, the auditors and the Executive Committee itself. In order to provide the Executive Committee with a comprehensive presentation of UNHCR General Programmes, intensive and thorough planning had gone into the project formulation. On account of the greatly increased requirements and in order to cover the minimum needs of the refugees, special measures had to be resorted to, such as delaying the financing of infrastructural measures. In connexion with the increasing desire on the part of contributing Governments for the best utilization of funds, he agreed that there was a need for a comprehensive system of programme management aimed at delivering the most effective and timely assistance. This had definitely engendered a response within UNHCR and he drew the Committee's particular attention to the project management system which the Office had introduced in response to a request made by the Committee at its twenty-eighth session with a view to ensuring the most efficient use of funds.
76. The Director of Administration reviewed briefly the budgetary procedures and the structure of document A/AC.96/55.D in so far as it dealt with programme support and administrative expenditure. He referred to improvements in the presentation which had been favourably commented on by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (A/AC.96/557).
77. Turning to the estimates submitted for programme support and administration he stressed in particular the effects of currency realignments and inflation which accounted for nearly four fifths of dollar cost increases from 1977 to 1978. As regards staffing requirements, emphasis was placed on strengthening the High Commissioner's protection staff and on the reinforcement of field offices in areas with major refugee problems. UNHCR field personnel were increasingly called upon to participate actively in project formulation and implementation which.. over the past few years, had led to a steady increase in the number of field posts.
78. As to the level of programme support and administrative expenses borne by the United Nations regular budget, he reported that, following the transfer of 11 posts from General Programmes, effective 1 January 1978, the volume of the regular budget would remain constant in real terms for the current biennium. The earliest possible opportunity for further adjustments would be the budget biennium 1980-1981 when the High Commissioner also intended, in line with the wishes expressed by delegates during the general debate, to propose for inclusion in the regular budget the reclassifications referred to in paragraph 563 of document A/AC.96/553. Meanwhile, however, as indicated in his opening statement, the High Commissioner trusted that his proposal, as submitted in paragraph 563, would be endorsed. The Director of Administration reassured the Committee that the level of resource requirements was kept under constant review with a view to ensuring not only effective programme implementation but also that UNHCR remained an efficient instrument at the disposal of the international community in the humanitarian field.
79. Commenting on the over-all assistance activities as presented in document A/AC.96/553 and its addenda, the members of the Committee expressed concern at the growing number of refugees and displaced persons requiring the attention of the High Commissioner. The programmes projected for Africa, Asia and Latin America reflected the extent of the vast humanitarian task facing UNHCR, for which effective solutions could only be found through the widest and fullest participation, of the international community.
80. With regard to the presentation of the General Programmes for 1979, many speakers, in the course of the general debate and under this item, said that they found the presentation of the documents under consideration both useful and effective. They considered that the targets presented were consistent with minimal requirements, although the magnitude of the programmes was a cause for concern.
81. In accordance with the views expressed in the general debate with regard to the transfer of certain Special Programmes to the General Programmes, there was general support for the proposed transfer of the continuing operations in favour of refugees from the Indo-Chinese peninsula.
82. Several representatives agreed that the administrative machinery of UNHCR had to be strengthened to meet the increased responsibilities of the High Commissioner. With regard to administrative costs, several representatives said that they favoured the transfer of further posts to the United Nations regular budget with a view to reducing costs met by voluntary funds.
83. Several speakers welcomed the introduction of a system of programme management and performance monitoring as a necessary tool to ensure the efficient use of funds, and looked forward to an extensive application thereof.
84. Endorsing views already expressed in the general debate, several representatives stressed the need for aid to countries of first asylum whose economies were being severely strained by efforts in favour of refugees. In this connexion, one representative urged that consideration be given to increasing the funds made available for assistance to the front-line states in southern Africa.
85. Representatives and observers from various African countries informed the Committee that additional assistance could be required in their countries, over and above the allocations proposed. Programmes mentioned included those for Ethiopia, Mozambique, the Sudan, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zaire and Zambia.
86. During the discussion of this item, the Executive Committee took note of statements made by the representative of Algeria and the observer for Morocco.
87. The representative of Algeria drew the Committee's attention to the precarious living conditions of the group of refugees who had found asylum in the Tindouf region of Algeria, an arid region with no possibility of self-sufficiency in agriculture. In view of the urgent needs of the refugees from the Western Sahara, he appealed to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to continue his humanitarian assistance, to co-ordinate such assistance, as requested by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and to encourage Governments and voluntary agencies to contribute to it.
88. The observer for Morocco stated with regret that the requests for reunification of families submitted by the Government of Morocco had not been complied with and that the joint census of Sahrawis living in camps in the Tindouf area requested by the Secretary-General of the United Nations had not been carried out. He pointed out that assistance was only one preliminary aspect of the total effort of UNHCR on behalf of refugees and reaffirmed the readiness of his Government to co-operate with the High Commissioner with a view to implementing durable solutions, including voluntary repatriation.
89. The Chairman recalled the decision taken by the Executive Committee at its twenty-seventh session requesting the High Commissioner to continue his programme of humanitarian assistance and at the same time to undertake discussions with the Governments with a view to the speedy implementation of permanent solutions. He also referred to the statement made by the Chairman of the twenty-eighth session on 12 October 1977.
90. The Chairman, stating that the High Commissioner's mandate was non-political and purely humanitarian, requested the High Commissioner to renew his efforts to continue and co-ordinate assistance for the Sahrawis in question and to promote durable solutions to that problem, including voluntary repatriation. He hoped that the High Commissioner's endeavours in that regard would soon meet with success as a result of the full co-operation of Governments.
91. Referring to the International Year of the Child, some speakers mentioned that much of the High Commissioner's work was in favour of the younger members of the community, notably in Africa, and they commended the efforts of his Office in this direction.
92. Tribute was paid by many representatives to the generous asylum policies of African countries, particularly in view of the financial burden this constituted for them.
93. The Committee heard statements by representatives of the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC), the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC), the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO), the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), concerning the situation of refugees under their auspices. While expressing deep gratitude for the assistance already provided, pursuant to the relevant United Nations resolutions, they stressed the fact that the influx of refugees from the régimes of oppression in southern Africa was increasing and that there was a need for still greater assistance.
94. The observer from Thailand, in a statement to the Committee, appealed to the international community for a wider sharing of the burden involved in meeting the needs of the Indo-Chinese refugees. Thailand had been faced with an overwhelming influx, by land and by sea, of these refugees because of her close proximity to the points of departure of the persons concerned, to the extent that, while this country would continue to do its utmost to fulfil its humanitarian obligations, the situation nevertheless caused great concern in view of the limited resources available to his Government.
95. The observers from Malaysia and the Philippines expressed their support for the statement made by the observer for Thailand, stating that the situation in their countries was similar to that in Thailand. The numbers of refugees and displaced persons on their territory had reached dramatic proportions and they felt that the international community should assume a greater share of the burden.
96. The observer from Bangladesh expressed his Government's gratitude to the High Commissioner for the prompt and effective manner in which he had responded to the appeal for assistance in respect of the influx of refugees from Burma in the middle of the year. He said that his Government was anxious to see the voluntary repatriation operation concluded successfully without delay and stood ready to co-operate with all parties to that end. Meanwhile, his country would continue to require assistance.
97. The Committee listened with great sympathy to an appeal by the representative of Lebanon for assistance in the face of the tragic events which were afflicting his country, adding further thousands of people to those already displaced and in distress. He stressed that his Government was making every possible effort to help those in the worst situations, but it was quite clear that the requirements went far beyond his country's means. It was his fervent hope that the High Commissioner, supported by the Executive Committee, would put into effect a special programme for those in distress.
98. Many representatives and observers spoke in support of this appeal which they considered deserving of the favourable consideration of Governments and of the High Commissioner. The Director of Assistance informed the Committee that an amount of $100,000 had already been made available for immediate assistance to Lebanon and that it was hoped to do more in the future if additional resources were made available.
99. The observer for Cyprus said that he was not in a position to report any improvement, since in the course of the past year not a single refugee or displaced person had returned to his home. He referred to the problems of the Cypriots living in the occupied part of the island and expressed concern with regard to practices and policies carried out by the occupying power, in particular the changing of the demographic structure of that area. He underlined the increasing economic burden which had had to be borne by his Government since 1974 in order to meet essential basic needs of the displaced population and stressed in this connexion the importance of international assistance in the process of economic and social recovery. He appealed for the continuation of humanitarian assistance in 1979.
100. The representative of Turkey, expressing appreciation for the impartial and objective manner in which UNHCR had been performing the task of coordinating relief assistance, stated that the delicate task had been carried out without any involvement in political controversy. He said that he found it unnecessary to comment in detail on the remarks just made since the Committee had in the past years repeatedly heard the same remarks and the replies to them. He referred the members of the Committee to the records and the reports of past meetings.
101. The Committee noted with appreciation the report on the Resettlement of Refugees (A/AC.96/556), which was introduced by the Chief of the Counselling, Education and Resettlement Section. The Committee also heard statements from some representatives on developments in policy in their countries concerning the admission of refugees and displaced persons for settlement, particularly from South-East Asia and Latin America. The representatives of several European countries gave information on the contribution made by their countries in the resettlement of refugees and to other assistance programmes over the years and on the steps taken to facilitate the economic and social integration of refugees and displaced persons, in particular the large numbers of persons from the Indo-Chinese peninsula admitted for permanent settlement, as well as measures advanced to assist those persons admitted temporarily pending departure to a third country.
103. The representative of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland made a statement clarifying the reference to national policy in paragraph 517 of document A/AC.96/553, which might have given a misleading impression. The immigration rules which were part of British law explicitly established article I of the 1951 Convention as the criterion for the grant of asylum. Persons so recognized had the rights provided by the 1951 Convention as ratified by the United Kingdom.
104. The Committee noted with appreciation a statement by the representative of the Commission of the European Communities in which he provided information on the sizable contribution which the Community was making to UNHCR humanitarian assistance.
105. Representatives of UNDRO, UNICEF, UNDP, WFP, ILO, UNESCO and WHO made statements reviewing the close collaboration existing between their organizations and UNHCR.
106. The Secretary-General of the League of Red Cross Societies made a statement on the activities of his organization on behalf of refugees in many parts of the world and said that he looked forward to an even greater and more effective mobilization of national and international efforts in favour of the multitude of humanitarian problems existing in the world.
107. The Committee also heard a statement by the Director of the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM). He reviewed past and present co-operation with UNHCR in all areas of the world and expressed particular support for the High Commissioner's proposal concerning an integrated programme for the resettlement of persons from the Indo-Chinese peninsula. He also drew attention to the ICEM Selective Migration Programme under which ICEM sought to provide developing countries with skilled persons, some of whom would be refugees. Of his organization's total planned movement of 80,000 persons in 1978, it was expected that more than half would be refugees within the High Commissioner's mandate. He pledged the continuing support of ICEM for UNHCR in the future.
108. As in the general debate, throughout the discussion of this item, speakers expressed their gratitude and appreciation for the effective and unfailing assistance of all kinds, including material and technical assistance to projects for refugees provided by the United Nations system and all other intergovernmental organizations and voluntary agencies.
109. Statements giving information on measures of material assistance taken at national level for the benefit of refugees and details of the support given by Governments to IP. IHCR activities were made under this item by several members and observers. Summaries of these statements may be found in the relevant summary records.
Decision of the Committee
110. The Executive Committee,
(a) Took note with satisfaction of the progress achieved by the High Commissioner in the implementation of his General and Special Programmes in 1977 and the first months of 1978 as reported in document A/AC.96/553;
(b) Took note with concern of the unabated influx of refugees from South Africa, Namibia and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) into neighbouring countries and fully supported the High Commissioner's efforts, made in collaboration with the host countries and the relevant liberation movements, to assist these refugees;
(c) Took note of the fact that the Secretary-General had designated the High Commissioner to co-ordinate aid provided by the international community to refugees from Burma who crossed into Bangladesh and that emergency assistance was made available without delay; further took note of the requests to the High Commissioner from the Governments of Bangladesh and Burma to facilitate voluntary repatriation;
(d) Took note of the allocations made by the High Commissioner from the Emergency Fund and from the proceeds of the UNHCR Record Scheme during the period 1 July 1977 to 30 June 1978;
(e) Took note with appreciation of the observations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions as contained in document A/AC.96/557 and
(i) Requested the High Commissioner to continue to bear in mind the Advisory Committee's recommendations concerning the presentation of the UNHCR programme and budget;
(ii) Confirmed the views expressed by the Advisory Committee (in paras. 2 and 4 of A/AC.96/557) that the form of presentation of the report on Assistance Activities had been considerably improved;
(iii) Endorsed the High Commissioner's revised estimates for programme support and administrative expenditure for 1978 and the projections for 1979 including, in the light of the background information provided by the High Commissioner, the costs resulting from the reclassifications referred to in paragraph 563 of document A/AC.96/553 on the understanding that these reclassifications would be proposed for inclusion in the United Nations regular budget for the biennium 1980-1981;
(f) Approved the proposals set out in paragraphs (a) to (i) of Schedule A of the introduction to document A/AC.96/553/Corr.1, as well as the proposals contained in document A/AC.96/553/Add.1 and 2, namely:
(i) The "new and revised" allocations under the 1978 General Programmes for operations, programme support and administration as well as the relevant revised appropriations;
(ii) The revised financial target of $41,750,0004 for the 1978 General Programmes;
(iii) The country and area programmes and over-all allocations for the 1979 General Programmes as regards operations, programme support and administration as well as the relevant appropriations;
(iv) The financial target of $87,880,0003 for the 1979 General Programmes;
(g) Noted with satisfaction that the High Commissioner had introduced more effective performance monitoring by means of a new project management system and encouraged the High Commissioner to extend this system to other projects;
(h) Endorsed the High Commissioner's proposals put forward in paragraph 34 of document A/AC-96/553, paragraphs 36 and 54 of document A/AC.96/553/Add.1 and paragraph 8 of document A/Ac.96/553/Add.2.
The Executive Committee,
(a) Took note of the report on the Resettlement of Refugees (A/AC.96/556) and urged Governments to participate increasingly in the resettlement of refugees and displaced persons, in particular through the adoption of liberal admission criteria with a view to alleviating the situation in South-East Asia, which was reaching dramatic proportions, and to reduce the caseload of refugees in need of resettlement in Latin America;
(b) Encouraged Governments to agree to the admission for resettlement of a specific number of refugees, thus enabling the High Commissioner to act expeditiously in emergency situations;
(c) Took note of the progress achieved in certain countries in embodying humanitarian criteria regarding refugee admissions within their over-all legislation and policies on immigration, and expressed the hope that an increasing number of countries would take similar action;
(d) Encouraged the High Commissioner and Governments to continue to seek ways and means of achieving speedier resettlement of refugees and displaced persons.
V. FINANCIAL QUESTIONS
A. Status of contributions and over-all financial situation for 1978 and 1979 (Item 7 of the agenda)
111. The Director of External Affairs, introducing the report on the status of contributions and the over-all financial situation (A/AC.96/554), recalled that at its last session the Committee had approved a target of $35 million for financing of General Programmes in 1978. At the Pledging Conference in November 1977, however, less than $13 million in contributions were announced, only $5 million of which represented firm pledges and could be utilized at the beginning of January. The High Commissioner, therefore, called in January 1978 a meeting of Permanent Representatives in Geneva of States Members of the Executive Committee to appeal for additional financial support. This was followed by fund-raising missions to various capitals, including countries not among the traditional donors, and the full financing of the revised target of $41 million for 1978 General Programmes was now assured.
112. This method of financing, however, presented several disadvantages. For instance, a larger part of General Programmes tended to be financed from earmarked contributions and thus to favour certain projects or refugee groups at the expense of other equally deserving projects. However, the most significant effect was the low level of funds available on 1 January every year.
113. If the funds announced for 1979 at the Pledging Conference could attain some 50 to 60 per cent of the target (i.e. $50 million for 1979), UNHCR would be able to start implementation of programmes from the beginning of the year without having to enter into long negotiations to establish minimum requirements in order to determine priorities.
114. The present piecemeal approach was, moreover, time-consuming and resulted in delay in implementation of programmes and also in reaching durable solutions for refugees. The High Commissioner, therefore, appealed to Governments to make an earlier and more complete announcement at the November Pledging Conference of their total financial support of UNHCR for the following year, if possible as firm and unearmarked pledges.
115. Referring to the increase of the General Programmes target from $35 million in 1978 to $88 million in 1979, the Director of External Affairs said that it was recognized that, although the total UNHCR expenditure had remained constant, the transfer of some activities to General Programmes might present difficulties for Governments inasmuch as it was sometimes easier for them to make pledges for new Special Programmes than to increase substantially their regular annual contribution to General Programmes. Financial requirements for the years ahead were difficult to forecast, thus rendering advance budgeting on the part of Governments extremely difficult. However, as the Committee was aware, the High Commissioner had this year included, for planning purposes, an estimate of global requirements for the next three years in an amount of $360 million, with a view to enabling Governments to pledge accordingly at the annual Pledging Conference. UNHCR would thus be provided with a more secure financial base at the outset of any given year and could ensure a more efficient implementation of assistance programmes.
116. The representatives who spoke said that they supported the High Commissioner's suggestions for rationalizing the fund-raising process for his programmes. They welcomed the inclusion of a tentative three-year forecast of global financial requirements and agreed that this should make it easier for Governments to make provision in their budgets for contributions to UNHCR assistance activities well in advance. It was pointed out, however, that it might not prove possible to achieve an appropriate increase in contributions at the forthcoming Pledging Conference since many national budgets had already been voted by parliaments. One representative expressed the view that this method might lead to more equal sharing of costs among donor countries and facilitate longer-term planning of programmes.
117. One representative suggested that Governments reserve funds for emergency situations so that contributions could be made rapidly when needed.
118. During the session many representatives recalled that the burden of financial support for the High Commissioner's programmes continued to be borne by the same relatively small number of traditional donors. They emphasized the need for a much wider basis of financial support.
119. The Committee welcomed announcements of contributions made during the session, as indicated below:
The representative of Australia announced that his Government would maintain its contribution to the 1979 General Programmes at the same level as in 1978, namely $A 740,000.
The representative of Austria stated that, subject to parliamentary approval, his Government would contribute $55,000 to UNHCR General Programmes for 1979. This was 10 per cent higher than the contribution for 1978. In addition, a special contribution of S 100,000 (more than $7,000) would be made towards the alleviation of the refugee situation in the Sudan.
The representative of Denmark said that for several years his country's annual contributions to the UNHCR budget had increased steadily, and that this trend was expected to continue over the years to come.
With regard to the Lebanese delegate's appeal for a special emergency programme to assist displaced persons in Lebanon, it was not possible to make any immediate commitments; however, within the limit of funds available, his Government would give this appeal the necessary priority.
The representative of Finland announced that his Government would make a further contribution of Fmks 600,000 in 1978, one third of this amount being earmarked for Namibian refugees. His Government had furthermore decided, subject to parliamentary approval, to increase its regular contribution to UNHCR in 1979, by one third, namely to Fmks 1,450,000.
Within the context of the International Year of the Child, the Finnish Refugee Council was preparing a campaign aimed at giving support to disabled refugee children. This assistance would be channelled through UNHCR.
GERMANY, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF
The representative of the Federal Republic of Germany announced a special contribution of DM 1 million for refugees from former Indo-China.
The representative of Italy stated that his Government had decided to increase its contribution to the General Programmes of UNHCR for the period 1978-1980 by more than 50 per cent. A bill of law fixing the amount at 50 million lire per year was already before Parliament.
A representative of Japan announced that his Government had pledged a special contribution of $10 million to the UNHCR Special Programme for refugees from Indo-China. A first instalment of $6 million would be paid shortly.
The representative of Norway announced that his Government would make an initial contribution of NKr 10.8 million (approx. $2 million) in 1979. Of this, NKr 6.4 million would be for the General Programmes and NKr 4.4 million for the Education Account.
In addition, Norway had just announced to the High Commissioner a contribution of an additional NKr 2.8 million (approx. $.5 million) for assistance to refugees and displaced persons from Indo-China.
The representative of the Philippines stated that, subject to budgetary approval, her Government would contribute an amount of $10,000 to the High Commissioner's 1979 Programme, earmarked for refugees from Indo-China.
The representative of Sweden announced that his Government would pledge a total of at least SKr 25 million (almost $6 million) in each of the years 1979, 1980 and 1981; this contribution would be divided between UNHCR General Programmes and the Education Account. As in the past, Sweden would also be prepared to make extra contributions to UNHCR programmes, if circumstances so required.
The representative of Switzerland announced that his Government's contribution to the 1979 General Programmes would be of the same magnitude as that for 1978. His Government would continue to give careful consideration to special appeals for additional funds and would respond favourably when possible.
UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND
The representative of the United Kingdom announced that, subject to parliamentary approval, his Government's contribution to the 1979 General Programmes would be £3.5 million, equivalent to some $7 million and representing nearly 8 per cent of the estimated requirements of the General Programmes. This contribution was considerably in excess of previous contributions, but took account of the proposed absorption into the General Programmes of the cost of activities previously funded under special operations.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
The representative of the United States of America stated that an additional amount of $5.1 million had just been paid to the High Commissioner, representing further support from his Government for UNHCR General Programmes for refugees in Africa.
The United States would live up to its tradition of being a major supporter of UNHCR, and its commitments to programmes for the current and coming years would be at an appropriately high level.
Decision of the Committee
120. The Executive Committee:
(a) Took note of the report submitted by the High Commissioner on the status of contributions to LTDTHCR voluntary funds and the over-all financial situation for 1978 and 1979 (A/AC.96/554);
(b) Noted with appreciation the generosity of Governments that had made special contributions in response to the High Commissioner's appeals and which had enabled him to secure the full financing of the 1978 General Programmes;
(c) Recognized that the increased requirements of the UNHCR General Programmes for 1979 called for a corresponding increase in financial Support from the international community;
(d) Reaffirmed the universal character of the problems facing the High Commissioner and the need for wider financial support of the programmes being undertaken by him;
(e) Urged Governments that had not hitherto done so to contribute financially to UNHCR as a practical expression of their solidarity with the High Commissioner's humanitarian endeavours;
(f) Urged Governments that could do so to increase substantially the level of their contributions to UNHCR for 1979;
(g) Urged Governments to plan their yearly allocations for UNHCR well in advance, by using as a basis the three-year planning figure of financial requirements put forward by the High Commissioner;
(h) Invited Governments of all States Members of the United Nations or of the specialized agencies, on the occasion of the forthcoming annual Pledging Conference to be held in New York in November 1978, to announce their maximum financial support in the form of contributions to the UNHCR programmes for 1979, thus enabling the High Commissioner to start the year at an assured level of implementation of his humanitarian programmes;
(i) Endorsed the suggestion that Governments consider incorporating financial provisions in their national budgets to enable them to respond promptly and favourably should the High Commissioner appeal for contributions during the course of the year to meet new and unforeseen needs.
B. Voluntary funds accounts for 1977 and report of the Board of Auditors (Item 5 of the agenda)
121. Introducing the accounts for 1977 and the report of the Board of Auditors (documents A/AC.96/552 and Add.1), the Director of Administration and Management stated that the general format of the accounts had remained the same, as agreed with the auditors last year. For the first time income and expenditure in 1977 had exceeded $100 million. Total income in 1977 amounted to $113,403,000 of which 90 per cent had come from governmental contributions. During the same period expenditure had reached $111,436,000, of which $87,316,000 related to Special Programmes and $24,120,000 to General Programmes. Of total voluntary funds expenditure, 7.3 per cent were incurred for programme support and administrative costs. 1977 expenditure was incurred for a total of 662 individual projects, which represented an increase in the number of projects by 68 per cent over 1976.
122. With reference to the balance sheet, the increase in both receivables as well as outstanding obligations for projects was largely attributable to the fact that, while contributions in kind amounting to some $15 million had been pledged before the end of the year, their delivery was only to take place in the course of 1978. Of the unobligated balance and reserves amounting to $28,078,000 at the end of the year, more than 80 per cent were earmarked for Special Programmes.
123. Turning to the report of the Board of Auditors, the Director of Administration and Management assured the Committee that no effort would be spared to follow up on any recommendations of the auditors and to pursue their implementation.
Decision of the Committee
124. The Executive Committee:
(a) Took note of the accounts for the year 1977 and the report of the Board of Auditors thereon (A/AC.96/552);
(b) Took note of the report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions in respect of the report of the United Nations Board of Auditors on the accounts of voluntary funds administered by UNHCR for the year 1977 (A/AC.96/552/Add.1).
ANNEX Opening statement made by the High Commissioner to the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme at its twenty-ninth session on 9 October 1976
Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates, Welcome to this session of the Executive Committee.
Many of you know this Committee better than I. For me, this is the first session. I, therefore, have much to learn from you. I trust, though, that the immediacy and freshness of my impressions will be of help to you.
It is nine months, to the day, since I assumed this responsibility. A period long enough to visit 25 countries in four continents, to see for myself where and what some of our principal problems are.
Long enough to gauge their gravity and to know that UNHCR symbolizes a great humanitarian ideal and commitment. Long enough, also, to realize that for the world's refugees and displaced persons, a few months - on occasion, even, a few hours - can tragically mean an eternity of suffering and insecurity unless we, jointly, provide solutions that are urgent and humane.
Our work is serious, because its purpose is to protect and reconstruct life and to preserve human dignity. There can be few more challenging, or sobering, undertakings.
It is therefore particularly gratifying that, in addition to the members of this Committee, we have present with us today a large number of observers representing Governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, liberation movements and the United Nations system.
Your presence provides a clear indication of the universality of the refugee problem, of the determination that we should search for solutions on a basis that is truly universal and shared. This, I believe, should be a principal objective of this session. Just as it has been a principal objective of mine since assuming office.
It is to this end that I have travelled extensively in Africa and Asia, where serious and growing problems of great complexity confront us. It is to the same end that I have travelled to many of the countries that have, most generously, assisted us with financial means and resettlement opportunities. Yet I should underline that it would be wrong to view our problems as being neatly divisible, between those faced by countries of first asylum, on the one hand, and those faced by countries that provide contributions and resettlement opportunities on the other hand.
There is no such clear distinction. Rather, history reminds us of the interrelationship of the one with the other. Our shared humanity and experience require us now to recognize our common predicament and responsibility and jointly to find humanitarian answers for those who have been the victims of events in which, unfortunately, many of our countries have been participants.
More fundamentally, however, the growing and varied refugee situation compels me to observe that, in many regions of the world, real peace remains elusive. It is not for this Office to venture political observations, but I must in honesty say to this Committee that our work grows no easier in present circumstances. To have to offer new and ingenious ideas, time and again, to cope with the refugee problem, is not the best comment on the capacity of nations to deal seriously with issues that cause the refugee problem.
This being said, I here must note, and pay sincere tribute to my illustrious predecessors, for having built UNHCR into an instrument of international humanitarian action that is widely respected for its record of integrity and effectiveness.
Mr. Chairman, I have recently returned from Thailand, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Viet Nam and Malaysia, a region of infinitely complex and interrelated problems. Each of the Governments, at the highest level, expressed appreciation and understanding of our role, the initiatives we have taken and must take, and the efforts we must make to co-ordinate international response. Each stated that UNHCR's efforts contribute to peace, stability and understanding in the region and each wishes us to continue to assist in every possible way in order to resolve the individual yet differing humanitarian problems that they face. We shall do so in a manner fully in keeping with the non-political character of this Office. I am most grateful to each for the reception I received. I shall help to the best of my capacity, in the spirit of trust that they conveyed to me.
I sensed the same warmth and understanding during the very first mission I undertook on assuming Office - to six States in southern Africa in January and February - again when I was privileged to visit Khartoum for the OAU Summit in July, and when I went to Angola in August. As members of this Committee are aware, we are deeply engaged in southern Africa, helping scores of thousands of refugees from Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Additionally, in accordance with General Assembly resolutions and the wishes of the Secretary-General, we are coordinating an effort on behalf of a growing number of South African refugee students. I wanted the Governments and peoples of Africa to know that they could count on my support in their present difficulties and that I looked forward, as do they, to the early transformation of the entire southern region into one of justice and harmony.
I have seen the same evidence of trust and confidence in this Office in other delicate situations. For instance,
- The Economic and Social Council recently adopted resolution 1970/39 requesting all States to respond generously to the programme I am coordinating in all parts of the Horn of Africa to alleviate the suffering of refugees and displaced persons in that region;
- The Governments of Angola and Zaire recently approached this Office to assist with the voluntary repatriation of vast numbers of refugees between their two countries. We applaud this prospect, which could have far reaching and positive consequences for the future. We have assured the Governments of our support and co-operation and my new Director of Assistance has recently visited the area;
- The Five Power proposals on Namibia, endorsed by the Security Council in its resolution 431, envisage a critical role for UNHCR in the return home of Namibians. To this end, UNHCR participated in the recent mission to Namibia, led by Mr. Ahtisaari, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. We are ready to discharge our responsibility as the situation evolves;
- The Government of Bangladesh formally requested the Secretary-General to ask us to co-ordinate humanitarian assistance to over 200,000 persons who had crossed the border from Burma. We are doing so, and are now, at the request of both Governments, also seeking to facilitate the repatriation of those who wish to return voluntarily;
- In Cyprus, I continue to serve as Co-ordinator of United Nations Humanitarian Assistance in accordance with the wishes of the Secretary-General and the parties concerned.
Mr. Chairman, since assuming Office, I have been left in no doubt as to the multitude of essential tasks facing UNHCR. Document A/AC.96/553 and its addenda spell out our programmes for 1979 in full, and report on our assistance activities since this Committee last met. I shall not try to summarize their contents.
Rather, I should like to share certain preoccupations with you.
Fundamentally, and in accordance with paragraph 1 of its Statute, UNHCR must seek permanent solutions for the problems of refugees, by promoting their voluntary repatriation, or their assimilation in new communities, either in countries of first asylum, or through resettlement in third countries. This objective must be systematically pursued, in the absolute conviction that the refugee must not only be helped to help himself, but also be enabled to contribute productively to the community around him.
I am particularly happy that this has been possible in a number of recent situations. Thus, voluntary repatriation has provided the answer for those who have returned in independence to Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique. Our special humanitarian operations, undertaken on behalf of the repatriants, have now been phased out, commendable results having been achieved. Likewise, I am gratified that settlements in the United Republic of Tanzania, Katumba and Kigwe, that had needed allocations under our programmes in earlier years, have recently been handed over to the national authorities. We must continue to work towards such conclusions. I can assure this Committee that in numerous settlements around the world, we are progressing precisely in this direction. The prospects of further large-scale voluntary repatriations to Angola and Zaire, to Namibia and Burma give hope for the future.
Quite clearly, however, while it takes a relatively short time for a person to become a refugee, it takes much longer for a refugee to become self-supporting for the choice of solution is not always up to the refugee - or to us, in UNHCR.
And here I must urge your understanding and co-operation, as the representatives of Governments.
Ultimately, both refugees and UNHCR are bound by what Governments will permit, or not permit, encourage or discourage, when it comes to the achieving of durable solutions. UNHCR can and must advocate courses of action that are humane and orderly, economic and well-planned. But UNHCR cannot determine when, precisely, the refugee will be allowed to till the soil in his own support, or travel elsewhere to strike fresh roots. These decisions are your prerogative. But delays in taking such decisions inevitably add to our budgetary costs for care and maintenance and take an awesome toll on the morale of refugees.
I am most grateful to the many countries that have encouraged refugees to become self-supporting - whether in situations of first asylum, or of resettlement.
And I fully understand the delicacy of the considerations, and the sensitivities of Governments, in areas where this has not yet proven possible. We must, however, continue to make every effort to find solutions consistent with human dignity - idleness and dependence on international charity provide no real solutions; they are also inconsistent with human dignity.
In regard to South-East Asia, it is imperative that we think and plan in advance - in order to stay abreast of the demands of the situation.
Whether we think of the tragic circumstances of the growing number of "boat people" or of those who continue to cross land frontiers to Thailand, Viet Nam or elsewhere, it appears to me that we must, continually, co-ordinate and align our policies in order to have coherence and real impact on a situation that develops from month to month. To this end, I would hope that this Committee provides a further opportunity for a full exchange of views that will result in strategies to help in a truly humanitarian and non-political way. As I said to representatives of a number of Governments in Kuala Lumpur recently, I believe the situation in South-East Asia requires a continuing process of consultation between UNHCR and all interested Governments. I intend to take the initiative to call consultative meetings in Geneva, or elsewhere, as and when the need arises, on this and other problems.
When viewing South-East Asia and planning for the future, I am convinced that we need to take an over-all view of the region as a whole, not only of its individual parts. If we recognize the interrelationships in the situation, it will follow that we must help refugees and displaced persons wherever they are - in all parts of the region and not merely selectively. Otherwise, there will be additional reason for problems to spill over frontiers. It appears to me that admissions to third countries for resettlement must be so devised and announced as to enable a balanced movement from each country in the area, and also permit the switching of numbers according to need. The announcement of the numbers to be admitted by each country over a longer term would clearly help in over-all planning and the pooling of opportunities. It further appears to me that, to the extent possible, the criteria for selection should be liberalized and we should provide equal opportunity for both "boat" and "land" cases. I should like to urge greater speed in processing and onward movement. I have seen, and cannot forget, the despair of refugees waiting, insecurely, for their departure. I feel a compulsion to stress this, as it is evident that the pace of resettlement has an influence on the implementation of asylum policy in the region and on the development of local possibilities for becoming self-sufficient. I am happy, in this connexion, to state that during my discussions in Thailand, it was agreed to elaborate a pilot project for a self-sufficiency programme to benefit both the displaced persons and the Thai rural people. I view this as an important development.
Unfortunately, the need for resettlement in third countries is not limited to South-East Asia. It continues to be an urgent need for refugees, notably in Argentina and other Latin American countries. The legal situation of many of these refugees in their country of first, or temporary asylum, is such that resettlement is the only viable long-term solution. Sadly, the restrictive social and economic conditions in which many refugees have to live have, too often, caused psychological and physical deterioration which today constitutes' in itself a valid criterion of urgency in the need for resettlement. Needless to say, we continue to make every effort to find resettlement opportunities within the region, but the response locally has been limited. Inevitably, therefore, I turn to Governments that have already helped us so considerably. A concerted effort, particularly in regard to refugees who cannot stay in Argentina, could solve a present major problem which has persisted too long.
Very recently, Mr. Chairman, we have been alerted to new problems in Central America. We have assured the Governments that have requested our humanitarian help in coping with refugee influxes that we shall do our best to be of assistance. As a first step, and to meet immediate needs, we have already made an allocation from our Emergency Fund. We are presently examining, in consultation with others, what else can be done to assist.
In Europe, Mr. Chairman, our offices continue to perform valuable functions, notably in the field of international protection. Additionally, however, many European countries are faced with new problems, resulting either from the organized resettlement of large numbers of non-European refugees, or the sudden arrival of asylum-seekers, many being from other continents. While allocations for our work in Europe are minimal, I cannot adequately stress the importance that I attach to the work of my colleagues in this continent - not least in assuring continuing understanding of our efforts, and support for our work, which is so generously expressed in both moral and material terms. Additionally, recent developments in Portugal and Spain, including accession to our principal legal instruments, require us to strengthen our contacts with these two countries.
Mr. Chairman, I should now like to turn to the financing of UNHCR's programmes. In January, soon after I took up my post, I was told that the total expenditures of the Office, in 1977, had been $111 million and that similar expenditures might be required of us in 1978. I was also told that the budget for the General Programmes in 1978, as approved by the Executive Committee, was only $35 million, against which Governments had pledged scarcely $13 million, of which only $5 million were available for commitment on 1 January.
I was concerned that orderly planning and implementation might be impossible in such circumstances. When I voiced my concern, I was told by my colleagues to have an abiding faith in the generosity and understanding of Governments. In the nine months that have passed, I have been gratified to see that optimism justified. Governments, with few exceptions, have responded generously to my several appeals for financial support. Today, I am happy to report that the General Programmes for 1976 have been fully financed and, additionally, over $55 million have already been provided for the Special Programmes. I wish to express my deep gratitude for this testimony of trust and confidence in UNHCR.
I am well aware, however, that Governments - on their side - would wish to see as comprehensive a presentation as possible of our General Programmes, particularly in order to cover those who are traditionally of our concern, and especially when their needs prove to be of an ongoing nature. To this end, I have proposed the inclusion in the 1979 General Programmes of our activities on behalf of refugees and displaced persons from the Indo-China peninsula. This means that the General Programmes for 1979, as Presented to this Committee, amount to $87.8 million, a figure substantially higher than the revised target for 1978. However, the size of the General Programmes for 1979 should not cause alarm since a major part of the increase is being offset by corresponding reductions in the Special Programmes.
Indeed, for those concerned with budgets, the total increase in expenditures of the Office is minimal. These expenditures were, from voluntary funds, $91 million in 1976, $111 million in 1977 and, this year, they may be between $110-115 million. Taking into account currency fluctuations, inflation and desperate needs that we are in conscience bound to try to meet, we earnestly hope our plans will receive your understanding.
In the same spirit, with this effort by us to bring before this Committee our General Programmes in as complete a form as possible, we would urge that Governments pledge a corresponding increase in their annual contribution to the General Programmes. That alone would ensure an orderly transfer of activities from the Special to the General Programmes.
From my experience in Denmark, I was accustomed to a procedure whereby the parliamentarians responsible for adopting an expenditure were also responsible for its financing. But the structure for UNHCR is of an Executive Committee where governmental representatives, while approving a target, are not directly responsible for its full financing. In these circumstances, I must plead with members of the Executive Committee to ensure, by every means possible, that governmental contributions to be announced at the Pledging Conference in New York next month be at a level appropriate to the changed structure of the General Programmes.
Failing this, needless hardship will ensue for the refugees, and costly piecemeal implementation will help neither economy nor good order in planning.
Year after year, the resources at the disposal of UNHCR on 1 January, in the form of firm pledges, constitute only a small fraction of the total requirements for the year. The reason is simple. Governments do not have sufficiently in advance precise information on UNHCR's requirements in the following year. Consequently, when their budgetary reviews take place, well in advance of their fiscal year, they are unable to budget for what I would call an adequate contribution to UNHCR. In further consequence, the High Commissioner has to resort to special appeals which are time-consuming for UNHCR, and awkward or even embarrassing to those Governments which, for fiscal reasons, may not always be able to respond as immediately and generously as they would wish.
In the course of this year, I have had occasion to discuss this problem in the capitals of Governments that are major contributors. It was felt that one possible way of overcoming this obstacle would be for my Office to submit at least an educated guess of future requirements, perhaps covering the estimated global financial needs for a three-year period. I do not have to convince this Committee that such an exercise is fraught with difficulty, because in dealing with refugees uncertainty is the rule rather than the exception. Nevertheless, a rough approximation based on past experience and current trends could perhaps serve as a useful yardstick for donor Governments. I must underline, however, that such a yardstick can only be based on existing refugee groups, possible new influxes in known areas, and a minimal margin for totally new situations. It is the latter that cause great difficulty in Planning, for no one can predict their magnitude or timing. For example, a year ago, we could not have said that needs in Bangladesh and the Horn would require some $27 million this year.
With these reservations, I believe that it would not be unreasonable to venture a figure of $360 million as an initial estimate, for planning purposes, of the over-all financial requirements of UNHCR over the three-year period 1,079-1981, an average of $120 million a year.
I wish to assure this Committee that UNHCR's operational partners in the field, as well as my staff, have been strongly urged to control and monitor expenditure as carefully as possible. I know, from experience in Government, that donors would wish every dollar to reach the beneficiary for whom it is intended. In return, I would urge Governments to set aside appropriate allocations for UNHCR in their budgetary provisions, preferably on a three-year basis, so that they can announce generous contributions at the Pledging Conference. Only thus can we begin the programme year at a reasonable pace of implementation and discharge effectively our responsibilities not only to the refugees, but to the many countries that have, generously, granted asylum despite the considerable costs to them.
Indeed, on this last point, I cannot be too emphatic. It is not easy to estimate the costs that countries of first asylum incur. They make available their arable land, their educational and administrative facilities. They also bear, on occasion, an incalculable cost on the social and political lives of their people. We must recognize this, and we should not take it for granted.
I should also add that UNHCR welcomes and encourages every effort of a complementary kind that can benefit refugees and displaced persons. The substantive efforts of our colleagues in the United Nations system, in UNDP, UNICEF, WFP/FAO, WHO and other agencies, are of inestimable value. We have also strengthened the nature of our co-operation with UNDRO and have concluded a memorandum of understanding in this regard. The efforts of the ICRC and League of Red Cross Societies, of our many close friends in the voluntary agencies and of our partners in ICRC, are all deeply appreciated by us. It goes without saying that, but for their effort and contributions, the costs to our programme would be infinitely higher and we would, moreover, lack what this work most needs - a continuing and co-operative endeavour by all those who have the interests of refugees at heart. My most sincere thanks are therefore conveyed to them.
Mr. Chairman, it is the protection function of UNHCR that gives our work its essential character and uniqueness. All else flows from this. There can be no emergency assistance for refugees, still less durable solutions, unless we first protect life, save refugees from the perils of refoulement, the perils of the high seas, arbitrary detention and punishment. No function of our Office will therefore be more central to my concern: this Office stands for the rights of the refugee, the right above all to humane treatment and human dignity.
In this, I view the interest and support of the Executive Committee as crucial. I am most happy, therefore, that the third meeting of the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection, which met last Friday, permitted a clarification of certain basic problems relating, particularly, to the status of refugees and travel facilities for them. I have already learned that the international protection of refugees is a duty without working hours. It is a duty without end. It requires the most continuous vigilance by UNHCR.
Our efforts in this field have continued to develop along two interrelated lines: first, to increase accession to international legal instruments and; more generally, to develop "refugee law"; second, to intervene directly on behalf of individuals or groups.
In accordance with the wishes of the Executive Committee, I have personally approached, in writing, a large number of Governments to accede to our basic instruments, namely the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol. There are now 76 States parties to them. Two others have recently deposited their instruments of accession, but technical formalities are yet to be completed. Regrettably, there are still geographic areas where accession is minimal, even though, within these areas, there are States confronted with major refugee problems.
As members of the Committee are aware, accession by itself is not enough. Actual implementation in municipal law of the Convention and Protocol is essential. Here, the situation varies greatly from country to country. It will remain a major task for UNHCR, in co-operation with Contracting States, to ensure that implementation matches obligations under our instruments.
The granting of asylum remains a major daily concern. While hundreds of thousands of refugees have been granted asylum in numerous States and in every Continent, regrettably there continue to be situations where asylum is refused. I think, for instance, of the "boat people", whose tragic odyssey demands the attention and understanding of all of us. There is, in their situation, a grave humanitarian challenge that we must not fail to meet. Some still perish at sea while others are still ignored by ships that choose not to notice their distress signals. As members of this Committee are aware, UNHCR, jointly with Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO), appealed through the International Chamber of Shipping to ship masters, urging them to continue to act in accordance with international principles relating to rescue at sea. Many have responded, but others have not. I am gratified, nevertheless, by some developments. Certain Governments have taken the decision to accept for resettlement those "boat people" who are rescued by ships flying their flags. I would hope that other Governments will follow this example. Further, with few exceptions, countries in the region are now accepting UNHCR's guarantee to assist with resettlement as sufficient for them to permit disembarkation. But the problem remains as, still too often, we learn of boats moving from shore to shore or ships that have rescued people being penalized by not being allowed in port, or being delayed there needlessly. It seems to me that we must all co-operate with greater seriousness to tie together a number of actions: rescue at sea and disembarkation are dependent on generous asylum policies. These in turn are related to resettlement possibilities in third countries. The latter must be swift in procedure and result.
In all cases where asylum is in jeopardy, or when we learn of the threat of refoulement, or the arbitrary and prolonged detention of refugees without trial, I consider it the duty of UNHCR to intervene.
Mr. Chairman, on assuming Office, I considered it my duty to meet as many of my colleagues in the field as rapidly as possible in order to understand their work and their problems. My travels enabled me to see them in various capitals, and also in places that sometimes do not feature on a map, but nevertheless shelter refugees. I have been impressed by their spirit and devotion. In order to exchange views with my representatives more fully, I called a brief meeting with all of them in May. It was time well spent together.
At headquarters, too, I have looked into various aspects of management. I was struck by the fact that, since the last major reorganization of UNHCR headquarters some seven years ago, the volume of our work, as expressed in the resources raised and handled and of staff deployed, had increased many times and so had the nature of responsibilities. Further, it was obvious that this increase was in response to the very real gravity of problems confronting this Office, problems that show no sign of diminishing. In these circumstances, I considered it essential to the discharge of my duties that the four Divisions comprising the management of this Office, having similar levels of responsibility, should be similarly classified in status and participate equally and collegially in the formulation of over-all policy. I am sure that this decision of mine will lead to improved management and I would seek your understanding in this regard.
Mr. Chairman, it is ten years since the size of this Committee was last increased. During this period, the interest of Governments in the work of this Office and the range of problems confronting UNHCR has increased considerably. With this in mind, the Economic and Social Council, through its resolution 1978/36 adopted this summer, recommended to the General Assembly that the membership of the Executive Committee be increased by up to nine additional members, to be elected from those States with a "demonstrated interest in, and devotion to, the solution of the refugee problem". Should the General Assembly act on this recommendation, the election would be due at the first regular session of the Economic and Social Council in 1979. On our side, we are grateful for the spirit in which the Economic and Social Council acted. We would hope that the additional members of the Executive Committee will, indeed, by their demonstrated interest in and devotion to the solution of the refugee problem, further facilitate the work in which we are jointly engaged.
Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates, I hope these introductory words have conveyed something of the challenge and the effort, the imperatives and the responsibilities that I have faced during my first nine months in Office. If I should revert to a theme, it is to the universality of our problems and the universality of the effort that is demanded of us. I have heard the words "burden-sharing" wherever I have travelled. They should never serve as an alibi, for any of us, to do less than we can. Above all, we must resist the tendency to think that there are facile, general solutions to what are, ultimately, individual, specific problems. We must proceed with an acute sense of the uniqueness of each situation and of each human being whom we are called upon to assist.
1 Previously issued under the symbol A/AC.96/559.
2 For the full text of the statement, see the annex to the present report.
3 Official Records of the General Assembly, Thirty-second Session, Supplement No. 12A (A/32/12A), chap III, para. 53.
4 Including the Emergency Fund.