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Global Consultations Update No. 2 (on the Ministerial Meeting)

Global Consultations Update No. 2 (on the Ministerial Meeting)

28 November 2001

World's Ministers to Chart Future of Refugee Protection

When ministers from the 141 States that have ratified the 1951 UN Refugee Convention (and/or its 1967 Protocol) meet in Geneva next month, they will help chart the future of refugee protection as well as commemorate its past.

The unprecedented gathering, to be held at the UN's European headquarters on 12 and 13 December, will adopt a landmark declaration reaffirming States' commitment to the full and effective implementation of the UN Refugee Convention. At the same time, ministers will examine some of the contentious issues that are causing concerns to governments as well as threatening to undermine the international system of refugee protection.

The ministerial meeting, co-hosted by the Swiss government and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), marks the end of the first phase of an ambitious and exhaustive world-wide examination of refugee issues known as the Global Consultations on International Protection.

While affirming that the 1951 Convention remains the cornerstone of the international system for refugee protection, foreign and interior ministers of States Parties to the Convention will also commit themselves to finding ways to improve the protection of refugees. This key ministerial meeting comes at a time when migration flows are growing more complex and difficult to manage, and asylum-seekers - including those who are ultimately recognized as refugees - are becoming increasingly entangled in numerous domestic and international political debates on subjects ranging from local housing capacity to international measures to combat terrorism.

During its first year, participants in the Global Consultations process have already examined, in depth, some key questions about refugee protection that have been hotly debated in recent years. These include:

  • Can a person ever be forcibly returned to a place where his or her life or freedom is threatened?
  • Who is considered not to be deserving of refugee protection under the terms of the 1951 Convention?
  • When does a person cease to be a refugee and no longer need the protection of another State?
  • Can women be recognized as refugees on the grounds that they have been persecuted solely because of their gender?
  • Does the fact that a person has entered a country illegally have any relevance to whether or not they are a refugee, and ought they to be punished for arriving illegally?
  • How can States improve their implementation of the 1951 Convention?

How these questions are answered directly affects a refugee's access to protection. Ministers in attendance at next month's meeting will continue to refine responses to these and other questions, as the goal of the Global Consultations process is to develop consistent, coordinated approaches to protecting refugees in the new century.