Note on preparations for the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the 1969 OAU Convention governing the specific aspects of refugee problems in Africa and the twentieth year of its entry into force
Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme
Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection
15 September 1994
1. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa was adopted on 10 September 1969, and entered into force on 20 June 1974. By a decision of the OAU Council of Ministers, this second date would henceforth be observed each year in all OAU Member States as "Africa Refugee Day".
2. The year 1994 marks the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention and the twentieth year since it entered into effect. The forty-fourth session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme (October 1993) in its General Conclusion of International Protection (A/AC.96/821), para. 19 (o)) looked forward to the commemoration of these anniversaries and encouraged the High Commissioner to participate actively. The OAU Council of Ministers, at its Ordinary session (Addis Ababa, 31 January - 4 February 1994), reaffirmed "the continuing importance in the search for solutions for refugee problems in Africa of the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, whose 20th anniversary, since coming into force, and 25th anniversary since signature, will fall in June and September 1994 respectively."
3. The Council also requested "the Secretary-General of the OAU to consider, in cooperation with the relevant organizations, most particularly the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, organizing appropriate activities to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa and the twentieth anniversary of its coming into force."
4. The actions taken jointly by the OAU and UNHCR pursuant to these requests are described in paragraphs 8-12. Paragraph 7 describes briefly the activities undertaken to commemorate the 1969 Convention in Africa.
The Tunis Declaration on the 1969 OAU Convention
5. The thirtieth ordinary summit f the heads of State and Government of the OAU (Tunis, 13-15 June 1994), which brought together a record number of Heads of State and Government, adopted the Tunis Declaration on the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of refugee Problems.
6. In this Declaration, the Heads of State acknowledge the contribution of the Convention in ensuring "the very survival of the institution of asylum itself" in Africa. The Convention, they note, "continues to provide a solid cornerstone for refugee policy and state practice in the reception of, grant of asylum to, and treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, as well as for the implementation of voluntary repatriation." The Declaration calls upon "those Member States who have not acceded to it to do so without further delay." The Heads of State committed themselves once more "to a more effective implementation of the Convention through, inter alia, the promulgation of appropriate national refugee legislation" and at the same time reiterated their "unflinching determination to eradicate the root causes of refugee flows in Africa ... "
II. AFRICA REFUGEE DAY
7. Throughout Africa, activities were carried out to commemorate the special nature of Africa Refugee Day in 1994. They included seminars or panel discussions in various countries on themes connected to refugee displacements. There was special emphasis placed on the themes of preventing refugee displacements and finding durable solutions. The seminars or discussions were open to the participation of government officials, refugees, returnees, community leaders, non-governmental organizations and others.
III. OAU/UNHCR SYMPOSIUM ON REFUGEES AND FORCED POPULATION DISPLACEMENTS IN AFRICA
8. Pursuant to the requests of the Executive Committee the OAU Council of Ministers, the OAU Secretariat and UNHCR are jointly organizing a commemorative symposium which will take place in Addis Ababa from 8 to 11 September 1994.
9. The Symposium is being organized as one effective way of highlighting the contribution of the OAU Convention to refugee protection and solutions in Africa and indeed in other regions of the world. It would also provide an opportunity to highlight the continuing crises of forced displacements in Africa.
10. A number of important questions will be considered by the symposium with a view to formulating appropriate recommendations. These include the root causes of refugee flows and other forced population displacements, the protection of refugees, returnees and displaced persons, the provision to them of humanitarian assistance, and the promotion of comprehensive and effective solution at the national, regional and international levels.
11. The Symposium will be open to OAU and UNHCR Executive Committee Member States, relevant United Nations organizations, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations active in the humanitarian and human rights fields, and academics.
12. The recommendations of the symposium will be presented to the relevant organs of the OAU, UNHCR the United Nations and other concerned bodies for consideration. The recommendations will also be drawn separately and individually to the attention of African governments, other relevant Governments, international and regional organizations, and NGOs for their consideration and implementation as appropriate.