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Declaration reaffirming principles of 1951 Refugee Convention adopted

Declaration reaffirming principles of 1951 Refugee Convention adopted

The full text of this important Declaration.
13 December 2001
High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers with Swiss Conference Chairwoman Ruth Metzler-Arnold at Thursday's news conference.

GENEVA, Dec. 13 (UNHCR) - The Declaration adopted Thursday in Geneva reaffirming the commitment of signatory States to the 1951 Refugee Convention:



We, representatives of States Parties to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and/or its 1967 Protocol, assembled in the first meeting of States Parties in Geneva on 12 and 13 December 2001 at the invitation of the Government of Switzerland and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),

1. Cognizant of the fact that the year 2001 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees,

2. Recognizing the enduring importance of the 1951 Convention, as the primary refugee protection instrument which, as amended by its 1967 Protocol, sets out rights, including human rights, and minimum standards of treatment that apply to persons falling within its scope,

3. Recognizing the importance of other human rights and regional refugee protection instruments, including the 1969 Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Convention governing the Specific Aspects of the Refugee Problem in Africa and the 1984 Cartagena Declaration, and recognizing also the importance of the common European asylum system developed since the 1999 Tampere European Council Conclusions, as well as the Programme of Action of the 1996 Regional Conference to Address the Problems of Refugees, Displaced Persons, Other Forms of Involuntary Displacement and Returnees in the Countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States and Relevant Neighbouring States.

4. Acknowledging the continuing relevance and resilience of this international regime of rights and principles, including at its core the principle of non-refoulement, whose applicability is embedded in customary international law,

5. Commending the positive and constructive role played by refugee-hosting countries and recognizing at the same time the heavy burden borne by some, particularly developing countries and countries with economies in transition, as well as the protracted nature of many refugee situations and the absence of timely and safe solutions,

6. Taking note of complex features of the evolving environment in which refugee protection has to be provided, including the nature of armed conflict, ongoing violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, current patterns of displacement, mixed population flows, the high costs of hosting large numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers and of maintaining asylum systems, the growth of associated trafficking and smuggling of persons, the problems of safeguarding asylum systems against abuse and of excluding and returning those not entitled to or in need of international protection, as well as the lack of resolution of long-standing refugee situations,

7. Reaffirming that the 1951 Convention, as amended by the 1967 Protocol, has a central place in the international refugee protection regime, and believing also that this regime should be developed further, as appropriate, in a way that complements and strengthens the 1951 Convention and its Protocol,

8. Stressing that respect by States for their protection responsibilities towards refugees is strengthened by international solidarity involving all members of the international community and that the refugee protection regime is enhanced through committed international cooperation in a spirit of solidarity and effective responsibility and burden-sharing among all States,

Operative Paragraphs

1. Solemnly reaffirm our commitment to implement our obligations under the 1951 Convention and/or its 1967 Protocol fully and effectively in accordance with the object and purpose of these instruments;

2. Reaffirm our continued commitment, in recognition of the social and humanitarian nature of the problem of refugees, to upholding the values and principles embodied in these instruments, which are consistent with Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and which require respect for the rights and freedoms of refugees, international cooperation to resolve their plight, and action to address the causes of refugee movements, as well as to prevent them, inter alia, through the promotion of peace, stability and dialogue, from becoming a source of tension between States;

3. Recognize the importance of promoting universal adherence to the 1951 Convention and/or its 1967 Protocol, while acknowledging that there are countries of asylum which have not yet acceded to these instruments and which do continue generously to host large numbers of refugees;

4. Encourage all States that have not yet done so to accede to the 1951 Convention and/or its 1967 Protocol, as far as possible without reservation;

5. Also encourage States Parties maintaining the geographical limitation or other reservations to consider withdrawing them;

6. Call upon all States, consistent with applicable international standards, to take or continue to take measures to strengthen asylum and render protection more effective including through the adoption and implementation of national refugee legislation and procedures for the determination of refugee status and for the treatment of asylum-seekers and refugees, giving special attention to vulnerable groups and individuals with special needs, including women, children and the elderly;

7. Call upon States to continue their efforts aimed at ensuring the integrity of the asylum institution, inter alia, by means of carefully applying Articles 1F and 33 (2) of the 1951 Convention, in particular in light of new threats and challenges;

8. Reaffirm the fundamental importance of UNHCR as the multilateral institution with the mandate to provide international protection to refugees and to promote durable solutions, and recall our obligations as State Parties to cooperate with UNHCR in the exercise of its functions;

9. Urge all States to consider ways that may be required to strengthen the implementation of the 1951 Convention and/or 1967 Protocol and to ensure closer cooperation between States parties and UNHCR to facilitate UNHCR's duty of supervising the application of the provisions of these instruments;

10. Urge all States to respond promptly, predictably and adequately to funding appeals issued by UNHCR so as to ensure that the needs of persons under the mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner are fully met;

11. Recognize the valuable contributions made by many non-governmental organizations to the well-being of asylum-seekers and refugees in their reception, counselling and care, in finding durable solutions based on full respect of refugees, and in assisting States and UNHCR to maintain the integrity of the international refugee protection regime, notably through advocacy, as well as public awareness and information activities aimed at combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and gaining public support for refugees;

12. Commit ourselves to providing, within the framework of international solidarity and burden-sharing, better refugee protection through comprehensive strategies, notably regionally and internationally, in order to build capacity, in particular in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, especially those which are hosting large-scale influxes or protracted refugee situations, and to strengthening response mechanisms, so as to ensure that refugees have access to safer and better conditions of stay and timely solutions to their problems;

13. Recognize that prevention is the best way to avoid refugee situations and emphasize that the ultimate goal of international protection is to achieve a durable solution for refugees, consistent with the principle of non-refoulement, and commend States that continue to facilitate these solutions, notably voluntary repatriation and, where appropriate and feasible, local integration and resettlement, while recognizing that voluntary repatriation in conditions of safety and dignity remains the preferred solution for refugees;

14. Extend our gratitude to the Government and people of Switzerland for generously hosting the Ministerial Meeting of States Parties to the 1951 Convention and/or its 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees.