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High Commissioner's forum

Briefing notes

High Commissioner's forum

27 June 2003

Today, the High Commissioner is hosting the first meeting of a special forum devoted to his Convention Plus initiative. The forum includes a wide range of interested states, as well as other international agencies and NGOs.

It is the next important step following the exhaustive two - year Global Consultations process, and the keynote Agenda for Protection that was produced at the end of the first phase of that process last summer.

As the name suggests, the Convention Plus initiative is attempting to build on the existing framework of the 1951 refugee Convention. At one point, various siren voices were saying that the 1951 Convention was out of date. It isn't - and the fact that it isn't was reaffirmed at the Ministerial level by around 150 states during the Global Consultations process.

Essentially, Convention Plus is an effort to produce a more structured approach to finding lasting solutions to refugee situations, with a strong focus on more systematic burden - sharing. A more dynamic approach to solving refugee crises, both new ones and long - standing ones, will have an obvious benefit for all concerned - first and foremost the refugees themselves, but also host countries in their region of origin and ultimately countries in other parts of the world affected by the onward movement of refugees.

We stress that the Convention Plus initiative is quite different from the various proposals that were discussed so heatedly in the run - up to the EU Summit in Thessaloniki last week. While there is some overlap with the discussions on regional initiatives, the Convention Plus initiative is the continuation of a process that long predates Thessaloniki. It is a global initiative.

This is not about "zones of protection," or containment of refugees in regions of origin or dumping them back there. Contrary to a current myth that has been doing the rounds in government briefs, NGO statements and media articles, UNHCR has never advocated any of these ideas, either under Convention Plus or any other of its recent proposals. Convention Plus is about finding solutions to refugee situations through better cooperation. In short, it's not about burden - shifting, it's about burden - sharing.