Addendum to the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations General Assembly Official Records: Thirtieth Session
Addendum to the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Supplement No.12A (A/10012/Add.1)
REPORT ON THE TWENTY-SIXTH SESSION OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE HIGH COMMISSIONER'S PROGRAMME
(Geneva, 6-14 October 1975)1
1. The Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme held its twenty-sixth session from 6 to 14 October 1975 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:
|Mr. B. Akporode Clark (Nigeria);
|Mr. C. Rauscher (Austria);
|Mr. H. Hostmark (Norway).
B. Representation on the Committee
3. The members of the Committee were represented at the session as follows:
|Germany, Federal Republic of
|United Kingdom of Great Britain
|And Northern Ireland
|United Republic of Tanzania
|United States of America
4. The Governments of Argentina, Chile, Cuba, Cyprus, Dahomey, the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Ireland, Jordan, Liberia, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Romania, Senegal, the Sudan, Thailand and Zaire were represented by an observer, as was the Sovereign Order of Malta.
5. The United Nations system was represented as follows: the United Nations, the Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Co-ordinator (UNDRO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO).
6. The following intergovernmental organizations were represented by observers: the Commission of the European Communities, the Council of Europe, the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM), the League of Arab States, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Organization of American States and the International Secretariat for Volunteer Service.
7. The Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA), the Uniào Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA), the Frente Nacional para a Libertação de Angola (FNLA), the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa were also represented at the meeting.
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.96/515/Rev.1
(3) Statement by the High Commissioner and general debate (A/AC.96/INF.145 and 146)
(4) International protection (A/AC.96/518 and Add.1)
(5) Voluntary funds accounts for 1974 and report of the Board of Auditors (A/AC.96/514 and Add.1)
(6) UNHCR assistance activities:
(a) UNHCR assistance activities in 1974-1975 and proposed voluntary funds programme and budget for 1976 (A/AC.96/516, A/AC.96/520)
(b) Special operations (A/AC.96/516/Add.1 and 2, A/AC.96/INF.147)
(c) Note on the Management of Special Operations (A/AC.96/519)
(7) Status of contributions and over-all financial situation for 1975 and 1976 (A/AC.96/517)
(8) Other questions
(9) Consideration of the draft report on the session
II. STATEMENT BY THE HIGH COMMISSIONER AND GENERAL DEBATE (Agenda item 3)
A. Statement by the High Commissioner2
9. In reviewing major developments since the Committee's twenty-fifth session, the High Commissioner stated that the accession to independence of former colonial territories and recent developments in Indo-China had had a tremendous impact on the activities of his Office.
10. Evoking the primary function of his Office, international protection, the High Commissioner conveyed to the Committee his grave concern at the constant violations of the basic human rights of refugees, even by a number of States parties to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 19513 and its Protocol of 19674 Moreover, less than half the members of the United Nations and the specialized agencies were parties to those agreements, and new accessions had come almost to a halt. Refugees had sometimes been refused asylum, detained, and had even lost their lives because Governments had failed to afford them the protection to which they were entitled.
11. Governments had repeatedly affirmed that the protection responsibility vested in the High Commissioner by the General Assembly should be exercised to the full but the moral authority conferred by the Assembly upon his Office was proving insufficient in itself to fulfil this task.
12. The High Commissioner recalled the principle, upheld by the Assembly, that the granting of asylum did not constitute an unfriendly act towards the country of origin. He very much hoped that the Committee would support the convening of a conference of plenipotentiaries to consider the draft Convention on Territorial Asylum as soon as possible.
13. With regard to assistance provided by UNHCR under its Regular Programme, there remained substantial requirements, particularly in Latin America where many more resettlement opportunities were required for refugees from Chile at present in Argentina and Peru. There were also important needs to be met in Africa, especially in the United Republic of Tanzania and the Sudan. This explained the need to increase the target for the current year from $12,656,000 to $14,117,000. On the other hand, the target for 1976, set at $13,848,000, would be lower, especially in real terms.
14. Referring to the special humanitarian tasks carried out by his Office, pursuant to General Assembly resolution 2956 (XXVII) of 12 December 1972, the High Commissioner said that the appeals for United Nations humanitarian assistance to displaced persons in Cyprus had been fully met but that the solution lay elsewhere Meanwhile, the United Nations might well have to continue to discharge this function, which had been entrusted to his Office. However, assistance to returning refugees and displaced persons in Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique, in keeping with decisions of the Committee5 and of the General Assembly (resolution 3271 (XXIX)) adopted in 1974, were also making good progress. He much regretted, however, that in Angola UNHCR action had been impeded as a result of prevailing circumstances. Following the requests of the Governments concerned, and after consultation with the Secretary-General, a limited airlift had recently been organized for the repatriation of refugees from Cape Verde. The assistance of the United Nations system was currently being sought in order to meet expenditures involved, estimated at well over $2 million, for transportation, reception arrangements and initial settlement.
15. The High Commissioner recalled that considerable efforts had already been deployed in the Indo-Chinese Peninsula since 1973, and that following recent developments he had been called upon to undertake special operations of considerable magnitude to help meet the immense needs of uprooted and displaced persons in the area.
16. In response to invitations by the Governments of Laos, the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam and Thailand, he had just visited those three countries. He had also been invited by the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Viet-Nam to visit South Viet-Nam later in the year.
17. His mission to the area had enabled him to get a first-hand picture of the needs.
18. All parties concerned in Laos and Viet-Nam, where UNHCR was engaged in large-scale programmes designed to assist the displaced and uprooted populations, viewed this contribution as an important, integral component of the national effort to rehabilitate hundreds of thousands of persons who had suffered through the long years of conflict. In Thailand, a substantial relief operation was being launched for various groups of displaced persons for whom lasting solutions had still to be found. The Emergency Relief Operation in South Viet-Nam, undertaken jointly with UNICEF at the request of the Secretary-General, was being phased out and integrated into UNHCR's other activities in the area, in agreement with the authorities concerned. Outside the Peninsula, his. Office had been called upon to assist in repatriating and, where necessary, resettling displaced persons from Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam, a difficult and complex task for which UNHCR relied upon the active co-operation of the parties directly concerned and the generous response of the international community in general.
19. In summing up the developments that had led to the special operations, the High Commissioner recalled the constraints of the programming and financing of his annual assistance activities which did not allow for unforeseen needs of any magnitude to be met. His Office, furthermore, had been called upon to participate increasingly in humanitarian endeavours for which it had particular expertise and experience. In certain cases no other organization was, from an institutional point of view, in a position to deal with the immediate problems of uprooted persons in countries that were already facing major development problems.
20. Notwithstanding the generous support UNHCR was receiving from government and other sources, the financing of special operations presented serious problems. Governments found it difficult to respond to appeals for sizable contributions launched at short notice during the fiscal year in which the operations had to be put into effect. He suggested that, as was already being done by one of the main donor Governments, the possibility be explored of including special provisions in the yearly annual budget to finance unforeseen, humanitarian tasks.
21. The High Commissioner recalled that the special humanitarian operations alleviated suffering, defused political tensions and contributed to rapid solutions for the displaced persons. Their duration was limited and did not involve UNHCR in permanent commitments.
B. General debate
22. Members of the Committee paid tribute to the High Commissioner for the action he had taken in meeting the challenge facing his Office during the period under review. As had emerged clearly from his comprehensive account of the activities of his Office, new problems of refugees and displaced persons had arisen on a large scale. Members of the Committee were aware that those problems resulted from political upheavals and that the task of UNHCR was to seek to alleviate their consequences through humanitarian aid.
23. Several representatives emphasized that full support, both financial and otherwise, of the whole international community was needed to meet the growing needs involved. Some representatives stressed that, in addition to material aid, it was necessary to show understanding of the social and moral needs of refugees and displaced persons, many of whom were obliged to start a new life in other surroundings.
24. Members of the Committee paid tribute to the humanitarian spirit in which the High Commissioner was discharging his tasks as an impartial neutral and objective intermediary of goodwill of members of the international community and pledged the full support of confidence of their Governments.
25. In referring to the various forms of aid to refugees, members of the Committee strongly emphasized that the highest priority should be given to international protection which was the cornerstone of international assistance to refugees. They shared the grave concern expressed by the High Commissioner at the fact that basic rights of refugees were being constantly flouted. Upon the proposal of the representative of Norway, which was supported by members of the Committee, it was unanimously agreed that an appeal be addressed to Governments on the subject, as indicated in more detail in the decision below (para. 49) and in the conclusions on international protection (para. 69).
26. Several representatives pointed out that the special operations were absorbing considerably more resources than the annual assistance programme. They expressed concern lest they cause a strain on staffing and financial resources of the Office, which might in turn affect UNHCR's protection activities and annual assistance programme. Some speakers suggested that part of the answer might be provided through the closest co-operation with other members of the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations as operational partners. Several speakers paid tribute to the ability of UNHCR to achieve rapid solutions and felt that that would no doubt contribute to maintaining the short-term character of the special operations.
27. The Committee noted with interest a statement in which the High Commissioner explained that the special operations had had a beneficial effect on the other activities of his Office since they enhanced the awareness of the problems of refugees and displaced persons and of their plight, and enabled UNHCR to enlist support from countries which were not among the traditional donors and which were now becoming more familiar with UNHCR's work. The High Commissioner added that, as in the case of other assistance activities, the special operations were under constant scrutiny and were discontinued as soon as their objective had been achieved.
28. With regard to the financing of these operations, many representatives recalled that some Governments found it difficult to respond to special appeals for large-scale contributions in the course of the fiscal year in which the contributions had to be made. They took note with interest of the formula applied by one of the members of the Committee whereby the annual budget included provisions to meet unforeseen requirements for special humanitarian tasks. Some representatives described comparable arrangements already in operation or planned in their own countries, while others drew attention to the difficulty of introducing such a solution. The Committee noted with appreciation that, in a spirit of international solidarity, every effort was being made to spread the burden of financing the special operations through finding new donors.
29. The Committee reaffirmed its wish that the High Commissioner should continue to assume responsibility for special operations, and members pledged their renewed support, on the understanding that his action was limited to short-term or medium-term measures. As in the past, his Office should continue to co-ordinate closely with other members of the United Nations system, particularly those which would be responsible for longer-term assistance once the High Commissioner was in a position to withdraw.
30. In the course of the discussion, the Committee welcomed the implementation of the programmes for the return and resettlement of refugees from Territories formerly under colonial administration to their homelands, and noted with satisfaction that assistance programmes in asylum countries could consequently be decreased. It also noted, on the other hand, that considerable aid continued to be required for refugees from other countries in Africa.
31. The representative of Uganda, speaking on behalf of the President of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), reaffirmed the interest of OAU and of all African Governments in the work for refugees, to which he pledged their support.
32. In the course of the session, many speakers highlighted the important role that was being played by Governments in Africa in welcoming many refugees on their territory, and co-operating with UNHCR with a view to providing them with the necessary assistance.
33. The Committee noted with concern that considerable assistance continued to be needed for refugees in Latin America, mainly from Chile, for whom additional resettlement opportunities were urgently required. Such opportunities were imperative for those admitted temporarily to other Latin American countries, where many of them lived under precarious conditions.
34. The observers for Argentina and Peru made statements on the subject, details of which may be found in section IV (a) below.
35. Members of the Committee paid tribute to the High Commissioner and the other United Nations bodies concerned for the humanitarian assistance that had so effectively been rendered to displaced persons in Cyprus. They shared the High Commissioner's view that relief in itself was not a permanent answer and that the solution lay elsewhere. Meanwhile they voiced support for the continuation of the High Commissioner's activities in Cyprus.
36. Several representatives conveyed their Government's sincere wish that a just and equitable solution be found.
37. Some members referred to the relevant United Nations resolutions, and while recognizing that their implementation was not in the province of the High Commissioner or the Executive Committee, expressed the hope that they be implemented by the parties concerned through the intercommunal talks.
38. The representative of Greece and the observer for Cyprus referred to paragraph 5 of General Assembly resolution 3212 (XXIX) of I November 1974, stressing the need for the displaced persons to return to their homes, their return being of an eminently humanitarian nature. The representative of Turkey recalled that the problem of displaced persons in Cyprus had existed for 12 years and that it was of a political nature.
39. With regard to Indo-China, several representatives expressed their support for the various programmes which had been put into effect or were to be implemented by UNHCR. Details of the relevant statements of the High Commissioner and of the observer for the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam may be found in section IV (b) below.
40. In referring to the large number of refugees admitted to and assisted by the United States of America and to the sizable contribution made by his Government to the work of assistance for refugees, the representative of the United States recalled that out of 130,000 persons from Indo-China who had been admitted to his country in recent months, over 100,000 had been resettled. If any more were to arrive, resettlement opportunities would be required in other countries. Everything was being done to facilitate the repatriation of over 1,600 Viet-Namese who had opted for this solution. Their return now depended on acceptance by the authorities of their country of origin. He paid tribute to the High Commissioner for the helpful efforts he had made in this matter.
41. Referring to the composition of the Executive Committee, some of the speakers stressed that, since the inception of UNHCR, problems of refugees and displaced persons had emerged on a growing scale in Africa. The African Governments concerned were facing considerable refugee problems and had associated themselves fully with the work of international assistance to refugees. Several representatives considered, therefore, that this development should be reflected in the composition of the Executive Committee. The proposal was then made that it would be opportune for the Committee to bring the desirability of reviewing its membership to the attention of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, which were the organs competent to do so.
42. Several representatives recalled in this connexion that the General Assembly when establishing the Executive Committee by its resolution 1166 (XII) of 26 November 1957, had laid down criteria for its membership. Some representatives felt that the experience of countries faced directly with the problems of refugees could be of benefit to the work of the Committee.
43. In response to the request addressed to him by the Committee at its twenty-fifth session, the High Commissioner recalled the terms of reference of the Executive Committee as provided for in General Assembly resolution 1166 (XII). He explained that, under this resolution, the Committee's main functions were to approve and supervise the implementation of the annual assistance programme and to advise the High Commissioner in respect of his functions in the field of international protection. From a formal point of view, the Committee's terms of reference had recently been amplified in the sense that the Committee was now called upon to approve the UNHCR programme budget after it had been considered by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions. With regard to special operations, the High Commissioner had given an account to the Committee at each session and also at special meetings such as the one held with representatives of Member States at Geneva in June 1975. Furthermore, the High Commissioner was now reporting on special operations in the same manner as on any other projects financed from special trust funds, in accordance with the relevant decisions and resolutions of the Executive Committee and of the General Assembly.
44. In the course of the general debate and during the session many representatives and observers made statements on the situation of refugees in their respective countries, on the amount of assistance provided in cash, kind and services, on resettlement opportunities offered to refugees, on the numbers accepted for admission and on various other aspects of refugee assistance. Summaries of those statements may be found in the summary records of the session (A/AC.96/SR.260-270).
45. The observer for the Organization of African Unity, speaking on behalf of the Secretary-General of OAU, pledged the Organization's continued co-operation with UNHCR. He referred in particular to the efforts his Organization was continuing to make in the field of international protection, especially by furthering the implementation of the OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, adopted on 10 September 1969.6 He recalled in particular that, under the terms of the Convention, the granting of asylum was not regarded as an unfriendly act and that it included the principle of non-refoulement.
46. The observer for the Council of Europe recalled the close co-operation which had evolved between the Council of Europe and UNHCR since its inception. Through its Parliamentary Assembly, the Council was supporting UNHCR activities and promoted awareness of the plight of refugees within national parliaments.
47. The representative of the International Council for Voluntary Agencies drew attention to the role the agencies had recently played in promoting the resettlement of specific groups of refugees, and suggested that this form of action might usefully be repeated in cases of need, in close co-operation with Governments concerned and with UNHCR. In Africa and Latin America, the agencies were giving priority to refugee needs in the field of education. He hoped that more funds would become available to provide the scholarships required. In Europe, their work had been mainly concerned with facilitating the integration of new groups of refugees of non-European origin. Assistance was also being provided to de facto refugees who faced special difficulties.
48. In the course of the session, many speakers paid warm tribute to the invaluable co-operation of the voluntary agencies and several representatives pledged the renewed financial support of their Governments to their work.
Decision of the Committee
49. The Executive Committee:
(a) Commended the High Commissioner for the efficient manner in which his Office was discharging its manifold tasks;
(b) Stressed that international protection of refugees, the primary responsibility and function of UNHCR, should continue to be given the highest priority;
(c) Fully shared the grave concern expressed by the High Commissioner regarding the numerous and constant violations of the basic rights of refugees and agreed that an urgent appeal be addressed to all States Members of the United Nations and to non-Member States on this subject;
(d) Recognized that in carrying out and co-ordinating the humanitarian tasks entrusted to him in keeping with General Assembly resolution 2956 (XXVII) of 12 December 1972, the High Commissioner was fulfilling an urgent need which could not at present otherwise be met;
(e) Noted that the special operations were at present absorbing considerably more resources than the annual assistance programme and expressed the hope that every effort would continue to be made to ensure that this should not adversely affect the financing of the annual programme;
(f) Took note with appreciation of the fact that the assistance programmes for refugees were being vigorously pursued throughout the world;
(g) Reaffirmed the eminently humanitarian character of all the activities carried out by the High Commissioner for the benefit of refugees and displaced persons;
(h) Expressed the conviction that responsibility for providing the financial and other resources required for this purpose should be shared by all members of the international community;
(i) Recommended that consideration be given to the possibility of reviewing the membership of the Executive Committee taking into account the criteria laid down for membership in General Assembly resolution 1166 (XII) of 26 November 1957, which provided that members of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme should be elected on the widest possible geographical basis from those States with a demonstrated interest in, and devotion to, the solution of the refugee problem.
Ill. INTERNATIONAL PROTECTION (Agenda item 4)
50. Introducing the note entitled 'International protection (A/AC.96/518 and Add.1), the Director of Protection drew attention to the new problems which had arisen in this field and to the need for remedial action. He stressed the vital importance of asylum and of the principle of non-refoulement. The Group of Experts A had been convened, pursuant to General Assembly resolution 3272 (XXIX), of 10 December 1974, to review the text of the draft Convention on Territorial Asylum. The law of international Protection needed to be strengthened by the addition of such a Convention and it was honed that a conference of plenipotentiaries would adopt a text which would be liberal in its provisions.
51. The marked slowdown in the rate of new accessions to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees 8/ and to its 1967 Protocol 9/ gave increasing cause for concern. He emphasized the advantages in acceding to - such instruments and said that efforts to promote further accessions were being maintained. Accessions to such instruments were, however, of value only if these were effectively implemented. There had also been an inadequate response to the efforts of UNHCR to obtain information from Governments, many of which had not replied to the questionnaire on the subject.
52. The problems of individual cases requiring urgent interventions began to emerge more clearly following increased efforts on the part of the Office to bring them to light. The number of violations of the rights of refugees had risen considerably and had provoked many human tragedies. Whereas UNHCR had identified some 300 cases involving difficult legal problems for the period ending August 1974, the number for the subsequent comparable period had nearly doubled. The problem was most acute in eastern and southern Africa, and in Latin America, and mainly concerned asylum, together with the related problems of expulsion and refoulement, and detention. Regretfully, the High Commissioner often only learned of such cases when it was already too late for him to take appropriate action.
53. Close attention continued to be given to the problem of family reunion. Whereas the reuniting of families whose members were in different countries remained principally a resettlement problem, protection was mainly concerned with cases where family members had difficulty in obtaining official permission to leave their country of origin and resume their normal family life with the refugee concerned in his country of residence. There were indications that the High Commissioner's interventions in a number of such cases were likely to produce positive results.
54. In the light of recent investigations the problem of de facto refugees seemed to be of lesser dimensions than was originally thought. It was considered that existing international instruments constitutes an adequate basis for dealing with the problems of this category of refugees, providing those instruments were liberally and fully implemented.
55. As regards the registration of claims regarding assets of Asians of undetermined nationality from Uganda, some 300 forms had been completed by applicants and lodged by UNHCR with the Government of Uganda. At present, this operation was confined to the transmission of such claims.
56. Members of the Committee reaffirmed the fundamental importance of the protection functions of UNHCR, which were vital to the effective accomplishment of the other tasks of UNHCR. Representatives who spoke were unanimous in deploring the frequent violations of the human rights of refugees, to which the high Commissioner had also drawn attention in his opening statement. They fully shared his deep concern at the failure of some States to observe the international instruments for the protection of refugees to which they were parties and which had resulted in the expulsion, imprisonment and sometimes death of refugees. One representative informed the Committee that, in some cases, reprisals had been taken against refugees after they had returned to their country of origin and he urged that action be taken to prevent their recurrence.
57. Members of the Committee agreed that it was essential that the High Commissioner's protection function, which was the basic task of his Office, should receive the fullest support of Governments. The representative of Norway proposed that an appeal be made to States members of the United Nations and to non-member States to conform fully with the humanitarian principles governing the protection of refugees who belonged to the most vulnerable category of persons. The proposal was unanimously approved.
58. Some speakers insisted on the vital importance of the granting of asylum to refugees and of the effective implementation of the principle of non-refoulement most of the representatives who spoke on the subject of the draft Convention on Territorial Asylum were in favour of the convening of a conference of plenipotentiaries in the near future. They suggested that the cost involved should be covered from the regular budget of the United Nations rather than from UNHCR's voluntary funds, which were urgently required for essential assistance to refugees. One representative felt that the existing international instruments defining the status of refugees provided an adequate basis for protection, as long as they were fully and liberally implemented. Some representatives expressed doubts as to the need for a further convention but would agree to the holding of a conference of plenipotentiaries should there be general support for it. Some representatives considered that further work might be required on the draft text of the Convention. Other speakers emphasized the need for appropriate legal provisions with a view to ensuring that refugees who had fled their country of origin by ship be at least granted temporary asylum at the ship's next port of call.
59. There was widespread support among speakers for the High Commissioner's emphasis on the need for many more accessions to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and to its 1967 Protocol., One representative referred to the suggestions contained in the note on international protection (A/AC.96/518) concerning the possibility of bilateral agreements being negotiated between UNHCR and Governments which had not acceded to the Convention and Protocol. He suggested that, as an alternative, the possibility of establishing appropriate regional legal instruments, such as the OAU Convention of 1969, might be explored. The Office's efforts to secure adequate information on the practical implementation of the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol was welcomed by representatives. One speaker suggested that in view of the low number of replies to the questionnaire, the questions contained therein might perhaps be usefully simplified. One representative called for the fullest possible support from Governments for the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness of 28 August 1961, 11/ which was due to enter into force in December 1975.
60. The importance of the principle of family reunion was again stressed by a number of sneakers, who welcomed the High Commissioner's continued efforts in this field. One representative pointed out that certain practical limits to the application of the principle were unavoidable inasmuch as it was not possible for a refugee to be joined by all his relatives, however distant. Several speakers expressed the hope that the understanding reached on freedom of movement at the Conference on Security and co-operation in Europe would facilitate the implementation of the fundamental principle of family reunion.
61. Several representatives who spoke on the question of de facto refugees agreed that the solution to this problem did not lie in the adoption of a special new legal instrument. Some considered that a liberal implementation of existing instruments offered the best answer. One representative doubted whether the legal problems of such refugees could be solved through a more liberal interpretation of the definition of a refugee. He felt that it might be desirable that persons who were actually refugees but who, for family reasons, found it difficult to apply for refugee status, should be able to enjoy the benefits of certain provisions in the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees such as the right of residence and the right to engage in a professional activity. The Committee noted from a statement by the observer for the Council of Europe that its Parliamentary Assembly had just adopted a recommendation to the Council of Ministers to the effect that the possibility of drawing up an agreement for de facto refugees should be explored. It was understood that the Office of the High Commissioner would keep the matter under review.
62. Recalling the proposal he had made at the previous session to the effect that the Executive Committee establish two sub-committees dealing respectively with international protection and assistance, the representative of Belgium stated that the objective of his delegation was to reinforce the action of the Executive Committee and that of UNHCR. It was based on paragraph 3 of Economic and Social Council resolution 565 (XIX) of 31 March 1955 and on article 42 of the rules of procedure of the Committee, which provided for the establishment of sub-committees where necessary. However, his delegation would accept any other proposal which would lead to reinforcing the role of the Committee, particularly in the important field of international protection.
63. Most of the representatives who took part in the discussion supported the proposal made by the representative of Belgium and felt that a sub-committee of the whole on international protection would be able to study in depth the wide range of problems arising in the field of protection. The sub-committee might be attended also by legal experts of member Governments specialized in the field of protection.
64. The High Commissioner stated that he welcomed the proposal made by the Belgian delegation and would be glad to examine the necessary arrangements to enable the sub-committee to meet. He felt that the more detailed study which the sub-committee would make of the protection problems facing his Office would be useful to the effective discharge of his duties in this important field.
65. The Committee agreed on the Belgian proposal on the understanding that a sub-committee would meet within the span of time allotted to the Executive Committee for its annual session.
66. The observer for the International Commission of Jurists referred to its study of the violation of the rights of refugees in Latin America, an area with a long tradition of asylum which had seen very large refugee movements in recent years. The evidence given in the report indicated that the persons responsible were usually either members of, or connected with, the security forces, often acting in ignorance of their countries' obligations. Recommendations had been made to the Governments concerned, including one to the effect that no person should be refused asylum except by decision of the highest competent authority, and after the High Commissioner had been given time to arrange his resettlement elsewhere. It was hoped that other countries in the region would also accept their share of refugees.
67. Referring to the traditional role played by Latin America in promoting the concept of asylum, the representative of Colombia drew attention to the positive results that had been achieved in his own country and in other countries in Latin America in the field of assistance to refugees.
68. A number of representatives and observers made statements in the course of the session concerning measures taken by their Governments with a view to promoting the international protection of refugees and on their accession or proposed accession to the relevant legal instruments, the details of which may be found in the summary records of the 261st, 262nd and 263rd meetings (A/AC.96/SR.261-263).
Conclusions of the Committee
69. The Executive Committee:
(a) Expressed appreciation to the High Commissioner for the way he was discharging his duties in this especially important and particularly difficult field and fully shared his concern at the numerous and flagrant violations of the human rights of refugees
(b) Fully endorsed the proposal that an appeal be made urging States Members of the United Nations and non-member States to conform fully with the humanitarian principles governing the protection of refugees and, in particular, to abide by the provisions of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and of its 1967 Protocol and scrupulously to observe the principle whereby no refugee should be forcibly returned to a country where he fears persecution.
(c) Stressed that, in keeping with the universal character of the problem of refugees, many more States should accede to international instruments relating to the status of refugees and that these instruments be fully implemented according to both the letter and spirit in which they had been conceived.
(d) Considered that a conference of plenipotentiaries should be convened, as envisaged, to consider the draft Convention on Territorial Asylum, and recommended that the cost involved in this conference be borne from the regular budget of the United Nations.
(e) Recommended that the views of the Committee in (d) above be conveyed to the General Assembly of the United Nations.
(f) Emphasized that, in keeping with the fundamental principles of family unity, members of refugee families should be given every opportunity to be reunited by being allowed to leave their country of origin.
(g) Welcomed the High Commissioner's continuing efforts to survey individual cases with a view to identifying major protection problems and recommended that Governments should contribute to achieving rapid solutions to such problems.
(h) Decided on the establishment of a sub-committee of the whole on international protection which would meet, in principle, during the sessions of the Executive Committee and would study in more detail some of the more technical aspects of the protection of refugees and would report to the Committee on its findings.
IV. UNHCR ASSISTANCE ACTIVITIES (Agenda item 6)
A. UNHCR assistance activities in 1974-1975 and proposed voluntary funds programme and budget for 1976
70. In introducing the report on UNHCR assistance activities in 1974-1975 and proposed voluntary funds programme and budget for 1976 (A/AC.96/516), the Director of Assistance said that the report provided comprehensive data relating to the annual assistance programme, Emergency Fund, Education Account and trust funds, similar to that contained in the report (A/AC.96/506 and Add.1) submitted to the Committee at its twenty-fifth session. He recalled that this presentation was in accordance with the programme-budget formula, as applied by UNHCR since January 1974. Due account had been taken of the recommendations by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions and by the Executive Committee with regard to the form of the report. Further modifications in this respect were proposed in its introductory paragraphs.
71. Commenting on major features of UNHCR's assistance activities under the regular programme, he observed that in Africa the programmes for the repatriation of refugees to countries formerly under Portuguese administration had made it possible to decrease the programmes of assistance in some neighbouring areas. In view of the situation in Angola, continued assistance would, however, be required for refugees from that country, many of whom were residing in Zaire. In the Sudan there had been a new influx of refugees from Ethiopia for whom assistance was required. One of the largest groups of refugees in Africa was still that of the Burundi refugees in the United Republic of Tanzania for whom substantial assistance was being provided. In Latin America, the acute problems of the current year were likely to continue in 1976, requiring substantial new allocations. In Europe and the Middle East, there was no notable change in the pattern of assistance programmes. These various factors had been taken into account in the revised target proposed for 1975, and the target proposed for 1976. In this context he drew the attention of the Committee to the observations and proposals made by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions concerning the report (A/AC.96/520).
72. The Director of Administration and Management, commenting on the information contained in the report in respect of programme support and administration, drew attention to the current budget procedure and, in particular, to the inclusion for the first time of data on the regular budget. This had been recommended by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, the aim being to show all expenditure at the country or area level according to the various sources of funds. The tables which followed the introduction provided a global presentation of this information. Tables I and II showed all expenditures except those for special operations. Thus, the programme support and administration data shown in table 11 included the High Commissioner's statutory protection responsibilities. Table V gave details of staffing of UNHCR for the period 1974 to 1976 with indications of the respective sources of funds. He explained that the higher estimates for programme support and administrative expenditure were largely due to the effects of inflation and fluctuating exchange rates and only to a limited extent to an increase in their volume. Four additional posts were requested under the annual programme over the initial staffing approved for 1975. The proposed allocations for 1976 in respect of programme support and administration corresponded very closely to the revised estimates for 1975 and were considered by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions to represent fair estimates.
73. Many of the representatives who spoke commended the further efforts that had been made to give effect to their recommendation for greater conciseness in the report on assistance activities (A/AC.96/516), and welcomed the proposal made for further modifications in that respect. It was observed that the renewed efforts aimed at more streamlined presentation should not, however, be made at the cost of clarity. Some representatives considered that the report should be more action-oriented, and identify more clearly the items calling for decision.
74. One representative said that it would be useful if the Committee could be provided, in addition to the financial information already at its disposal, with cash flow statements by programme from extrabudgetary funds.
75. The Committee noted that the largest share of the High Commissioner's assistance programme was again devoted to Africa, where large numbers of refugees were still in need of assistance.
76. Several representatives urged that continued assistance be given by UNHCR to refugees from South Africa. Special attention was drawn to needs in the educational field, in view of the positions of responsibility which those refugees might one day assume.
77. The representative of the Movimento popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA) who was given the floor with the Committee's consent, expressed satisfaction at the establishment of UNHCR representation in Angola. He regretted that circumstances did not permit the implementation of the repatriation and resettlement programme, but observed that there were Already numerous sectors in which fruitful co-operation could be developed.
78. The representative of the Uniào Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA), also speaking with the Committee's consent, referred to the serious difficulties facing those refugees and displaced persons who had already returned to their homes and who were deprived of basic necessities. He hoped that the High Commissioner's representation in Angola would be extended, in preparation for the day when the proposed repatriation and resettlement programme could be fully implemented.
79. The representative of the Frente Nacional para a Libertação de Angola (FNLA), who was given the floor with the Committee's consent, drew attention to the urgent need for international assistance to the very large number of refugees returning to Angola, and for whom means of survival would have to be provided. He regretted that, in the circumstances, no positive effect had been given to the earlier promises of support, and stressed the importance of urgent assistance measures.
80. Speaking with the consent of the Committee, the representatives of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa welcomed the assistance provided by UNHCR to refugees from South Africa and described its various forms. It was suggested that this assistance might be made still more effective through suitable measures to ensure close co-ordination between the bodies responsible for its implementation, notably in Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. Continued support was pledged towards this aim on the part of the liberation movements which they represented.
81. The Committee noted from those statements the co-operation between UNHCR and those liberation movements, and the concern of those movements that the co-operation should be further strengthened.
82. The Committee noted with concern the continued needs of refugees in Latin America following the events in Chile in 1973. They stressed that additional resettlement opportunities must be made available for the refugees, particularly those living in precarious and difficult circumstances in Latin American countries in which they had been granted temporary asylum.
83. The observers for Argentina and Peru described the severe difficulties which the sudden influx of large numbers of refugees from Chile had caused for their countries, which were already facing serious economic problems. They welcomed the close and effective co-operation which had been established with UNHCR in providing assistance to the refugees, and appealed to the international community for prompt assistance in providing the permanent solutions so urgently needed.
84. Representatives of countries which had accepted refugees from Latin America referred to measures they had taken, often with the co-operation of UNHCR and the voluntary agencies, to facilitate the integration of the refugees.
85. It was recalled by some representatives that European countries of first asylum continued to bear a heavy burden, especially in view of the continuing unfavourable economic trends, and assistance from the international community was still required for refugees in those countries.
86. The Committee noted that the adjustment of annuities authorized by the Committee at its twenty-fifth session had led to increased allocations for several countries in Europe and the Middle East. The assistance provided by UNHCR in those areas was similar to that of previous years.
87. Several representatives drew attention to the need for the continued co-operation of Governments in permitting the resettlement of handicapped refugees. The "Ten or More Plan" had proved a useful instrument for this purpose and had already enabled a number of severely handicapped refugees to benefit from the specialized assistance they required in order to integrate successfully. The special resettlement problems faced by such refugees would, however, still call for careful and sympathetic attention.
88. The Director of the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM) said that his organization had been involved to an unprecedented degree in "special programmes" during 1975. Its Chilean operation had involved moving some 12,000 refugees to 48 different countries. Excellent example though it was of international co-operation, it would have been impossible without the resettlement opportunities offered by the countries concerned. Unfortunately, the operation was not yet complete. Referring to the question as to the respective roles of ICEM and UNHCR, he said that ICEM was not exclusively a refugee organization, but rather a migration agency with substantial specialized experience in transport. Excellent co-operation with UNHCR precluded any duplication. Some situations arose where ICEM alone could act, e.g. the current Portuguese resettlement problem. The 1980s appeared likely to provide far greater requirements for international migration machinery. The World Population Plan of Action, deriving from the World Population Conference, 1974, held at Bucharest last year, made significant points regarding migration, while the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe this year likewise encouraged greater freedom of movement. It was hoped that this would contribute to maintain the adequate functioning of international migration.
89. In the course of the session, warm tribute was paid by several representatives to the useful and important work performed by ICEM and, in particular, to the part it continued to play in facilitating the transportation of refugees.
90. In a statement to the Committee concerning the work of the Bureau for the Placement and Education of African Refugees (BPEAR), the observer for the Organization of African Unity first referred to the context in which that work was undertaken. Relatively slow progress had been made by the Bureau in obtaining education and employment opportunities for refugees. Funds were lacking to allow it to keep pace with the growing number of applications for scholarships, while qualified personnel were urgently needed to promote economic and social development in Africa. As regards employment, there was a pressing need for closer contact with the various economic sectors in order to assess more clearly the opportunities available. Another possibility which needed to be explored was that of engaging refugees in the work of the international organizations in Africa in view of their first-hand experience of African questions.
91. He hoped that, in view of all those factors, the co-operation which existed between BPEAR and UNHCR, as well as with other international organizations, would be further strengthened in a concerted and determined effort to solve the problems currently facing the Bureau, particularly in the financial field.
92. The Committee noted from a statement by the Director of Assistance that approximately $1 million had been committed in 1974 from the Refugee Education Account benefiting some 2,600 refugees, a somewhat higher number than the previous year. Expenditure from the Account in the current year was expected to be even higher. In accordance with UNHCR policy in this field, most of the beneficiaries were in developing countries, where opportunities for refugees were particularly scarce.
93. General support was expressed for the proposed new target for 1975, in the light of the details provided to the Committee by the Directors of Assistance and of Administration and Management with regard to the increased requirements. Many representatives welcomed the modest level of the 1976 target. They recognized, however, that the estimates were based on minimum requirements, and that an upward revision might be needed in the course of the year, notably in respect of Latin America. In view of the modest level proposed, several representatives recommended that the programme reserve be set at $1,250,000, representing as usual approximately 10 per cent of the over-all target, rather than at the lower level proposed by the Advisory Committee for Administrative and Budgetary Questions.
94. Statements were also made by the observers for Dahomey, Egypt, New Zealand, Romania and Zaire, of which details may be found in the summary records of the 264th, 267th and 268th meetings (A/AC.96/SR.264, 267, 268).
95. In the course of the session, statements were made by representatives of UNDRO, UNICEF, UNDP, WFP, FAO, UNESCO and WHO, giving details of the many forms of co-operation they shared with UNHCR both, within the context of regular programme activities and of special operations. A message was also transmitted from WMO. The Committee noted with satisfaction these numerous, concrete examples of co-operation, of which details may be found in the summary records of the 265th and 267th meetings (A/AC.96/SR.265 and 267).
B. Special operations
96. In introducing this item, the High Commissioner recalled the institutional framework for special operations. These were being undertaken on the basis of the "good offices" resolutions of the General Assembly and, more particularly, of General Assembly resolution 2950' (XXVII), which provided that the High Commissioner should continue to participate in those essential humanitarian endeavours for which his Office had particular expertise and experience". Before undertaking such operations, the High Commissioner secured the support of the Secretary-General and of the parties directly concerned. In its resolution 3271 (XXIX), the Assembly, inter alia, had requested the High Commissioner to continue his activities on behalf of persons of concern to his Office, and had taken note in this connexion of the decision taken by the Executive Committee to the effect that the High Commissioner should report on his special humanitarian tasks in the same manner, as he reported on other activities financed from trust funds under his regular programme. The High Commissioner had accordingly reported on special operations (A/AC.96/516/Add.1 and Add.2), which concerned assistance to displaced persons whose situation was analogous to that of refugees. The budgetary and financial provisions applied to those operations were furthermore similar to those observed in respect of the annual programme.
97. The High Commissioner then gave an account of the situation of the displaced persons in the three countries he had recently visited - Thailand, Laos and the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam.
98. In Thailand, more than 55,000 displaced persons, including approximately 40,000 from Laos, some 15,000 Cambodians and 2,000 from Viet-Nam, had been given temporary asylum since April 1975. The High Commissioner said that in the course of his visit he had had discussions with the Thai authorities at the highest level. A programme of $12.4 million had been proposed. It had been agreed that all UNHCR financed projects would be administered by the Thai authorities at the provincial level and co-ordinated by the Ministry of the Interior, where an operations centre had been set up specifically for such purpose.
99. The High Commissioner had Also visited the main areas of location of the various groups of displaced persons and had personally assessed the needs. UNHCR staff would be posted to those areas to maintain liaison with the UNHCR regional office in Bangkok and to co-operate with the Thai authorities on the implementation of the projects and also in promoting all possible permanent solutions. As in other such situations, voluntary repatriation appeared to be the best solution wherever it could be achieved.
100. With regard to his visit to Laos, the High Commissioner recalled that the UNHCR assistance programme in that country had been started before the formation of the Provisional Government of National Union and extended into the areas under the control of the Patriotic Forces. Here again he had been able to make field visits to the Plain of Jars and the Luang-Prabang area. He pointed out that the normalization of economic and social life in Laos after the ravages of many years of conflict would require a substantial effort in view of the fact that some 700,000 persons, a quarter of the whole population, had been uprooted. The Government had drawn up an $11 million assistance programme for 1975/76 to which UNHCR planned to contribute up to $6 million.
101. As for Laotians recently arrived in Thailand, both the Governments of Thailand and Laos agreed that the solution to the problem lay in voluntary repatriation. Here again a climate of confidence had to be created rapidly and it was in this respect as well as in providing assistance that UNHCR had an important role to play.
102. In the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam, the High Commissioner said he had visited the most seriously affected provinces between the seventeenth and twentieth parallels as well as other areas where UNHCR aid was being concentrated. The objective of such assistance, which was primarily concentrated in the rural areas, was to promote early self-sufficiency. Assistance would also be provided in the fields of technical and secondary education, health and clothing. In addition to the $3 million programme already under way, further assistance amounting to $6 million was planned for 1976.
103. In conclusion, the High Commissioner said that he had also been invited by the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Viet-Nam to visit South Viet-Nam, which he planned to do later in the year. Meanwhile, in continuation of the ongoing projects, a programme of assistance had been drawn up by the Provisional Revolutionary Government and MTHCR, to which UNHCR proposed to contribute $7 million for 1975/76.
104. The emergency relief programme in South Viet-Nam, undertaken jointly with UNICEF at the request of the Secretary-General, was being phased out with the agreement of the South Viet-Namese authorities. Contributions in cash and kind amounting to $17.6 million had been channelled through UNHCR under this programme.
105. The observer for the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam outlined the problems with which his country was confronted and its needs for assistance. Referring first to the repatriation of South Viet-Namese who had been evacuated to Guam, he recalled that the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Viet-Nam had declared that it was prepared to admit those who had opted for repatriation. In view, however, of the huge problems which were still besetting the country, arrangements for repatriation would require a certain amount of time and could be effected only in a progressive manner. Furthermore, as had been stated by the Provisional Revolutionary Government in a declaration dated 4 October 1975, the authorization for Viet-Namese abroad to return to their country fell within the sovereign rights of the Provisional Revolutionary Government, which would examine each case and keep the High Commissioner informed.
106. In giving an account of the effects of the war, he stressed that, as one of its consequences, many houses in towns and villages had been destroyed and millions of persons had been displaced who needed assistance with a view to their resettlement and rehabilitation. Among them were thousands of war invalids and orphans.
107. He expressed gratitude for the assistance that had already been provided by .the international community and UNHCR. Assistance by UNHCR in North Viet-Nam of some $3 million had already contributed to stabilizing the conditions of life for the displaced persons. In South Viet-Nam, substantial emergency aid had been provided. Considerably more aid would be required for the resettlement of over four million uprooted persons
108. The High Commissioner's recent visit to his country had been particularly fruitful as an assessment on the spot of the immense needs for aid and in witnessing the efforts to achieve rapid self-sufficiency. Humanitarian aid projects amounting to $6 million in the worst affected areas had been prepared for 1975-1976. Although particular importance was being attached to the development of agricultural production, contributions were also required in other sectors which directly contribute to the normalization of the life of the people, such as technical training, health, clothing and education. It was hoped that the forthcoming visit of the High Commissioner to South Viet-Nam, where an agreement for aid in the amount of $7 million had been concluded, would be equally fruitful. An expansion of humanitarian assistance in accordance with the real needs of the displaced populations indicated a promising future for co-operation between UNHCR and the Viet-Namese authorities.
109. The representative of the United States stated that the Viet-Namese in Guam who were very anxious to return to their homes might take the decision to leave and sail on a Viet-Namese ship currently in Guam Island. That would, however, be exclusively their own decision, for which the United States Government could bear no responsibility.
110. The observer for Thailand expressed his Government's satisfaction at the assistance programme for displaced persons on his territory which had been worked out in close co-operation between UNHCR and the Thai authorities. He recalled in that connexion the recent appeal made by his Government before the General Assembly for increased support of the High Commissioner's efforts. In conclusion, he emphasized the humanitarian spirit in which his Government was dealing with the problem.
111. As regards the High Commissioner's other special operations, particularly those in the framework of his annual programme, the Committee welcomed the implementation of programmes for the repatriation and the resettlement of refugees from Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique, as recommended at its twenty-fifth session, and hoped that the political situation in Angola would soon permit the implementation of a similar programme in respect of refugees and displaced persons in that country.
112. Representatives and observers from African countries, as well as the observer for the Organization of African Unity, drew attention to the enormous task of reconstruction that would be required in Territories under former colonial administration and to the considerable aid that would be needed to help the returning refugees and displaced persons to start a new life. The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, in informing the Committee of the large number of Mozambicans who had already left his country to return to their homes, pointed out that those who wished to stay in the United Republic of Tanzania would be free to do so.
113. The Committee noted that the return home of refugees from countries previously under Portuguese administration had led to decreased programmes of assistance in the former countries of asylum. Elsewhere in Africa, considerable assistance continued to be required.
114. As reflected in the general debate summed up in section II, many speakers highlighted the importance of the special humanitarian tasks undertaken by the UNHCR.
C. Note on the management of special operations
115. In introducing the item, the Director of Administration and Management explained the problems currently facing the High Commissioner's Office in respect of management and staffing as a result of the special operations, as described in the note submitted to the Executive Committee (A/AC.96/519). The aim of the High Commissioner was that those operations should be conducted with maximum efficiency, without disrupting the normal functioning of his Office. Needs in respect of staffing were especially acute since the special operations called for skilled and experienced personnel, familiar with the work of the Office, who could be available for immediate action as required.
116. A corollary to these staffing problems was the difficulty encountered by the Office in meeting the essential, immediate costs incurred whenever a special operation was undertaken, until the contributions destined for such special operations were made available. In order to overcome this difficulty and avoid jeopardizing current activities of the Office, more flexibility in management and staffing arrangements was required. The proposed use of the Working Capital and Guarantee Fund, submitted to the Committee's consideration in document A/AC.96/519 was intended to meet that need.
117. Several representatives said that they recognized the sttaffing problems arising from the special operations and supported the proposal made by the High Commissioner.
118. Most of the representatives who smoke agreed to the proposed use of the Working Capital and Guarantee Fund. Some representatives felt that the Fund was not intended for such a purpose, and hoped that some alternative means might be found, such as the establishment of a trust fund.
119. The Committee noted that the High Commissioner would report to the Committee at its twenty-seventh session on the use thus made of the Working Capital and Guarantee Fund and on any alternative proposals which might be envisaged to guarantee financing of the resources needed in connexion with the management of special operations.
Decision of the Committee
120. The Executive Committee:
(a) Took note with satisfaction:
(i) Of the results achieved by the High Commissioner in the field of assistance to refugees in 1974 and in the first months of 1975 as reported in document A/AC.96/516;
(ii) Of the High Commissioner's report on his special operations submitted in documents A/AC-96/516/Add.1 and 2;
(b) Took note with appreciation of the observations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions submitted in document A/AC.96/520 and:
(i) Endorsed the establishment of a post for an educational specialist (A/AC.96/520, para. 15) following advice by the High Commissioner that while UNESCO would continue to make available ad hoc consultative services they would not be in a position to loan permanently to UNHCR a suitably qualified officer on a non-reimbursable basis;
(ii) Confirmed the view expressed by the Advisory Committee in paragraph 21 of its observations and approved the upgrading of the post of the regional representative in the Middle East;
(iii) Considered the question of the Programme Reserve mentioned in paragraph 22 of document A/AC.96/520, agreed that the level of the Reserve should continue to represent approximately 10 per cent of the net target figure and accordingly approved the establishment of the Reserve for the 1976 Programme in the amount of $1,250,000;
(c) Approved the new and revised projects for 1975 outlined in document A/AC.96/516, and the revised financial target of the UNHCR annual Programme for 1975 in an.amount of $14,117,000 and the revised appropriations for 1975 as set out in annex I to this report;
(d) Approved the country and area programmes and the over-all allocations for 1976 outlined in document A/AC.96/516; and the financial target of the UNHCR annual Programme for 1976 in an amount of $13,848,000 and the appropriations for 1976, as set out in annex I to this report;
(e) Approved the proposals contained in paragraphs 92 and 116 of document A/AC.96/5i6;
(f) Authorized the High Commissioner to effect such adjustments in projects, country or area programmes and over-all allocations as may be required by changes affecting the situations for which they were planned, using the Reserve where necessary, and requested him to report such adjustments to the Committee at its next session;
(g) 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 October 1974-31 May 1975;
(h) Took note of the estimates and projections of expenditures and posts financed from various trust funds in 1975 and 1976 contained in tables 1, II, IV, VI, VI (A), VI (B) and VI (C) of document A/AC.96/516;
(i) Endorsed the proposal of the High Commissioner concerning the presentation of his Programme made in paragraph (i) of the introduction to document A/AC.96/516;
(j) Considered the High Commissioner's proposals for the use of the Working Capital and Guarantee Fund in connexion with the management of special operations, submitted in document A/AC.96/519, and authorized the High Commissioner to draw up to a maximum of $400,000 in any given year from the Working Capital and Guarantee Fund to provide him with the means to maintain the minimum administration and manpower structure needed to take prompt and effective action in the early stages of any special operation, it being understood that the Working Capital and Guarantee Fund would be replenished from special contributions received for such operations. The High Commissioner would study possible alternative solutions to guarantee the financing of resources needed in connexion with the management of special operations and make recommendations to the Executive Committee at its next session.
121. The Members of the Executive Committee unanimously:
(a) Expressed appreciation of the efforts of the High Commissioner in carrying out special humanitarian tasks for the benefit of displaced persons, and took note in this connexion of the information contained in document A/AC.96/516/Add.1 and 2;
(b) Recognized the need for continued humanitarian assistance resulting from events in the Indo-Chinese Peninsula and urged the international community further to strengthen its support of the efforts of the High Commissioner.
V. FINANCIAL QUESTIONS
A. Voluntary funds accounts for 1974 and report of the Board of Auditors (Agenda item 5)
122. The Committee examined the accounts for 1974 of the voluntary funds administered by the High Commissioner, and the report of the Board of Auditors thereon (A/AC.96/514). Some representatives noted that the latter report had identified no major problems in respect of the accounts, but contained a number of specific recommendations, mainly of procedural nature, which would require action.
123. The Committee also considered with appreciation the report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions in respect of the audit of the accounts (A/AC.96/514/Add.1).
Decision of the Committee
124. The Executive Committee:
(a) Took note of the accounts for the year 1974 and the report of the Board of Auditors A/AC.96/514);
(b) Took note of the report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions in respect of the accounts for the financial year 1974 and the report of the Board of Auditors thereon (A/AC.96/514/Add.1).
B. Status of contributions and over-all financial situation for 1975 and 1976 (Agenda item 7)
125. The representative of the High Commissioner, introducing the report on the status of contributions and over-all financial situation as of 31 July 1975 (A/AC.96/517), said that the report this year covered contributions to all assistance activities of UNHCR, including those covered by the annual Programme, trust funds and the special operations.
126. He observed with appreciation that, thanks to special contributions for assistance to refugees from Chile, the revised target approved by the Committee for the current year would probably be met. The full financing of the approved target for 1976, however, was less certain. Even taking account of the generous contributions announced in the course of the session, a further amount of $1.5 million was needed. It was hoped that many Governments, including those which had not contributed in previous years but were now in a position to do so, would announce new or increased contributions at the annual Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly for the announcement of voluntary contributions to the Programme of UNHCR, to meet in New York on 21 November 1975.
127. As regards the financing of special operations, he recalled that the funds generously donated by Governments to these programmes in the period under review far exceeded the total contributions to the annual Programme. Substantial additional funds were still required, however, for the special operations in Guniea-Bissau, Mozambique, Thailand and Indo-China. Referring to the difficulties encountered by Governments in responding to unforeseen appeals launched during the fiscal year, he emphasized the advantages of the formula adopted by the Government of Sweden, whereby funds for special humanitarian operations were included in the yearly budgetary provision, without excluding further support if required, in the light of important unforeseen developments.
128. The Committee welcomed the announcement of contributions made during the session as shown in detail below:
The representative of Australia announced that, subject to Parliamentary approval, his Government would pledge an amount of $A 380,000, approximately $US 486,000 to the UNHCR annual Assistance Programme for 1976. This amount reflected a 20 per cent increase over the 1975 contribution of $US 410,000.
The representative of Austria announced that, subject to Parliamentary approval, his Government would contribute the same amount in 1976 as in 1975, that is Austrian shillings 780,000 ($US 46,276).
The representative of Belgium announced that, subject to Parliamentary approval, his Government proposed to make in 1976 a financial contribution in an amount still to be decided towards the administrative costs of the UNHCR Branch Office in Belgium.
The representative of Denmark announced that, subject to Parliamentary approval, his Government intended to continue to make available its share of contributions to the UNHCR annual Assistance Programme. It was also intended, as in previous years, to make an unearmarked contribution in 1976 to be used for educational, technical or other assistance inside or outside the UNHCR Programme..
Germany, Federal Republic of:
The representative of the Federal Republic of Germany announced that his Government's financial and other support to UNHCR activities would be continued during 1976.
The representative of the Netherlands announced that, subject to Parliamentary approval, his Government's contribution to the UNHCR annual Assistance Programme would be increased by 100 per cent in 1976, to an amount of some $US 1.6 million.
The representative of Norway announced that, subject to Parliamentary approval, the Norwegian contribution for 1976 would be 6,300,000 Norwegian kroner. This represented an increase of 800,000 Norwegian kroner or approximately, 15 per cent over 1975. Of the contribution for 1976, some 2,400,000 Norwegian kroner would be earmarked for the Refugee Education Account, the equivalent allocation in 1975 having been 2,100,000 Norwegian kroner.
The representative of Sweden announced that its total contributions to UNHCR in 1976 would amount to 12 million Swedish kroner (approximately $US 2.7 million). Contributions during 1977 and 1978 would amount to 12.5 million and 13 million Swedish kroner respectively.
The representative of Switzerland announced that his Government's contribution to the UNHCR Assistance Programme for 1976 would in no case be less than its contribution for 1975, but that the exact amount had not yet been fixed.
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland:
The representative of the United Kingdom announced that, subject to Parliamentary approval, Her Majesty's Government was increasing its contribution to the UNHCR Assistance Programme for 1976 to an amount of £300,000 ($US 608,520). Further, the United Kingdom had made an additional contribution of £100,000 ($US 202,840) for refugees from Chile, and had announced a further £100,000 ($US 202,840) for United Nations humanitarian assistance in Cyprus, and £150,000 to the repatriation and resettlement of refugees from Viet-Nam and Cambodia who are currently outside Indo-China.
United States of America:
The representative of the United States outlined the financial assistance already given to UNHCR's annual Assistance Programme and special operations. He stated that his Government hoped to increase its previous contribution to the Refugee Education Account by approximately $US 100,000 in 1976. Further, his Government had already committed itself to a contribution in excess of $ US 5 million for the High Commissioner's programme in Thailand.
Decision of the Committee
129 The Executive Committee:
(a) Took note of the report submitted by the High Commissioner on the status of contributions to UNHCR voluntary funds and the over-all financial situation for 1975 and 1976 (A/AC.96/517);
(b) Took note of the fact that, as in previous years, the High Commissioner had been called upon in 1975 to raise substantial funds for special operations in addition to the UNHCR annual Programme;
(c) Noted with appreciation that, thanks to special contributions, particularly for refugees from Chile, the High Commissioner hoped to be able to meet the increased target of the 1975 programme,
(d) Recognized that increased governmental support would be necessary to permit the full financing of the UNHCR annual Programme for 1976.
(e) Urged Governments to meet this challenge by increasing their financial contributions for 1976;
(f) Invited Governments who had not contributed in previous years, but were now in a position to do so, to demonstrate their humanitarian concern for refugees by contributing to the UNHCR annual Programme for 1976;
(g) Recommended to Governments to consider incorporating financial provisions in their national budgets to enable them to respond as promptly and favourably as possible to the High Commissioner's appeals for contributions to his annual Programme and to his special operations.
(Note: Financial and statistical data tables not included in this online version. See your nearest UN Depository Library.)
ANNEX II Opening statement by the High Commissioner to the Executive Committee at its twenty-sixth session, made on 6 October 1975
The year 1975 has seen historic events, many of which have still to unfold all their consequences. The accession to independence of the Territories formerly under Portuguese administration and the recent developments in Indo-China have had a momentous impact on the activities of my Office. As far as the more traditional efforts of UNHCR are concerned, significant developments have equally occurred of which we need to take note. I would also like to share with the Executive Committee some of the impressions of my recent visit to Thailand, Laos and Viet-Nam. However, I would not like to tax your patience with an inordinately long speech. I would therefore propose in this introductory statement to confine myself to essential points on the international protection of refugees, and on the main trends in the field of assistance. Later in the course of our session, I shall endeavour to talk in greater detail about special operations, taking particularly Indo-China as a significant case in point.
Protection has always been regarded as one of the basic functions of this Office. Should we ever be in danger of losing sight of this fact, we would be reminded of it by the Governments themselves, as they constantly insist that the High Commissioner should exert to the full the protection responsibility vested in him by the General Assembly.
I am sorry to have to say that all is far from satisfactory. In insisting that the High Commissioner should actively protect and defend the status of refugees, many Governments, in many parts of the world, are less than consistent in enacting the principles to which lip service is paid so liberally., The question which arises is: how can the High Commissioner, relying solely on the moral authority of his Office, efficiently protect the refugees, when the States themselves, or more particularly the authorities within these States competent in domestic affairs, fail to recognize the basic humanitarian considerations in dealing with refugees? When, in an age of violence, refugees are regarded as an ever-present potential risk for internal security, or an embarrassment in the international relations of these countries, we, for our part, certainly continue to believe in the principle upheld by the General Assembly that the granting of asylum does not constitute an unfriendly act towards the country of origin.
With regard to basic international instruments which govern the status of refugees, namely the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, there has been over the past years a marked slow-down in the number of accessions. During the past 12 months, one country (Zaire) has acceded to the 1967 Protocol, which means that today still less than half the total membership of the United Nations are parties to the Convention. We believe that countries which express their satisfaction at the assistance which this Office succeeds in bringing to refugees should not hesitate to commit themselves to the principles which are the very basis of the existence of UNHCR. This situation must be redressed. We believe also that the newly independent countries which are now playing their rightful part in the concert of nations should give serious and prompt consideration to their accession to the Convention and the Protocol.
Even more disturbing is the fact that many States signatories to the Convention and Protocol do not appear to regard themselves bound in practice by the spirit and the provisions of these instruments. In flagrant violation of international legislation, refugees have sometimes been expelled, gaoled, and have even lost their lives, because Governments failed to afford them the protection to which they were entitled. We believe that, in countries which are parties to the Convention and Protocol, there is a need to establish a formal eligibility procedure to take the place of often questionable practical arrangements.
I would add that Governments more and more frequently insist that refugees to whom they grant first asylum should be speedily resettled elsewhere, sometimes across the seas and continents, and expect my Office to be the instrument in bringing about what is not always an adequate or practical solution. Solutions, whenever possible, should be sought on a regional basis, where the similarity of cultural and other equally important factors help speed up integration.
On the subject of territorial asylum, the Executive Committee at its twenty-fifth session recommended that a conference of plenipotentiaries should take place. At its twenty-ninth session, the General Assembly decided to establish a group of governmental experts, which met in Geneva from 28 April to 9 May 1975. Their discussions were constructive and led to a further development of the question of territorial asylum. I sincerely hope that, on the strength of their work, the Executive Committee will see fit to reiterate its recommendation to the General Assembly that this conference of plenipotentiaries now be convened, and that a positive step will thus have been taken towards what we hope will one day become effective legislation.
Turning now to the activities of my Office in the field of assistance, delegates will recall that last year the Executive Committee had expressed the wish to be kept informed on the special operations, as it is informed on the other aspects of our activities. Members of the Committee will see that action has been taken, and that a special note on this subject has been submitted as an addendum to the annual report. My colleagues will deal with this in a more detailed way in the course of our debate. I would simply, for the moment, draw your attention to a few salient features, starting with the yearly Programme.
In Africa, while the developments in former Portuguese Territories are bringing to a conclusion many of the refugee situations which have concerned us in the past, important problems will still require our attention in 1976. Some of these have emerged during the past months. In the United Republic of Tanzania, for instance, assistance towards the local settlement of nearly 100,000 refugees from Burundi continues to entail a major UNHCR effort in 1975. In the Sudan, our attention has been called to a fresh influx of refugees from Ethiopia. As regards our assistance in the field of decolonization, UNHCR has continued to administer funds on behalf of the United Nations Trust Fund for South Africa and of the United Nations Council for Namibia. This assistance is expected to continue as long as help from my Office will be required.
In Latin America, although some encouraging progress has been made since our ad hoc meeting in June, problems are far from solved. Considerable allocations of funds will still be necessary in 1976. Contrary to our previous hopes, UNHCR will have to maintain an Office in Lima. The presence of many refugees from Chile in Costa Rica,, Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela will require the opening of an Office in Central America. While Argentina and Peru are in a special position because of their geographical situation, I would like to pay tribute to the many countries which have opened their doors for permanent resettlement to sizable numbers of Chilean refugees: among others, Algeria, Australia, Canada, Cuba, France, the German Democratic Republic, Federal Republic of Germany, Hungary, Mexico, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. However, the need for additional resettlement opportunities, especially for refugees at present in Argentina and Peru, remains acute. Refugees from Chile, together with an increase in the rate of annuities as approved by your Committee, also account largely for the allocations requested for the Middle East and North Africa in 1976.
To sum up, I would mention that the proposed increases in the 1975 Programme which are now submitted to you for approval and which result mainly from the developments I have just alluded to, amount to approximately $1.5 million, bringing the financial target from $12,656,000 to $14,117,000. You will note that the proposed target for 1976 is $13,848,000, a slightly lower total, therefore, than the revised figure for 1975. This, of course, taking into account the current rates of inflation, amounts to a considerably lower target in real terms.
I would now like to turn to the various special humanitarian operations which my Office is being called upon to perform. Many significant developments have taken place since the fall of 1974.
With reference to my role as Co-ordinator of United Nations Humanitarian Assistance in Cyprus, I have kept the Committee informed of the activities of my Office. The two appeals launched in September 1974 and January 1975, amounting respectively to $22 million and $9.3 million, have been fully covered, partly multilaterally through my Office and partly in the form of bilateral contributions. In addition, the Government of the United States made another contribution of $9.9 million, through UNHCR, a decision which I already announced in June. However, relief in itself is no permanent answer. The solution, as we all know, lies elsewhere... Meanwhile, the United Nations may well have to continue to discharge the function which has been entrusted to my Office.
As regards Territories formerly under Portuguese administration, you will recall that, in anticipation of independence, both the Executive Committee and indeed the General Assembly had last year requested my Office to assist with the return and settlement of the refugees from these countries. UNHCR took part in the United Nations interagency mission to Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique. Plans were formulated for the return of the refugees and for assistance urgently required for populations which had been displaced within the Territories during the struggle for independence.
Appeals for funds were launched in March for Guinea-Bissau and in April for Mozambique, amounting respectively to $4,025,000 and $7,150,000. These sums are far from having been collected and there is still a financial shortfall of over $ 3 million for these two operations. However, activities on the spot have started immediately; in Guinea-Bissau in particular, it is estimated that more than half of the Guineans who had found refuge in Senegal have returned with the assistance of my Office and are now being helped to resettle in agriculture.
Angola is, unfortunately, an altogether different case. As soon as the transitional Government was established following the Alvor Agreement, my Office examined ways and means of assisting the returning refugees through the institutions specifically provided by the Agreement, in particular the Government Tripartite Commission. This has failed. The similar arrangement foreseen more recently in the Agreement reached at Nakuru between the three liberation movements has also not been implemented. In attempting to bring assistance to the displaced groups of the population who urgently need it, my Office was confronted with the collapse of governmental administration, the difficulty of launching humanitarian programmes in a climate of political unrest, the disruption of normal communications and security. UNHCR has maintained an Office in Luanda since March, but I regret to have to say that no concrete progress under the circumstances has been achieved so far. In a situation where many human lives are at stake, it is my earnest hope that it will still be possible to dissociate strictly humanitarian from political issues.
One of the sad consequences of the present events in Angola is the uprooting and displacement of groups of Cape Verdians and citizens of Sao Tome and Principe, mostly farmers, who were for a long time established in the country. The Governments of Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe have requested help from the United Nations, and particularly from my Office, with the transportation and settlement on the Islands of several thousands of their citizens who are now stranded in Luanda and Nova Lisboa. From funds outside the programme, I have already approved small allocations for assistance in Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe. After consultation with the Secretary-General, and a visit to Cape Verde by one of my senior collaborators, I have been able to arrange for a limited emergency airlift, thanks to which groups of Cape Verdians are being evacuated from Nova Lisboa. Needless to say, my Office does not possess any ready resources for the larger effort involved in repatriating the whole group. This, including transportation, reception arrangements and initial settlement on the Islands, will involve expenditures of well over $2 million. I am pursuing consultations with my colleagues in New York to examine how the necessary resources can be mobilized and what contributions the agencies concerned can bring to bear.
I should now like to turn to another sector of our activities where considerable efforts have been deployed since 1973, namely, the Indo-Chinese Peninsula. I have had occasion to report on these last year and again in June following the significant developments in the over-all situation in the area.
I have just returned from a visit to Laos and the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam. Earlier, I also paid an official visit to Thailand. At the invitation of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Viet-Nam, I intend to visit South Viet-Nam some time after my return from the General Assembly in New York.
The purpose of my recent visits was to review the progress of the work of my Office with the authorities, and to discuss other subjects of mutual interest relating to their collaboration with UNHCR. I also undertook extensive field trips in order to see the displaced persons myself, and to get a first-hand picture of their needs. I intend to revert to the question of UNHCR's efforts for the Indo-Chinese displaced populations when the Committee discusses the assistance programme. I would therefore limit myself at this stage to some brief comments on various aspects of our work.
In the first place, I should like to record my sincere gratitude to the Governments concerned for the excellent arrangements made for my visits - and my deep appreciation of the cordial and constructive discussions which took place.
All parties concerned in Laos and Viet-Nam attach great importance to the contribution of this Office and consider UNHCR's role a significant and integral component of the national effort to deal with one of the major problems inherited from the past, i.e., the rehabilitation of hundreds of thousands of uprooted persons.
In Thailand we have started a substantial relief operation for various groups of displaced persons for whom lasting solutions remain to be sought.
As the Committee is aware, following the events in April this year in South Viet-Nam, the Secretary-General asked UNHCR to undertake jointly with UNICEF an emergency assistance programme. Contributions in cash and kind amounting to some $17.6 million have been channelled through my Office. In agreement with the authorities concerned, this is now being phased out and integrated into our regular programme in South Viet-Nam.
As for the projects for assistance to be financed by UNHCR in all parts of Laos and Viet-Nam during the coming year, which I had occasion to discuss in detail on the spot, I intend to comment on them later this week, when we come to that part of the report.
In addition to our work inside the Peninsula, my Office has also been called upon to assist in the repatriation and, where necessary, the resettlement of displaced persons from Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam. In view of the inherent complexities of the situation, this aspect of our work is, to say the least, not an easy one. Appropriate solutions suitable for each group have to be promoted and in order to be successful my Office needs not only the goodwill of the parties directly involved but also the active support of other Governments.
I am glad to be able to say that we continue to make progress. It is my earnest hope that patience and tenacity coupled with humanitarian understanding on the part of all concerned will bear fruit. It is in this spirit that I would sincerely like to reiterate to the international community my appeal for a generous response to the efforts of UNHCR.
I would now like to share with you some reflections on the various operations which my Office has been called upon to undertake and, in so doing, perhaps also meet some of the Committee's own preoccupations.
One would be justified in giving some thought to the "special operations". By their diversity and volume they carry UNHCR far beyond the realm of the regular programme which was practically the only assistance activity with which we had to concern ourselves as recently as five years ago.
It would be simplistic to ascribe this evolution to a single cause. May I mention at least two, though I recognize the danger of generalizations.
First, the constraints inherent in the annual system of programming and financing of the Regular Programme. Although this system does embody some elements of flexibility such as the Reserve, the Emergency Fund, the Working Capital and Guarantee Fund, these resources are insufficient to enable UNHCR to meet speedily sudden and considerable new requirements. This remark applies in particular this year to the special operations in favour of Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique. These two programmes are intended mainly to facilitate the return and settlement of refugees whom UNHCR already assisted in their exile, in accordance with the directives given to my Office by the Executive Committee and reiterated by the General Assembly.
Secondly, the altogether different reasons which led UNHCR increasingly, within the United Nations system, to participate, according to the pertinent General Assembly resolutions, in "those humanitarian endeavours for which (my) Office has particular expertise and experience". For countries which are confronted, even in normal and stable circumstances, with major problems of development and a low standard of living, the economic impact of social convulsions and readjustments, or of natural disasters, can be crippling and altogether catastrophic. Neither the United Nations itself, nor the various intergovernmental organizations now in existence, are equipped, institutionally, to meet this type of challenge. The choice was to do nothing, or to improvise, and in this need for reacting to emergencies lies the source of the variegated appeals for humanitarian assistance. In certain instances, an effort was made to create the institution required, without necessarily endowing it with the required means! In other instances, an ad hoc and temporary body was established, as in Bangladesh, to fill the institutional gap. In the majority of other cases, the United Nations, and through them their Member States, turned towards existing institutions, which had over the years accumulated experience which equipped them to act swiftly and efficiently in the crisis at hand. This is how UNHCR was called upon, inter alia, to intervene in the Asian subcontinent, in southern Sudan, in Cyprus and in Indo-China.
We recognize that this state of affairs is a source of financial and operational difficulties for Governments as well as for UNHCR. For instance, I am fully aware that appeals had to be launched in the middle of the fiscal year, making orderly financial planning impossible for contributors. Under the circumstances, Governments have made a remarkable effort, both directly and through such intergovernmental organizations as the European Economic Community, and so, to a lesser degree, has the private sector. Still, the basic technical difficulty is not solved, either for Governments which are unexpectedly confronted with big appeals, nor for UNHCR which does not have the built-in financial flexibility for new, large-scale operations. A solution to this problem might well be found in the Swedish formula of incorporating in the Government's yearly budget provisions to meet the requirements of special humanitarian tasks. I would hope that this will commend itself to other Governments.
Another difficulty which UNHCR has to face concerns its own capacity to deliver the services expected of it. I already alluded to this problem when I addressed the representatives assembled in June. The matter has lost nothing of its acuteness - on the contrary. As promised, a concrete proposal has now been placed before the Executive Committee which should at least provide a partial solution to the problem.
Having said this, the fact remains that, by launching these special' operations, the United Nations, with the support and understanding of its members, has been able and is able today to alleviate suffering and to defuse many political tensions throughout the world. It has enabled the Organization to play, I dare say with some degree of efficiency, an essential role for which the proper institutional framework was lacking. This is an achievement from which we should all derive satisfaction, rather than doubts or anxiety.
I would add that these operations do not last forever, and when launched never lead to permanent commitments. UNHCR, for its part, likes to withdraw when it has accomplished its mission. This can only be assured in the future, as in the past, through the continuous understanding and generous support of your Executive Committee.
ANNEX III Statement on special operations made by the High Commissioner to the Executive Committee on 8 October 1975
I have already alluded to special operations in my introductory statement and a number of speakers have also referred to the question in the general debate. I shall therefore confine myself to speaking of the three countries to which I paid an official visit, namely, Thailand, Laos and the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam.
I would first like to place our activities in those countries in their context. The special operations, as the Executive Committee has noted, have added a new and very important dimension to the humanitarian action of my Office, and I think I should first indicate very briefly their institutional framework. These operations are undertaken on the basis of various General Assembly resolutions concerning what are known as UNHCR's "good offices" functions, especially in those areas in which, according to General Assembly resolution 2956 (XXVII) adopted on 12 December 1972, the Office of the High Commissioner "has particular expertise and experience'. However, before undertaking the tasks provided for in that resolution, the Office makes sure of the support of the Secretary-General and of the parties directly concerned.
Last year, following a decision by the Executive Committee, the General Assembly adopted by acclamation resolution 3271 (XXIX) in which it, and I quote,
"Requests the High Commissioner to continue his activities on behalf of those of concern to his Office and takes note, in this connexion, of the decision of the Executive Committee ... inviting the High Commissioner, within the framework of programme budgeting, to report to the Executive Committee on his special humanitarian tasks in the same manner as he reports on other activities financed from trust funds under his regular programme."'
Documents A/AC.96/516/Add.1 and 2, which are before the Committee, follow upon its decision and that of the General Assembly, and give details on the various special operations undertaken by the Office.
The displaced persons benefiting from UNHCR assistance under special operations are in a situation analogous to that of refugees with whom my Office is traditionally concerned. This point has been emphasized several times during the general debate. The material assistance furnished to them is also similar to the assistance provided by the Office under its annual programme. UNHCR agreements on the implementation of special operations thus contain the same legal clauses as are customarily used for the annual programmes. From the point of view of financial and budgetary arrangements and the modalities of project execution, the special operations are for all practical purposes assimilated to UNHCR's annual programme.
To illustrate the nature of this assistance, I propose to refer in particular to our activities in aid of the displaced persons in Laos, Thailand and Viet-Nam from where I have just returned. I would like to give you my impressions of the trip and inform you on the progress of our humanitarian work in those countries. To take Thailand first, I paid an official visit to that country from 6 to 13 September at the invitation of the Thai Government. At Bangkok, I had an opportunity to hold detailed discussions with the Ministries directly concerned with the assistance projects for displaced persons from Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam. It is reported that more and more such persons are arriving, particularly from Cambodia and Laos, and over 55,000 have already been given temporary asylum in Thailand. The majority of the displaced persons are Laotians, mainly of Hmong origin (Meos) and number about 40,000 of whom more than 33,000 belong to the Hmong community, the others being Thai Dam and Laotians of ethnic Lao origin. There are also reported to be more than 15,000 Cambodians and I have since heard that their numbers are increasing. In addition, there is a group of fewer than 2,000 persons of South Viet-Namese origin, who arrived in Thailand after the events of last April.
In view of the conditions in the country and the resources available there, it was jointly agreed that the UNHCR projects financed would be carried out by the Thai authorities at the provincial level and co-ordinated by the Ministry of the Interior at Bangkok. A "Centre of Operations for Displaced Persons" has been established in the Ministry of the Interior so that there will be effective co-ordination of foreign aid between the different ministries and government departments, whether it is multilateral aid channelled through UNHCR or aid provided on a bilateral basis. I had an opportunity to hold discussions with the authorities concerned and I also had a highly constructive exchange of views with the Prime Minister and his colleagues, mainly from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior.
I also made a number of extremely interesting field trips to see for myself the situation of each of the various groups and the problems facing them. Thus, thanks to the helicopters and other means of transport placed at my disposal by the authorities, I went to the Province of Chonburi to visit the Sattahip camp housing the South Viet-Namese. I then proceeded to the Province of Prachinburi, a frontier province in the eastern central nart of the country, where I visited the Aranya-Prathet camp established for groups of Cambodians. I also went to the Province of Nan in the north-west of the country, which is much further away from the capital, in order to visit Meo groups. They are principally in the frontier regions from the north-east to the north-west of the country and are living there under precarious conditions. My visit to Nan convinced me that it is imperative to improve conditions. My representatives on the spot are engaged in this task. I also went to the Province of Narathivat where His Majesty the King honoured me with an extremely fruitful exchange of views on the displaced persons in Thailand. Following negotiations with the Thai Government, it was agreed that there would be local representatives of the High Commissioner in the areas where there were displaced persons, and not only at Bangkok. Suboffices will therefore be set up in various regions of the country and more particularly at Aranya-Prathet for the Cambodians, at Nan for the Meos and also at Nongkhai. These suboffices will be entrusted with the task of maintaining liaison with the UNHCR branch office at Bangkok, the provincial authorities and, of course, the displaced persons themselves; they will naturally co-operate with the authorities in order to facilitate the implementation of projects and to promote rapid and, if possible, permanent solutions for the problems of these displaced persons, since for the time being we are only at the assistance stage.
As you are aware a $12.4, million programme has been drawn up for humanitarian aid in Thailand and particulars of this programme have been communicated to Governments. Additional information concerning the programme is provided in document A/AC.96/516/Add.2. I am glad to be able to say that the Thai Government and my Office have reached agreement on all points concerning our co-operation, as is indicated in the joint press release issued at the end of my official visit.
I wish to draw the Committee's attention to the fact that the joint press releases concerning my visits to these three countries have been published in the tabloid "UNHCR". As in all refugee and displaced person situations, voluntary repatriation of the persons who left Laos and Cambodia would appear to be the happiest solution. For this to be possible, however, it is of course necessary to promote conditions favourable to repatriation.
Following my visit to Thailand, I had the pleasure of visiting Laos from 13 to 19 September in response to an invitation extended by the Laotian Government. In Vientiane, I had a series of extremely useful and fruitful discussions with the Prime Minister and his colleagues in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Social Welfare. I might perhaps emphasize that UNHCR initiated its programmes of assistance to Laos even before the formation of the Provisional Government of National Union, particularly in the province of Xieng Khuang under the control of Laotian patriotic forces. My visit provided me with an opportunity to see at first hand the results of this close co-operation. An assistance programme costing some $3 million was carried out in 1974-1975, mainly in rural areas and in the agricultural sector. UNHCR assistance was designed primarily to rehabilitate the persons displaced during the years of conflict, and the first step was to transfer them to their original villages. With the assistance of the Laotian Government, some 117,000 persons were returned to their villages. Of these, approximately 40,000 persons were transported from the Vientiane region to the province of Xieng Khuang through an airlift financed by UNHCR; the remainder returned by road or river. I was able to visit the province of Xieng Khuang and, more particularly, the Phone-Savane area in the historic Plain of Jars, where I saw several villages in which the persons who had returned were resuming a normal life in the community and the fields. I also visited Luan-Prabang, where I had the honour of being granted an audience by His Majesty the King and was able to discuss with the provincial authorities rehabilitation programmes.
During the long years of conflict which ravaged Laos, some 700,000 persons, or one quarter of the total population, were displaced. You will readily appreciate that normalization of the country's economic and social life requires a considerable effort, particularly in the case of these displaced persons. The Government, in collaboration with UNHCR, has drawn up an over-all plan costing $11 million and financed from both bilateral and multilateral sources. UNHCR hopes to be able to contribute up to $6 million to the various assistance projects.
With regard to the problem of the Laotians in Thailand which I have just mentioned and which I discussed in detail in Bangkok, I was also able to discuss this matter with the Laotian authorities, and we reached a common position regarding voluntary repatriation. This position is reflected in the joint communiqué which was issued at the end of my visit and which has been reproduced in the UNHCR tabloid. You will note from the joint communiqués that the Thai and Laotian Governments hold in general the same views regarding the situation of displaced persons and that the two Governments want to do all they can to encourage voluntary repatriation. There is, however, a clear need to create a climate of confidence if a rapid and lasting solution is to be arrived at. As I realized when I was in Thailand and Laos, it is particularly in this respect, and also in the provision of material assistance, that UNHCR should have an important interim role to play. I think that the necessary first steps were taken during my visit to promote and foster a climate that would, I hope, enable voluntary repatriation to take place at the earliest possible date.
I should now like to refer to Viet-Nam. At the invitation of the Government of the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam, I had the pleasure of paying an official visit to that country from 19 to 27 September. As you are aware, the Office has undertaken an important programme of humanitarian assistance in both North and South Viet-Nam. My visit was particularly timely and provided a useful opportunity for discussing all matters of common interest with the Viet-Namese authorities and of ascertaining on the spot the needs of the populations uprooted and affected by the war. At Hanoi, I was able to have a detailed discussion about our collaboration with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and with senior officials of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Agriculture and Health and of departments collaborating in the Office's assistance projects. Apart from UNHCR's regular programme in North and South Viet-Nam, since the events of April, an emergency relief operation has been undertaken in South Viet-Nam in conjunction with UNICEF.. During my stay in Hanoi, I also had an opportunity to discuss with the special representative of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Viet-Nam detailed aspects of our collaboration. In order to see for myself the situation in the north, I also visited some of the most severely affected provinces, those selected to receive UNHCR assistance. I was able to see the progress made so far in carrying out UNHCR-financed projects concerned with agriculture, clothing and health. Over-All, these projects amount to $3 million. The 1975-1976 programme, which I discussed in detail with the Viet-Namese authorities, amounts to $ 6 million and will be concentrated mainly in the affected regions of Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang-Binh and Vinh-Lin, which lie between the seventeenth and twentieth parallels. Taking Highway No. 1, which links Hanoi to Saigon, I visited that region, particularly the area round Vinh, a large town which was very severely damaged during the war and where I held discussions with the provincial authorities, visited co-operatives and saw the various reconstruction projects undertaken by the Viet-Namese authorities to restore life to normal in the region which was completely devastated. I also visited the region of Haiphong and went to Nam-Dinh where a UNHCR clothing project has been successfully carried out.
The purpose of UNHCR assistance is to promote self-sufficiency as rapidly as possible. This, moreover, is fully in keeping with the policy of the Viet-Namese authorities. The projects will, therefore, be concentrated mainly in rural areas. Besides the agricultural sector, which is the largest, the Office will also lend its assistance in the areas of technical training, secondary education, health and clothing.
Besides UNHCR's programme in the North, assistance projects amounting to approximately $7 million for 1975-1976 have also been prepared in the South. As I said in my introductory statement, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Viet-Nam has invited me to visit the South and I intend to go there as soon as possible after the session of the General Assembly.
Within the limits of the resources placed at its disposal, UNHCR provides humanitarian assistance to displaced persons. Viet-Nam's needs are, however, enormous and merit a much greater effort on the part of the international community. From the point of view of their essential needs, the situation of displaced persons affected by long years of war is similar in every respect to that of refugees covered by the activities of my Office. Having seen personally the extent of the devastation, the need for rapid and effective assistance seems to me all the more urgent. I have no doubt that, in addition to the endeavours of my Office, which nevertheless remain modest, the United Nations system and the entire international community will not fail to make a joint effort, inspired by the courage and dynamism of the people of Viet-Nam, to face up to what is a truly humanitarian challenge.
1 Previously issued under the symbol A/AC.96/521.
2 For full text, see annex II.
3 United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 189, p. 137.
4 United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 606, p. 267
5 Official Records of the General Assembly, Twenty-ninth Session, Supplement No.12 (a/9612/Add.1), para. 80 (m).
6 Organization of African Unity document CM/267/Rev.1