Background Note on Inter-Sessional Meetings of the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection
1. At its forty-second session, the Executive Committee decided to request the High Commissioner to convene such inter-sessional meetings of the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection as may be necessary to continue the constructive discussions on pending issues of the Report of the Working Group on Solutions and Protection, as well as on other relevant protection matters, and to seek consensus on action-oriented follow-up, as appropriate, of the Report, its recommendations, and the other relevant matters. The Executive Committee also decided to request the High Commissioner to report to the Executive Committee at its forty-third session on progress in the deliberations of the Sub-Committee.
2. Since October 1991, the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection has held three inter-sessional meetings (23 January 1992, 13-14 April 1992 and 25 June 1992) in which it considered five substantive agenda items and discussed one draft conclusion. The first meeting (EC/SCP/70), considered the plan of work of the Sub-Committee and took up the topic of change of circumstances and the cessation clause in the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees. The second meeting document (EC/SCP/71), considered protection of stateless persons, protection aspects of voluntary repatriation, and protection of persons of concern to UNHCR who fall outside the 1951 Convention. The third meeting discussed specific questions arising out of previous reports on implementation of the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol, and continued the work of the previous meetings on a draft conclusion on change of circumstances and the cessation clause. The draft conclusion was examined by an open-ended Working Group of the Sub-Committee and, with agreed amendments, was referred for further consideration and adoption to the forty-third session of the Executive Committee. The report of the third meeting has also been referred to the forty-third session for adoption.
3. The three inter-sessional meetings were the first of their kind for the Sub-Committee. The cooperative spirit which prevailed, leading, inter alia, to some sharing of responsibilities between the Secretariat and Member States for preparation of background notes, was a noticeable feature. Another feature was the novel approach taken by the Sub-Committee to handling the topics on its agenda. These were divided into those judged to require adoption of conclusions and those topics which, alternatively, were better handled through open-ended discussion and a Chairman's summary. Moreover, where it was felt a conclusion was warranted, the Sub-Committee ensured the close and ongoing involvement of capitals in the drafting process.
4. The Sub-Committee may, at this point, wish to assess how such features of these meetings might best be enhanced to allow for continuing constructive discussions and a productive outcome. In this regard, the frequency of such meetings, the methodology and structuring of their agendas and the approach to conclusions would benefit from careful reflection, to ensure that future inter-sessional meetings assist States and UNHCR in the best way possible to advance the protection of refugees.