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General Conclusion on International Protection

Executive Committee Meetings

General Conclusion on International Protection
No. 81 (XLVIII) - 1997

17 October 1997
Executive Committee 48th session. Contained in United Nations General Assembly Document No. 12A (A/52/12/Add.1).

The Executive Committee,

(a) Welcomes the fact that despite the increasing complexity of refugee crises, States in many parts of the world continue to grant asylum to refugees, both on an individual basis and in situations of mass influx;

(b) Strongly deplores the serious and often brutal violations of the human rights of refugees, returnees and displaced persons during the past year, and remains particularly preoccupied with the situation of refugees, asylum-seekers, and displaced persons in central Africa;

(c) Reiterates the fundamental importance of the international protection of refugees, as well as the mandated role of UNHCR in this regard, and acknowledges with appreciation the contribution made by the High Commissioner, in cooperation with States and concerned agencies, to promote the protection of refugees and to facilitate lasting solutions; acknowledges also the efforts of the High Commissioner, working together with other humanitarian and development organizations, as well as with States, to contribute to the resolution of refugee crises and to address their root causes;

(d) Emphasizes that refugee protection is primarily the responsibility of States, and that UNHCR's mandated role in this regard cannot substitute for effective action, political will, and full cooperation on the part of States, including host States and countries of origin, as well as other international organizations, and the international community as a whole;

(e) Calls on States to take all necessary measures to ensure that refugees are effectively protected, including through national legislation, and in compliance with their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law instruments bearing directly on refugee protection, as well as through full cooperation with UNHCR in the exercise of its international protection function and its role in supervising the application of international conventions for the protection of refugees;

(f) Calls upon States to consider, including through competent organs of the United Nations and other relevant international organizations, steps that could be taken to assist the High Commissioner in strengthening implementation of the principles of international protection in situations, including, in particular, in complex emergencies, where refugee protection is threatened;

(g) Stresses the importance of the role played by this Committee in providing guidance and forging consensus on vital protection policies and practices, and, in this connection, emphasizes the need for due regard to be paid to the Conclusions of the Executive Committee;

(h) Reaffirms Conclusion No. 80 (XLVIII), and notes that a comprehensive approach to refugee protection comprises, inter alia, respect for all human rights; the principle of non-refoulement; access, consistent with the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, of all asylum-seekers to fair and effective procedures for determining status and protection needs; no rejection at frontiers without the application of these procedures; asylum; the provision of any necessary material assistance; and the identification of durable solutions which recognize human dignity and worth;

(i) Recognizes the fundamental importance of the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits expulsion and return of refugees in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where their lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, whether or not they have formally been granted refugee status, or of persons in respect of whom there are substantial grounds for believing that they would be in danger of being subjected to torture, as set forth in the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;

(j) Recognizes that countries of asylum carry a heavy burden, including, in particular, developing countries, countries in transition, and countries with limited resources, which, due to their location, host large numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers; reiterates in this regard its commitment to uphold the principles of international solidarity and burden-sharing, and calls on Governments, UNHCR and the international community to continue to respond to the assistance needs of refugees until durable solutions are found;

(k) Encourages States and UNHCR to continue to promote, where relevant, regional initiatives for refugee protection and durable solutions, and to ensure that regional standards which are developed conform fully with universally recognized standards and respond to particular regional circumstances and protection needs;

(l) Welcomes the accession of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, bringing to 135 the number of States parties to one or both of these instruments;

(m) Notes with appreciation that a number of States not party to the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol continue to maintain a generous approach to asylum; nevertheless, considering that over fifty States have yet to accede to these instruments, encourages the High Commissioner to continue to promote further accessions; and urges all States that have not yet done so to accede to and implement fully these instruments, as well as relevant regional instruments for the protection of refugees, where applicable, thereby strengthening the framework of international protection;

(n) Calls upon States parties to the 1951 Convention and/or the 1967 Protocol which, at the time of accession, made reservations with respect to any provisions of these instruments to review such reservations with a view to their withdrawal;

(o) Welcomes the growing number of accessions to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, and encourages UNHCR to continue its efforts, in cooperation with interested organizations, to promote further accessions to both instruments, as well as to provide technical and advisory services and training globally, to disseminate information on statelessness and nationality issues, and to further its cooperation with States and other organizations interested in this area;

(p) Takes note of the discussions which have taken place on measures to ensure international protection to all who need it, and encourages UNHCR to continue to organize informal consultations, with a view to making further progress in this area, including through exploring the development of guiding principles;

(q) Notes that voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement are the traditional durable solutions for refugees; affirms that voluntary repatriation of refugees is the most preferred solution, when feasible; and calls upon countries of origin, countries of asylum, UNHCR, and the international community to take all necessary measures to enable refugees to exercise freely their right to return to their homes in safety and dignity;

(r) Reaffirms the continuing importance of resettlement as an instrument of protection and burden-sharing and as a durable solution in specific circumstances; encourages all Governments capable of doing so to make efforts to resettle refugees; encourages Governments who have not already done so to join in offering resettlement opportunities to refugees, and requests UNHCR to report on resettlement activities to the forty-ninth session of the Executive Committee;

(s) Reaffirms the right of all persons to return to their countries, and the responsibility of States to facilitate the return and reintegration of their nationals; recommends to States that strategies for facilitating the return, in safety and dignity, of persons not in need of international protection be examined within a framework of international cooperation; and encourages UNHCR to continue, in cooperation with other appropriate international organizations, to look into ways in which the return process of individuals, determined through fair and effective procedures not to be in need of international protection, can be facilitated, and to inform the Standing Committee;

(t) Reaffirms its Conclusions Nos. 39 (XXXVI), 54 (XXXIX), 60 (XL), 64 (XLI) and 73 (XLIV), and urges States, UNHCR, and other humanitarian organizations, as appropriate, to take all necessary steps to implement these Conclusions, including through recognizing as refugees women whose claims to refugee status are based upon a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons enumerated in the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, including persecution through sexual violence or other gender-related persecution; by the integration of activities on behalf of refugee women in every aspect of programme planning and implementation; and by taking action to eliminate incidents of violence against women and girls;

(u) Notes with satisfaction UNHCR's dissemination and training activities with regard to promoting refugee law and protection principles, and calls upon the High Commissioner to continue to strengthen the Office's refugee law promotion work, with the active support of States and through increased cooperation with non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and other relevant organizations.