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General Conclusion on International Protection

Executive Committee Meetings

General Conclusion on International Protection
No. 87 (L) - 1999

8 October 1999
Executive Committee 50th session. Contained in United Nations General Assembly document A/AC.96/928 et document no. 12A (A/54/12/Add.1).

The Executive Committee,

The protection situation

(a) Strongly deplores the serious breaches of internationally recognized rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and other persons of concern over the past year, and remains particularly preoccupied that systematic violations of human rights, blatant disregard of international humanitarian law, and policies of wholesale expulsions of populations and "ethnic cleansing" have caused significant displacement both internally and across borders in many regions of the world;

(b) Reaffirms relevant Conclusions, notably Conclusion No. 81 (XLVIII), para (j), in which the heavy burden carried in particular by developing countries is recognized; and notes with appreciation that a large number of developing countries, countries in transition and other countries with limited resources, which, due to their location, host large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers, continue to grant asylum and protection to refugees in accordance with international law and established principles and standards;

(c) Reaffirms its Conclusion No. 85 (XLIX), para (o), committing itself to uphold the principle of international solidarity and burden-sharing; expresses strong appreciation for instances where those principles were put into concrete action during the past year; and further encourages States and UNHCR to continue their efforts to give wider effect to these important principles;

(d) Recognizes that the presence of massive refugee populations in urban and rural areas in developing countries puts considerable strain on the economy and environment of these countries, and that increased attention should be paid to alleviate this negative impact; and calls on UNHCR to play its catalytic role to mobilize assistance from the international community to address environmental degradation in refugee-hosting areas as well as the economic and social impact of large-scale refugee populations;

(e) Welcomes the accession of Georgia and Kazakhstan to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, bringing to 138 the number of States parties to one or both of these instruments; and encourages UNHCR and States to strengthen their efforts to promote broader accession to these instruments and full implementation of them;

The refugee protection framework

(f) Reaffirms that the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol remain the foundation of the international refugee regime; recognizes, however, that there may be a need to develop complementary forms of protection, and in this context, encourages UNHCR to engage in consultations with States and relevant actors to examine all aspects of this issue;

(g) Reaffirms Conclusion No. 85 (XLIX) para. (d), and calls on all interested parties to turn concentrated attention towards revitalizing old partnerships and building new ones in support of the international refugee protection system, in a spirit of international solidarity and burden-sharing;

(h) Notes that the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions on the law of armed conflict is being commemorated this year; calls on States and other parties to armed conflicts scrupulously to observe international humanitarian law; and also calls on UNHCR to strengthen further its collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies;

(i) Notes that the 30th anniversary of the OAU Convention governing the specific aspects of refugee problems in Africa is also being commemorated this year; acknowledges the contribution made by this Convention to the development of regional standards for the protection of refugees; and encourages UNHCR to continue its close collaboration with the Organization of African Unity with a view to enhancing the protection of refugees in Africa;

Access to protection

(j) Reiterates that the institution of asylum is of crucial importance to the international protection of refugees; re-emphasizes the importance of ensuring access to asylum procedures; recalls Conclusions No. 15 (XXX) of 1979 and No. 58 (XL) of 1989 on refugees without an asylum country and irregular movement of asylum-seekers; and affirms, in this regard, that notions such as "safe country of origin", "internal flight alternative" and "safe third country", should be appropriately applied so as not to result in improper denial of access to asylum procedures, or to violations of the principle of non-refoulement;

(k) Acknowledges the need for States to address the problem of misuse or abuse of refugee status determination procedures, both at the national level and through international cooperation, and urges States to ensure that national law and administrative practices, including migration control measures, are compatible with the principles and standards of applicable refugee and human rights law, as set out in relevant international instruments;

(l) Reaffirms Conclusion No. 58 (XL) on irregular movements; notes with concern that refugees who have already found and continue to enjoy protection in a first country of asylum continue to move in an irregular manner to other countries on a significant scale; and encourages UNHCR, States and other relevant actors to enhance cooperation to address the causes of such movements, in particular with a view to ensuring treatment of asylum-seekers and refugees in accordance with the highest possible standards of protection in first countries of asylum, and to creating awareness as to the risks and dangers linked to irregular movements, notably exploitation by traffickers; and further encourages UNHCR to work with transit and destination countries to ensure that the protection and assistance needs of such asylum-seekers and refugees are met;

(m) Recalls Conclusion No. 15 (XXX) relating to refugees without an asylum country, Conclusion No. 30 (XXXIV) on the problem of manifestly unfounded or abusive applications for refugee status or asylum, and Conclusion No. 58 (XL) on the problem of refugees and asylum-seekers who move in an irregular manner from a country in which they had already found protection; and invites UNHCR to continue to study the issues arising from the concept of manifestly unfounded claims and to report to this Committee in due course;

Special protection needs

(n) Notes with appreciation special efforts by States to incorporate gender perspectives into asylum policies, regulations and practices; encourages States, UNHCR and other concerned actors to promote wider acceptance, and inclusion in their protection criteria of the notion that persecution may be gender-related or effected through sexual violence; further encourages UNHCR and other concerned actors to develop, promote and implement guidelines, codes of conduct and training programmes on gender-related refugee issues, in order to support the mainstreaming of a gender perspective and enhance accountability for the implementation of gender policies;

(o) Calls on States to promote and protect the human rights of all refugees; expresses its particular and deep concern that refugees with special protection needs, including refugee women and children, are increasingly targets of exploitation, forced military service and various forms of violence; and calls on States to tailor their protection responses accordingly;

(p) Taking into account that elderly refugees are particularly affected by social disintegration, chronic dependency and other adverse aspects of the refugee condition, calls on States, UNHCR and other concerned actors to make renewed efforts to ensure that the rights, needs and dignity of elderly refugees are fully respected and addressed through appropriate programme activities;

Security of refugees

(q) Recalls United Nations Security Council resolution S/RES/1208 (1998); remains gravely preoccupied with the continuing occurrence of military or armed attacks and other threats to the security of refugees, including the infiltration of armed elements in refugee camps and settlements; re-emphasizes the responsibility of States, working, where appropriate, with UNHCR in collaboration with each other and with other parts of the UN system, to uphold the civilian and humanitarian character and to ensure the security of refugee camps and settlements, inter-alia, by identifying and separating armed elements from refugee populations and settling refugees in secure locations; and encourages States and UNHCR, in collaboration with each other and with other parts of the UN system, to continue their efforts to enhance the security and civilian nature of refugee camps and settlements;

Durable solutions

(r) Reaffirms that voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement are the traditional solutions for refugees, and that all remain viable and important responses to refugee situations; reiterates that voluntary repatriation, where and when feasible, remains the preferred solution in the majority of refugee situations; and notes that a combination of solutions, taking into account the specific circumstances of each refugee situation, can help achieve lasting solutions;

Stateless persons and internally displaced persons

(s) Notes with concern the persistence of statelessness problems; welcomes the accession of Chad to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, as well as the accession of St Vincent and the Grenadines and Zimbabwe to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons; and encourages UNHCR to continue to promote further accessions to and full implementation of both instruments by the States concerned;

(t) Recalls Conclusion No. 75 (XLV) on internally displaced persons; takes note of resolution 53/125 adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1998; reiterates the relevance of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement,1 and reaffirms its support for UNHCR's role with internally displaced persons on the basis of criteria specified by the General Assembly.

1 E/CN.4/1998/53/Add.2, annex. This document was prepared at the request of the Commission on Human Rights and was submitted by the Representative of the Secretary-General for Internally Displaced Persons in April 1998.