Notes from Geneva: International Protection

23 06 2011

UNHCR Standing Committee meeting, 2009

Introduction: Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Erika Feller

The Global Needs Assessment (GNA) process has highlighted protection gaps and provided the opportunity to strengthen responses. Program design and monitoring will benefit. The Results Framework will provide the opportunity for comparative analysis & global consistency.

UNHCR is not the principle protection provider and can never be effective substitute for the exercise by States of their proper responsibilities.  UNHCR’s continued focus however is the building of effective national asylum systems through improved registration arrangements, expertise in refugee status determination or working to sensitise national legislative frameworks to age, gender and diversity considerations.

UNHCR’s protection mandate is delivered through protection staff with expertise and knowledge in a range of areas from refugee status determination, age/gender and diversity programming, Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) cluster co-ordination or protection capacity building.  Recent review of programs highlighted too few protection staff with low levels of knowledge and high turnover (due to temporary placements) which negatively impacts protection measures.

The GNA process illustrated the realisation by all offices of the implications flowing from UNHCR’s growing responsibility for Stateless populations.  The needs of Stateless persons feature more prominently in the plans than ever before. Some offices have found it difficult to move beyond advocacy and technical advice on statelessness issues to actual protection responses – this will be addressed through GNA planning and prioritization processes for mainstreaming of this population.

IDP’s are solidly integrated into planning, in the way of greater analysis of IDP needs, protection via documentation, land issues and other solutions.  Not all offices had sufficient budget to accommodate the needs of IDPs.  Further resources are needed to address the expanded IDP responsibilities of the offices, the GNA this has highlighted this as a key priority.

The offices have on-going dilemma of allocating the finite (and insufficient) resources between the competing protection objectives of all peoples of concern.  The GNA will highlight more protection measure gaps and act as an advocacy tool to secure more funds – if not, things will not get done.

Introduction: Director of the Department of International Protection Services, George Okoth-Obbo

  • South and South West Asia, Middle East and Horn of Africa need special attention.
  • Humanitarian Space shrinking due to the changing nature of armed conflict, restrictions on access, attacks on staff, use of the sovereignty argument by States and side effects of failed peacekeeping efforts. 260 humanitarian aid workers killed, kidnapped or seriously injured in 2008
  • Staff security becoming greater priority for UNHCR
  • Access to asylum for asylum seekers has become more difficult because of interception, detention and restrictive procedures which is a growing concern for UNHCR
  • Need to transfer policies to practice.
  • UNHCR leads 15 of the 22 IASC protection cluster operations 
  • Goal of UNHCR to strengthen 1951 Convention, despite progress there is insufficient engagement by states, there remains a restrictive Refugee Status Determination system and national security is given priority over refugee protection.
  • Stressed the importance of the Conclusion on Protracted Situations and the hope that the wording could be agreed by ExComm, as durable solutions, international solidarity and burden sharing were critical for the issue.
  • Acknowledgement of the growing complexities of root causes of displacement – such as environmental, population growth, declining resources, inequality of access to resources, ecological damage, climate change, urbanisation, armed conflict, extreme deprivation
  • The legal implications of implications of displacement driven by forces other than persecution, human rights violation and war have yet to be seriously assessed
  • Whatever the cause of displacement the international protection process and response to provide asylum needs to be flexible to accommodate the varying needs and strengthen in areas where it is weak.  

Protecting Persons of Concern in Emergencies a particular focus of UNHCR – an overview

  • Afghanistan and Pakistan have over 4.7m people of concern, intensified conflict and restricted access has created further disastrous situations
  • Iraq witnessed greater security & co-ordination with the Government to create conditions for voluntary return and sustainable re-integration of refugees and IDPs. However, is still a fragile situation with over 4.3m displaced internally and in Jordan and Syria
  • Darfur continues to host over 3m refugees & IDPs, the forced departure of 16 NGO’s threatening the international community’s ability to respond
  • The Somalian situation continues to remain volatile with 1.3m IDPs and over 500,000 refugees hosted by neighbouring countries 
  • The Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo remain extremely volatile and are witness to SGBV and recruitment of children by armed groups
  • Sri Lanka’s cease fire allowed humanitarian forces in and seen 280,000 IDPs registered
  • Columbia has 3m IDPs and 300,000 in refugee like situations in neighbouring countries

Response from Australian Government Delegation:

  • Recognition of the complexity and frequency of global population flows, exacerbated by the global economic downturn, climate change and conflict induced IDP and protracted refugee situations.
  • Reference to the new situations of displacement (Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia) and improved security situation in Iraq
  • Requested that UNHCR clearly articulates its priorities for action for the various persons of concern
  • Increased focus on protracted refugee situations announced by Australian Government and an on-going commitment to provide durable solutions through a new 4yr re-settlement planning framework
  • Australia welcoming 13,750 people under its Humanitarian Program for 2009-2010, an increase of 250 places on 2008/9 (7,750 under the special humanitarian program and 6,000 under refugee component)
  • Increased the target for the resettlement of women at risk and their dependents under the re-settlement program from 10.5% to 12%.
  • Urge Nepal and Bhutan to work together to facilitate a return to Bhutan for those refugees who wish to take up this option
  • Congratulates Japan on the launch of a pilot resettlement program
  • Commends Indonesia for working co-operatively with UNHCR to build a strong framework to ensure protection and minimise irregular movements
  • Australia will continue to provide resettlement palces for those referred by UNHCR and will continue to fund projects to stablilise displaced populations, support sustainable return and build protection capacity in the region.
  • Pleased by the agreement reached at the 3rd Ministerial conference of the Bali Process to use an ad hoc group process to mitigate increased irregular population flows and the impact on victims
  • Australian Government announced its complementary protection model to give effect to Australia’s non-refoulment obligations within its protection visa framework.
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