Global Consultations on International Protection.


Information Sheet


The year 2001 marked the 50th Anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.  At the UNHCR Standing Committee meeting in July 2000, Erika Feller, the Director of the UNHCR Department of International Protection, proposed a series of consultations with States and other interested parties to explore the meaning and content of this regime.  This process would be known as the Global Consultations on International Protection.  The UNHCR Executive Committee (EXCOM) endorsed the proposal in October 2000, and an EXCOM meeting took place in December 2000 to agree the programme and format of the consultations.  The process began in February 2001, with the first meeting in Pretoria.



The aim of the Global Consultations is to ìseek to promote the full and effective implementation of the 1951 Convention and to develop complementary new approaches, tools and standards to ensure the availability of international protection where Convention coverage needs to be buttressed.î[1]  NGOs identified their objectives for the process as to improve the protection and human rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, reaffirm the centrality of the Convention and the Protocol and concept of asylum, and promote a positive asylum system.[2]



There have been some reservations about the Global Consultation process.  Erika Feller, in her statement to the 51st Session of EXCOM, 3 October 2000, recognised that there is a fear that the process is too broad, and that UNHCR maybe moving into areas outside its mandate.  She also noted that some States have questioned how appropriate it is for non-State Parties to be involved in discussions on the interpretation of the Convention and its Protocol.  The International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) has also highlighted its concern that the agenda for the process is overburdened, indicating their belief that ìthe prospect of achieving anything of substance within the time allowed is rather remote.î[3]  ICVA also expressed concern that States may hijack the process with their own agenda, that there was an emerging North / South divide that risked dominating the debate and that the EU Member States would not risk a clash with their own agenda.  ICVA recognised that these factors could influence the attitude of the States towards the process.  Questions relating to the role of NGOs in the process and the format of meetings (particularly in relation to the third track, which is a rigid EXCOM format) have been raised through ICVA also.



The Global Consultations have been organised around three separate tracks.  In addition to these there have been regional meetings with the intention of broadening the participation in the process.  There has also been a series of events involving refugees to encourage their contribution.  The scheduling of the consultations has  at times allowed for each set of conclusions to be utilised by the next related conference.[4]     


Track One

The first track has aimed to reaffirm the commitment of State parties to the 1951 Convention and / or its 1967 Protocol.  Its stated objectives were to promote the full and effective implementation of the Convention and / or the Protocol, encourage the withdrawal of reservations made at the time of accession to the Convention, and encourage United Nations (UN) States not yet party to the Convention and / or the Protocol to accede to these instruments.  This track also aimed at providing a forum in which governments are able to discuss the procedures for international refugee protection and its future direction.  The first formal meeting of State parties at ministerial level took place on 12 ñ 13 December 2001.  UN Member States not party to the Convention attended, alongside other UN intergovernmental and non-governmental observers to the Executive Committee and related consultations.


The meeting began with a series of introductory statements by the Chairperson, the President of the General Assembly of the UN, the Secretary-General of the UN, and the High Commissioner for Refugees.  There was also a very personal statement by the President of Latvia, Ms. Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who is a former refugee.  A refugee read the Paris Appeal, a declaration adopted by an assembly of refugees on 16th September 2001, calling upon those who have not already done so to ratify the 1951 Convention and / or its 1967 Protocol.  This was followed by a series of statements by States Parties, in which, inter alia, many reaffirmed their commitment to the 1951 Convention.  The High Commissioner for Human Rights closed the first day. 


The second day involved statements by the remaining States Parties and by the observers to the meeting. A statement on behalf of non-governmental organisations was made by a refugee Three roundtables were held on the following themes:

     The 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol Framework: strengthening implementation;

     Upholding refugee protection to protect masses in flight (inter alia, mass influx, burden and responsibility sharing, security, additional instruments);

     Upholding refugee protection in the face of mixed flows (inter alia, asylum systems).[5]


A Declaration was adopted at the end of the meeting.  The ëDeclaration of States Parties to the 1951 Convention and / or its 1967 Protocol relating to the status of refugeesí focuses on the importance of the 1951 Convention as the primary refugee protection instrument.  Commitment to the 1951 Convention is reaffirmed, and States are encouraged to accede, to withdraw their geographical boundaries, to strengthen its implementation and to promote universal adherence to this instrument.  The Declaration also recognises that many countries not party to the 1951 Convention host large numbers of refugees and a commitment is made to building capacity for refugees through burden sharing, international solidarity and comprehensive strategies in order to provide better refugee protection.  UNHCR is recognised as fundamentally important to the framework of protection and States are urged to respond to appeals for funding from this body.  The valuable contributions made by non-governmental organisations are also noted.  Other issues covered are non-refoulement, the need to strengthened national and international legislation, vulnerable groups, Article 1F and 33 (2), prevention and durable solutions, particularly voluntary repatriation. 


Track Two

The aim of the second track is to examine recent developments in refugee law and a number of emerging issues.  Among its stated objectives was to do a stock take of the current application of the Convention and the legal approach to it today, as the present environment is very different to the one in which it was conceived.  The issues discussed under this track were described by UNHCR as requiring further guidance as to their interpretation.  A series of four Expert Roundtables with 30 ñ 35 participants took place, providing UNHCR with background papers that can then be used to inform its own guidelines on related questions.  The subjects were:

  1. 1.   Cessation (Article 1C) and exclusion (Article 1F), May 2001, Lisbon;
    1. 2.   Principle of non-refoulement (Article 33) and a supervisory mechanism for UNHCR (Article 35), July 2001, Cambridge;
      1. 3.   Membership of a particular social group (Article 1A(2)), gender related persecution (Article 1A(2)) and internal flight protection / relocation / flight alternative, September 2001, San Remo;
        1. 4.   Illegal entry (Article 31) and family unity (final act of the 1951 conference), November 2001, Geneva.
        2. The roundtables adopted Summary Conclusions. These can be accessed from links in Appendix 1, or directly from the UNHCR website.


          Track Three

          Track three has aimed to examine a number of protection policy matters, some of which are not adequately covered by the 1951 Convention and / or the 1967 Protocol.  UNHCR identifies three aims for this track: to encourage a common understanding of the protection challenges and improve cooperation to address them; to identify and promote practical responses to protection problems; to lead the development of new approaches, tools and standards to strengthen protection.  These consultations are taking place within the framework of the UNHCR Executive Committee meetings during 2001 and 2002 and attended by ExCom members and observers.  They cover four themes:

          1.   Protection of refugees in mass influx situations, March 2001

          2.   Protection of refugees in the context of individual asylum systems, June and September 2001;

          3.   The search for protection-based solutions, May 2002;

          4.   Protection of refugee women and refugee children, May 2002.


          Regional Meetings

          1.     The regional workshops have intended to ensure that regional and national perspectives have been included in the consultations, particularly with reference to the issues under discussion in track three.  The conclusions of these workshops can then contribute to the track three conferences.[6] 


          Refugee Events

          To ensure that the voices of refugees have been heard in this process, refugee participation was encouraged at certain meetings.  One such meeting was the Forum of refugees in Europe, September 2001, Rouen.  Sixty-five refugees hosted in Western and Central Europe came together at the Institute of Social Development for a meeting entitled the ìRefugee Perspectiveî, which gave an immediacy to the Global Consultations process through the personal experiences and observations of these refugees.  The discussions, which focussed on asylum procedures, voluntary repatriation and integration, led to a set of recommendations addressing key problems in each area.[7]  UNHCR developed a network from the meeting, which they intend to use as a ësounding boardí for the development of people-orientated reception, protection and solution policies in Europe.


          There have also been a series of regional and local consultations bringing together refugees and other women of concern to UNHCR to discuss how their interests can be better addressed.  The conclusions were then brought to a consultation with 50 refugee women in Geneva to begin dialogue with UNHCR on how to attain the highest possible standards for womenís protection and participation in UNHCR activities.  This was entitled ëRespect our Rights: Partnership for Equalityí and took place on 20 ñ 22 June 2001.


          NGO Participation

          UNHCR and ICVA have been encouraging NGOs to be involved in the Global Consultations.  ICVA emphasises that NGOs have a policy-making, monitoring and advocacy role in the proceedings.  To support NGO contributions ICVA and UNHCR deployed a consultant to the Department of International Protection at UNHCR to act as NGO liaison to solicit contributions from NGOs, ensure that NGO views are fed into UNHCR thinking at an early stage, provide information to NGOs and ensure an NGO perspective at all stages of the consultations.  The Consultant's contract came to an end in December 2001. 


          ECRE has been involved in the Global Consultations and has acted as a channel for information between UNHCR and ICVA, and the ECRE member agencies.  It contributed to some of the NGO statements, including those on complementary protection, protection of refugees in mass influx situations, capacity building and protection, and the Ministerial meeting, and also commented on the draft Ministerial Declaration.


          Outcomes and achievements

          The reaffirmation by States of their commitment to the 1951 Convention in the Declaration by Ministers in the 12 ñ 13 December 2001 meeting is an important outcome.  Underpinning their talks were the recommendations provided by the Expert Roundtables, the ExCom discussions, the regional meetings and the refugee forums.  UNHCR expects that a set of specific activities that will turn intent into action will be finalized at the end of the Global Consultations in 2002.


          Agenda for Protection

          The Agenda for Protection will bring together the suggestions and conclusions from the Global Consultations process to serve as a guide to action by UNHCR and an inspiration for States, NGOs and other protection partners in setting future objectives. 

          The broad elements of the Agenda for Protection have emerged from the Global Consultation process.  As the process is not yet complete these elements will not be finalised by UNHCR until after consultations within the ExCom framework in mid-2002.  The following provisional elements of the Agenda have been identified.  They fall into five main categories, which represent the goals set by UNHCR for the various protection activities.


          1. Strengthening implementation of the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol

          •      Universal accession to the 1951 Convention and / or the 1967 Protocol;
            •      Improved individual refugee status determination procedures;
              •      Provision of complementary forms of protection to those who might not fall within the scope of the Convention, but require international protection;
                •      Exclusion of those undeserving of international protection, including those guilty of terrorist acts;
                  •      Strengthened supervision of implementation of the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol;
                    •      More harmonised interpretation of the 1951 Convention in light of developments in refugee law;
                      •      Enhanced respect for refugees and recognition of the contribution they can make;
                        •      Adequate reception arrangements;
                          •      More effective and predictable responses to mass influx situations;
                            •      Better registration of refugee populations;
                              •      More resolute responses to root causes of refugee movements.

                                2. Protecting refugees within broader migration movements

                                •      Ways to ensure that the needs of refugees and asylum-seekers, including access to protection, are properly identified and met within the broader context of migration management;
                                  •      Strengthened international efforts to combat trafficking and smuggling;
                                    •      Better documentation on the nexus between asylum and migration;
                                      •      Closer dialogue and cooperation between UNHCR and IOM;
                                        •      Information campaigns directed at ensuring potential migrants are aware of the prospects for legal migration and the dangers of human smuggling and trafficking;
                                          •      Return of persons found not to be in need of international protection.

                                            3. Sharing burdens and responsibilities more equitably and building capacities to protect and receive refugees

                                                 Responsibility-sharing arrangements to shoulder the burdens of first asylum countries;

                                                 More effective cooperation to strengthen protection capacities in refuge-receiving countries;

                                                 Strengthened partnerships for protection with civil society, including NGOs;

                                                 Refugee issues anchored within national regional development agendas;

                                                 Resettlement as a tool of burden-sharing.


                                            4. Addressing security-related concerns more effectively

                                            •      The resourcing of States facing security problems to separate armed elements from refugee populations;
                                              •      Keeping the Secretary-General and the Security Council seized with the issue;
                                                •      Addressing the special protection needs of refugee women and children.

                                                  5.  Redoubling the search for durable solutions

                                                  •      Protracted refugee situations;
                                                    •      The role of resettlement.



                                                      Appendix 1


                                                      Global Consultations on International Protection


                                                      Unless otherwise indicated all of the following documents are available on then click on ëGlobal Consultationsí then ëDocumentsí.


                                                      Track One

                                                      Background document on the Ministerial Meeting of States Parties and UNHCRíS Global Consultations on International Protection

                                                      Background Note on the Ministerial Meeting of States Parties to the 1951 Convention and/or 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees

                                                      Opening remarks by the High Commissioner to the Ministerial Meeting of States Parties to the 1951 Convention and/or 1967 Protocol

                                                      Declaration adopted at the Ministerial Meeting

                                                      "1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol Framework: Strengthening Implementation", Chairperson's Report of Roundtable 1

                                                      "International Cooperation to Protect Masses in Flight" (inter alia mass influx, burden and responsibility sharing, security and additional instruments), Chairperson's Report of Roundtable 2

                                                      "Upholding Refugee Protection in the face of Contemporary Challenges involving Mixed Flows" (inter alia asylum systems), Chairperson's Report of Roundtable 3

                                                      Summary Report of the first day of the Ministerial Meeting of States Parties,

                                                      Summary Report of the second day of the Ministerial Meeting of States Parties

                                                      Global Consultations Update - No. 1, 16 November 2001

                                                      Global Consultations Update - No. 2, 28 November 2001


                                                      Track Two


                                                      List of roundtables/topics/background papers, 25 July 2001

                                                      Cessation; exclusion ñ Lisbon, May 2001

                                                      "Current Issues in Cessation of Protection Under Article 1C of the 1951 Refugee Convention and Article I.4 of the 1969 OAU Convention", Joan Fitzpatrick, Jeffrey & Susan Brotman, University of Washington

                                                      "Current Issues in the Application of the Exclusion Clauses", Geoff Gilbert, 2001

                                                      "The 'Ceased Circumstances' Provisions of the Cessation Clauses: Principles and UNHCR Practice, 1973-1999", Rafael Bonoan, 24 April 2001

                                                      Summary Conclusions - Cessation of Refugee Status

                                                      Summary Conclusions - Exclusion from Refugee Status


                                                      Non-refoulement; supervisory responsibility, Cambridge, July 2001

                                                      "Supervising the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees: Article 35 and Beyond", Walter K”lin

                                                      "The Scope and Content of the Principle of Non-refoulement", Sir Elihu Lauterpacht & David Bethlehem, 20 June 2001

                                                      Summary Conclusions - Supervisory Responsibility

                                                      Summery Conclusions ñ The Principle of Non-refoulement

                                                      Gender-related persecution; particular social group; internal flight alternative, San Remo, September 2001

                                                      "Gender-Related Persecution", Rodger Haines, 10 August 2001

                                                      ìInternal Protection/Relocation/Flight Alternative as an Aspect of Refugee Status Determinationî, James C. Hathaway & Michelle Foster

                                                      ìMembership in a Particular Social Group: Analysis and Proposed Conclusionsî, T. Alexander Aleinikoff

                                                      UNHCRís Position on Gender-Related Persecution, January 2000

                                                      UNHCRís Position on Relocating Internally, February 1999

                                                      Summary Conclusions ñ Internal Protection/Relocation/Flight Alternative

                                                      Summary Conclusions ñ Gender-Related Persecution

                                                      Summary Conclusions ñ Membership of a Particular Social Group

                                                      Illegal entry; family unity, Geneva, November 2001

                                                      ìFamily Unity and Refugee Protectionî, Kate Jastram & Kathleen Newland

                                                      ìArticle 31 of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees: Non-penalization, Detention and Protectionî, Guy S. Goodwin-Gill, October 2001

                                                      Summary Conclusions ñ Family Unity

                                                      Summary Conclusions ñ Article 31 (Revised)


                                                      Track Three


                                                      Work Programme (working document), 9 May 2001

                                                      List of Selected Reference Material, 12 February 2001

                                                      Standing Committee Work Programme in 2002 and Schedule for Global Consultations on International Protection (Third Track), 4 December 2001


                                                      Protection in Mass Influx, Geneva, March 2001

                                                      "Mechanisms of international cooperation to share responsibilities and burdens in mass influx situations", EC/GC/01/7, 19 February 2001

                                                      "Practical aspects of physical and legal protection with regard to registration", EC/GC/01/6, 19 February 2001

                                                      "The civilian character of asylum: separating armed elements from refugees", EC/GC/01/5, 19 February 2001

                                                      "Protection of refugees in mass influx situations: overall protection framework", EC/GC/01/4, 19 February 2001

                                                      Follow-up to the first meeting of the third track, 30 May 2001

                                                      Report, EC/GC/01/8/Rev.1, 28 June 2001

                                                      Chairman's Summary

                                                      Protection in Individual Asylum Systems, Geneva, June 2001

                                                       ìAccess to Procedures ñ ëSafe Third Countriesí, ëSafe Countries of Originí, and ëTime Limitsíî, Joanne van Selm, June 2001

                                                      ìAsylum processes - fair and efficient asylum proceduresî, EC/GC/01/12, 31 May 2001

                                                      ìRefugee protection and migration control: perspectives from UNHCR and IOMî, EC/GC/01/11, 31 May 2001

                                                      Follow-up to the second meeting of the third track, 18 September 2001

                                                      Report, EC/GC/01/15/Rev.1, 27 September 2001

                                                      Chairman's Summary, 29 June 2001

                                                      Protection in Individual Asylum Systems, Geneva, September 2001

                                                      "Reception of asylum-seekers", EC/GC/01/17, 4 September 2001

                                                      "Complementary forms of protection", EC/GC/01/18, 4 September 2001

                                                      "Strengthening protection capacities in host countries", EC/GC/01/19, 4 September 2001

                                                      Chairman's Summary, 28 September 2001


                                                      Regional Meetings

                                                      Pretoria, 26-27 February 2001

                                                      Overview of Key Conclusions / Recommendations, EC/GC/01/9, 30 May 2001

                                                      Ottawa, 14-15 May 2001
                                                      and Macau, 28-29 May 2001

                                                      Main conclusions from the Regional Meetings in Ottawa and Macau, EC/GC/01/13, 31 May 2001

                                                      Budapest, 6-7 June 2001

                                                      Regional Meeting Budapest: Conclusions, EC/GC/01/14, 15 June 2001

                                                      San JosÈ, 7-8 June 2001

                                                      Regional Experts Meeting: Conclusions and Recommendations

                                                      Cairo, 3-5 July 2001

                                                      Regional Meetings of States and of NGOs: Key Conclusions and Recommendations, EC/GC/01/21, 20 September 2001

                                                      Oslo, 6-7 November 2001

                                                      Nordic Regional Resettlement Meeting: Report and Recommendations/Conclusions


                                                      Refugee Events

                                                      For further information on the ëInternational Conference on the Reception and Integration of Resettled Refugeesí (ICRIRR), Norrk–pping, 25-27 April 2001,

                                                      Paris Appeal by Refugees at the French National Assembly, 16 June 2001

                                                      ìThe refugee perspective: Recommendationsî, Rouen, 14-16 September 2001

                                                      Overview of Events relating to the Protection of Refugee Women and Refugee Children, as of 1 December 2001


                                                      Agenda for Protection

                                                      ìInformation Note: Agenda for Protection ñ An Overview of Likely Elementsî, HCR/MMSP/2001/07, 20 November 2001

                                                      ìInformation Note on Elements of an Agenda for Protection Activitiesî, HCR/MMSP/2001/06, 20 November 2001




[1] UNHCR Global Consultations: Update 1 August 2001

[2] ëNGO Background Paper on the refugee and Migration Interfaceí, co-authored by Human Rights Watch, International Catholic Migration Committee, and the World Council of Churches, and in consultation with other NGOs.  29 June 2001

[3] ëThe ICVA Guide to the Global Consultations on International Protectioní May 2001 available at

[4] See Appendix 1 for a list of the relevant documents and how to access them.

[5] See Appendix 1 for a list of the Chairpersons reports and how to access them.

[6] The workshops were:

1.     Maintaining the civilian and humanitarian character of asylum, refugee status, camps and locations, February 2001, Pretoria;

2.     Incorporating refugee protection safeguards in interception measures, May 2001, Ottawa;

3.     Identification of persons in need of protection and development of effective protection frameworks, May 2001, Macau;

4.     Application of the ësafe third country notioní and its effect on the management of flows and the protection of refugees; inter-State agreements for the readmission of third country nationals and for the determination of the State responsible for examining the substance of an asylum application; legal and practical aspects of the return of persons not in need of international protection, June 2001, Budapest;

5.     UNHCRís supervisory role and the Inter-American human rights bodies: a comparison, June 2001, San Jose;

6.     How to strengthen the capacity of first asylum countries in the region to offer adequate protection, July 2001, Cairo;

7.     Resettlement as a multifaceted tool and its relationship to migration, November 2001, Oslo

[7] See Appendix 1 for a link to this document.