Refugee Protection in International Law: Unhcr's Global Consultations on International Protection

Refugee Protection in International Law: Unhcr's Global Consultations on International Protection

Refugee Protection in International Law: Unhcr's Global Consultations on International Protection

Refugee Protection in International Law: Unhcr's Global Consultations on International Protection

Excerpt

The world has changed radically since the establishment of UNHCR and the coming into force of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees some fifty years ago. The modern regime of international refugee protection has been built on these beginnings in the aftermath of the Second World War and is now a complex structure affording vital protection to millions of forcibly displaced people. Within this structure, the Convention and its 1967 Protocol are widely acknowledged as enduring instruments with a ‘central place in the international refugee protection regime’, as States Parties to the Convention and/or Protocol declared in December 2001.

Conclusions have, however, sometimes been drawn which put in question the ongoing relevance of the Convention or which seem to call for its complete overhaul, or even abandonment. Such conclusions are misguided, even dangerous. They contribute to the waning quality of asylum, as State commitment to protection using the available instruments starts to falter. UNHCR does of course recognize that the challenges today are many and various and that there are gaps in the protection framework, even while, at the core, the Convention regime's fundamental principles are as sound and necessary as ever.

The Global Consultations on International Protection have been UNHCR's effort to rise to modern challenges confronting refugee protection, to shore up support for the international framework of protection principles, and to explore the scope for enhancing protection through new approaches, which nevertheless respect the concerns and constraints of States and other actors. The process was designed to promote better understanding of today's protection dilemmas, from the perspective both of the providers and of the beneficiaries of international protection. State interests and refugee needs have not been always easy to reconcile, but certainly the first step in this direction can only be taken when the possibilities and limitations are properly appreciated.

The Consultations were also conceptualized so as to realize better cooperation among all concerned. Best practices, or at least baselines, for making asylum systems work more justly and efficiently, coupled with a firming up of political will to improve the ‘doing’ of protection, not on an ad hoc and discretionary basis, but more predictably and consistently within the internationally agreed parameters, were likewise an objective. So too was a more reasoned approach to responsibility . . .

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