Governments endorse “Agenda for Protection” for Refugees at UN meeting

Governments endorse “Agenda for Protection” for Refugees at UN meeting

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Delegates from the 61 governments which make up the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Executive Committee today endorsed a strategic framework that deals with many of the most controversial issues in the current global asylum debate.

Delegates from the 61 governments which make up the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Executive Committee today endorsed a strategic framework that deals with many of the most controversial issues in the current global asylum debate.

The “Agenda for Protection” emerged out of a 20-month global consultation initiated by UNHCR, according to a statement from the refugee agency.

Addressing governments on the eve of their endorsement, UNHCR’s Director of International Protection, Erika Feller said the framework was not an abstraction, but an agenda that was directly relevant to the management of today’s asylum dilemmas. She urged States to bear the responsibility for refugee protection, adding that “the combination of lack of accountability, shortage of resources and failure of state responsibility were systemic problems that needed urgent attention.”

She said refugee problems were, in the first instance, human rights problems and that at the root of many of the dilemmas facing the protection of refugee rights “lies not in the regime of rights itself, but rather some confusion about how to determine who is responsible to protect these rights.”

The framework sets out clear objectives grouped according to six main goals and outlines a number of activities designed to support them which, Ms. Keller said, included measures for preventing sexual and gender-based violence, improving the protection of women and children, maintaining the civilian character of refugee camps, clarifying responsibility for refugee protection during rescue at sea operations, and strengthening asylum systems and procedures that were often cumbersome and prone to abuse.

Ms. Feller said UNHCR had already begun to implement some of the measures contained in the Agenda, even before governments officially endorsed it. She stressed that the Agenda was not only a strategic policy document for UNHCR but also a framework for actions by States to ensure that refugee protection was maintained in today’s complex environment.

The Agenda for Protection is prefaced by a landmark declaration issued last December by a meeting of 127 of the 144 signatory States, including 70 at ministerial level. That declaration renewed the States’ commitment to the 1951 Refugee Convention and reaffirmed it as the cornerstone of international efforts to protect refugees.