UNHCR 58th Executive Committee, 3 October 2007
Agenda item 5 a – International Protection
Statement by Haakon Gram-Johannessen, Councellor
Thank you Mr. Chairman,
Thanks also to the Assistant High Commissioner for her as usual very concise introduction to this debate.
At the outset I would like to voice my delegation’s strong support for the Agenda for Protection which provides a most appropriate framework for addressing topical questions relating to the delivery of protection and durable solutions to refugees.
We take note of the deplorable fact that the number of persons requiring international protection has risen over the last year, partly due to the intensified general violence in countries such as Iraq. Ongoing refugee outflows must be properly addressed. At the same time, we must reintensify efforts to address the plight of persons trapped in long-standing and protracted refugee situations.
Norway welcomes the Dialogue on Protection Challenges to be launched by the High Commissioner shortly. In today’s world of interrelated and evolving challenges we believe there is a great need for an informal fora of exchange and debate involving different stakeholders. Only through broad and in-depth discussions will we be able to properly address the topics we are currently struggling with.
On this backdrop we find it very timely to address mixed migration flows at the initial dialogue meeting. The operational and policy experience of UNHCR is a great asset to this debate which main aim should be to suggest tools and systems for providing necessary protection and avoiding refoulement. Protecting refugees within broader migration movements remains a challenge in several regions. Norway is not among the most affected countries. However, we still see a clear need for improved regional burden sharing when it comes to mixed migration flows.
Turning to long term solutions. Voluntary repatriation remains the prime durable solution in most refugee situations. In general, programmes implemented to facilitate return and reintegration should be strengthened. In this regard we look forward to UNHCR’ s Policy Development and Evaluation Service’ (PDES) anticipated paper on HCR’s role in support of return and reintegration of refugees and IDPs in post-conflict and transition.
Resettlement has proved a most valuable solution in protracted situations. The relatively few resettlement places available should however, when possible, be used in a way that generates comprehensive solutions for entire refugee populations. Providing solutions for individuals is in itself a prime objective, but we should continue to strive for added value of overall resettlement operations. Norway maintains a yearly resettlement quota of 1200 places. Of the grand total, 80 places have been allocated to emergency cases which are dealt with in a swift and more expeditious manner. Over the past years, particular attention has been paid to Burmese refugees in our overall resettlement policy.
Allow me to share with this committee a recent legislative development in Norway. In June this year, the Government submitted a draft Immigration Bill to Parliament, which includes proposals for strengthening refugee protection under Norwegian law. Firstly, the refugee definition of the ‘51 Convention is proposed incorporated into national law. Secondly, a reference is made to Article 35 of the Convention, thus formalising the requirement to co-operate with UNHCR. Thirdly, persons covered by the provisions of non-refoulement of other international instruments to which Norway is a party, shall be accorded refugee status in line with persons meeting the ‘51 Convention criteria. The Bill will be considered by Parliament in due course.
Norway is pleased that UNHCR has been able to engage with our delegation in regular bilateral dialogue meetings on topical protection issues. These meetings provide Norwegian adjudicating bodies with better understanding of the content and background of UNHCR’s various recommendations and guidelines. Thus, they may facilitate harmonization of practice with relevant recommendations. We also hope that Norwegian experiences and approaches might serve as useful input to UNHCR in its work on guidelines and policy matters.
In concluding, Mr. Chairman, I would like to express Norway’s full support for the Conclusions on Children at risk that are tabled for approval at this session of the Ex Com. However, we do believe there is need for continued focus and scrutiny on the overall process of elaborating protection conclusions, including the way in which themes are selected. While taking due account of the comments made yesterday by the Assistant High Commissioner, we would like to see a survey or an evaluation of the use of the conclusions. This with a view to ensure optimal use of scarce resources and to gain better understanding of Excom Conclusions as a protection tool.
I thank you Mr. Chairman,