Strengthening international protection to refugees and other persons of concern through thematic funding to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Situation Report
Originally published


Location of operation: Global

Amount of decision: EUR 4,000,000

Decision reference number: ECHO/THM/BUD/2006/01000

Explanatory Memorandum

1 - Rationale, needs and target population:

1.1. - Rationale:

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is mandated by the United Nations to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees worldwide and resolve their problems. One of the UNHCR's primary purposes is also to safeguard the rights of refugees and others of concern. The UNHCR was invested with a clear mandate to "provide protection to refugees(1)". Protection begins with securing their admission to a safe country of asylum, the granting of asylum and ensuring respect for their fundamental human rights, including the right not to be forcibly returned, or refouled, to a country where their safety or survival is threatened.

Securing the legal and physical protection of refugees is a central responsibility of states and a major concern for the UNHCR. Increasingly, refugees(2) are encountering problems while seeking international protection. Instances of refoulement(3) are on the rise, borders may be closed and there have also been instances of enhanced tension between refugees and local communities, sometimes translating into violence.

While the primary role of the UNHCR, to provide international protection to refugees, has not changed over the years, changes in the nature of armed conflict have affected patterns of population movements, while political repression and human rights violations remain significant elements of current displacements(4). The political scene has witnessed some changes in the last few decades: the wars of independence in the sixties and seventies have been replaced in the eighties and nineties by new forms of violence where guerrilla groups and other non state actors engage in fighting with regular Government armies.

Within this challenging context, the UNHCR had to take effective and appropriate initiatives to respond to refugee situations. In 2002, further to the traditional geographical DG ECHO financing, focussed on a particular country or region, DG ECHO decided to reinforce the UNHCR's protection activities through thematic funding. This was a concrete follow up to the 2001 Evaluation on the DG ECHO- the UNHCR Partnership which recommended that DG ECHO "become a more predictable donor and concentrate funding on the UNHCR activities with optimum added value.... and support the longer-term efforts of the UNHCR to set up an integrated and performing global registration system for refugees". The UNHCR was the first DG ECHO partner to benefit from thematic funding- EUR 27 M between 2002 and 2005. Thematic funding has enabled the UNCHR to make significant progress in the important areas of protection and registration of refugees with the development of new programmes such as a completely new and modern system for the registration of refugee populations, Project Profile, an emergency deployment programme for qualified protection staff, Surge Project and the updating of their emergency preparedness and response procedures and mechanisms. Today, reinforcing the UNHCR emergency capacity becomes even more important given the increasing responsibilities the UNHCR is likely to have for IDP in the sectors of shelter, camp management and protection. The UNHCR has been tasked by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee to lead the clusters on protection, camp coordination and management and emergency shelter for IDP situations in man-made disasters.

These enhancements are co-funded by DG ECHO to the point where they have now proven effectiveness and have therefore been incorporated into the UNHCR's Global Appeal. DG ECHO is planning to phase out its support to these programmes by the end of this funding decision, when the full implementation of "Project Profile" will be completed.


(1). The 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.

(2). A refugee, as defined in the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, is outside his/her country of origin, has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution. Refoulement: the removal of a person to a territory where the person would be at risk of being persecuted, or of being moved to another territory where the person would face persecution.

(3). The principle of non-refoulement is included in refugee law and customary international law.

(4). Refugees are not only "persecuted" refugees in the narrow sense of the 1951 Convention, but also people fleeing from a theatre of crisis.