This is a synthesis of one of UNHCR’s flagship publications, The State of the World’s Refugees: In Search of Solidarity.The book itself was produced during 2011-2012, and written from the perspective of UNHCR, drawing on experiences fromthe past seven years. It is divided into eight thematic chapters, which together reflect the state of the world’s refugees.
Growing numberswithout state protectionInternational protectionunder pressureUNHCR’s innovativepractices
Third, the book highlights new practicesand approaches developed by UNHCRand partners, working with states, to re-spond to the world’s evolving forced dis-placement challenges:
To meet the needs of civilians in armedconflicts, UNHCR and its UN partnershave shifted their approach from riskavoidance to ‘risk management’. This ap-proach is focused on ‘how to stay’ insteadof ‘when to leave’, and on promoting ‘ac-ceptance’ among local communities.
To protect refugees within mixed mi-gration movements, UNHCR and part-ners in 2006 developed a Ten-Point Planon Refugee Protection and Mixed Migra-tion. It is aimed at encouraging states toincorporate refugee protection into broad-er migration policies and to ensure thatall migrants are treated with dignity.
To defend the institution of asylumand hold states accountable for respectingtheir obligations under the 1951 Conven-tion, UNHCR has increasingly made sub-missions to national and regional courtsin pursuit of more consistency in the ap-plication of asylum decisions.
To resolve protracted refugee situations,UNHCR has tried to adopt comprehensivestrategies that involve all three traditionaldurable solutions—voluntary repatriation,local integration and resettlement.
To integrate refugees, returnees andIDPs into broader reconstruction and de-velopment planning in cases of volun-tary repatriation and local integration,UNHCR and the UN Development Pro-gramme (UNDP) with the World Bank,in 2010 launched the Transitional Solu-tions Initiative.
First, the book describes growing num-bers of people who lack the full protectionof their state. At the start of 2011 tens of millions of people—including 33.9 millionof concern to UNHCR—are thereforeparticularly vulnerable. Most are peopleat risk from armed conflicts and politi-cal violence in their communities andcountries of origin: civilians in conflict,refugees, asylum-seekers, refugees inprotracted displacement and internallydisplaced people (IDPs). In recent years,IDPs have emerged as the largest groupof people receiving UNHCR’s protectionand assistance—as many as 14.7 million in27 countries at the start of 2011, thoughthe total number of IDPs from conflictcould be as high as 27.5 million. UNHCRis also concerned with 10.5 million refu-gees, mainly from conflicts.Additional populations of concern toUNHCR may be less affected by conflict,but live in similarly vulnerable situationswithout the full protection of their states.They include stateless people, refugeesand displaced people in urban areas, andpeople displaced by natural disasters andenvironmental factors. As many as 12million people may be stateless. Increas-ing numbers of refugees, IDPs and re-turnees live in urban areas compared tocamps. The number of people displacedby natural disasters has multiplied inrecent years, exceeding the number dis-placed by conflict. Climate change couldincrease this number by many millionsin decades ahead.Global social and economic trends in-dicate that displacement will continue togrow in the next decade, exacerbated bypopulation growth, urbanization, natu-ral disasters, climate change, ris
ing foodprices and conflict over scarce resources.Second, the book describes an interna-tional refugee protection system underconsiderable pressure from the growingnumbers and categories of people in needof protection. The international refugeeprotection system, founded in 1951 onthe principles of national responsibilityand international solidarity, is requiredto provide protection and assistance topopulations of concern, but also to ad-dress the evolving patterns of forced dis-placement. In particular, UNHCR and itshumanitarian partners are under increas-ing pressure to meet protection needs inthe world’s conflict zones, despite grow-ing threats to the security of aid workersand constraints to accessing populationsin need.Pressure on the international protec-tion system is compounded by threatsto the institution of asylum and the de-clining availability of traditional solu-tions to refugee problems. People whoseek asylum in another country face awidely varying protection environment,characterized by countries with diver-gent approaches, inconsistent practices,barriers to mixed migration and restric-tions on rights. People who are displacedacross borders owing to natural disastersand the effect of climate change face apotential legal protection gap, since theyare not covered by the 1951 UN RefugeeConvention. At the same time, refugeesare increasingly unlikely to find the tra-ditional solutions to their problems, andsome 7.2 million people are trapped in‘protracted’ exile. The host countries,countries of origin and donor countriesseem less able to work together to findsolutions, with host countries resistinglocal integration and other countries of-fering too few resettlement places.