Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Switzerland, Liechtenstein


Agenda Item 8
Review of the Annual Consultations with Non Governmental Organisations

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
62nd Session of the Executive Committee

Mr Adam Henry
Department of Immigration and Citizenship

Geneva, Switzerland
3-7 October 2011

The Rapporteur’s Report on the Annual Consultation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) with Non Governmental Organisations (NGO) is a welcome contribution to the ongoing discussion of the needs of refugees, asylum seekers and other displaced people. We commend Dr Linda Bartolomei of the University of New South Wales for her work as Rapporteur and for her presentation of the concerns of NGOs to this Executive Committee meeting.

As always, the feedback from NGOs includes policy critiques and criticisms of different states, including Australia. The stakes are high as we all try to ensure that lives are protected and while we seek to maintain the integrity of refugee determination processes, honest and open dialogue is essential. We may not agree with all of the criticisms of NGOs but it is important that we understand these criticisms and consider whether and how our policies can be improved.

In Australia, we enjoy a mature and constructive dialogue with NGOs. It includes constructive and effective cooperation in many areas but also disagreement on some policy matters. Both the Australian Government and our NGO sector benefit. Ultimately, we are all better placed to respond to the needs of refugees and asylum seekers.

We also commend UNHCR and the NGO community for their efforts to promote genuine refugee participation through the involvement of 10 representatives of the regional refugee women’s dialogues in the June Standing Committee meeting and the NGO Consultations.

The women's frank presentations challenged us all – States, UNHCR and NGOs – to do better in response to the daily protection risks they face, particularly the risk of rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence.

In line with the recommendations in the Rapporteur’s Report we encourage UNHCR to expand the number of specialist gender and SGBV posts both in the field and at Headquarters. We also support the ongoing monitoring of protection responses to refugee and displaced women and girls. We urge UNHCR to give serious consideration to the proposal that a position similar to that of a Special Rapporteur be created to monitor incidents of SGBV and progress made in response and prevention. We encourage the ExCom to include the particular protection needs of women and girls as a permanent agenda item at the Protection Standing Committee in June.

We also lend our support to the recommendations which emphasise the importance of improved responses to the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender refugees and asylum-seekers.