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Notice and Comment Comes to the UN: UNHCR Seeks Public Comments on Draft Guidelines on Prima Facie Refugee Recognition

October 28, 2014

LcK75XpcaIn what may be a first, UNHCR is formally publishing draft guidelines and seeking  public comments on them. UNHCR should be applauded for this process. Let us hope that it becomes the routine. (UNHCR is calling it a trial.)

UNHCR has in the past been criticized for issuing new guidelines without extensive consultation, which are then subject to critique  (see here for an example from earlier this year). Sometimes the criticisms could have been addressed through fairly minimal revisions, but the tendency for UNHCR to publish final documents and get criticized later was generally counter-productive. Concerned members of the public felt blindsided and left out of the process. Meanwhile, even if UNHCR staff found merit in some critiques, it is typically much harder for an agency to retract a final document than to revise a draft.

To be clear, UNHCR has in the past circulated drafts formally and informally, but usually only to selected organizations and often only on condition that they keep the process confidential. UNHCR now appears to be adopting a more public Notice and Comment system, modeled on the well-established mechanisms administrative agencies use in democratic countries to solicit comments on proposed rules and regulations before they are finalized.  This is a great step.

The proposed guidelines concern prima facie recognition of refugee status. This is a critical issue. But I will withhold comment on the draft guidelines – which for the record, I have yet to read. I plan to submit my comments through the new UNHCR comment process, and I encourage other people with views on the subject to do the same. But no matter what I or anyone else may have to say about the draft, UNHCR should be applauded for the process.

The deadline for comments in November 11. The draft guidelines and instructions on how to comment are here.

One Comment
  1. November 2, 2014 6:58 am

    the guidelines end so abruptly on the issue of PoE and continuation thereof..

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