Legal Instruments

The Refworld legal instruments collection contains international, regional and national legal instruments, relating to refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless and internally displaced persons, including their legislative history and comments on these instruments.
UNHCR's partner Vasa Prava BiH providing free legal aid to asylum-seekers in TRC Sedra in Cazin, Una Sana Canton

UNHCR's partner Vasa Prava BiH providing free legal aid to asylum-seekers in TRC Sedra in Cazin, Una Sana Canton

Legal Instruments Collection
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Legislative History

Here you can find the legislative history relating to various international and regional legal instruments, in particular the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol.

See all Legislative History

Model Laws

Model Laws are provided to assist States in the design and review of national laws, policies, procedures and practices with a view to ensuring full adherence to international and regional legal instruments in the domestic legal framework.

See all Model Laws

International / Regional Legal Instruments

For the purposes of Refworld, the scope of the international / regional legal instruments is broader than legally binding documents as such and also contains so-called ‘soft law’ or non-legally binding instruments.  You will find here legal instruments at global and (sub)regional level, including:

  • Treaties & Agreements: this type contains international and regional treaties, conventions, protocols, and various agreements, including bilateral, tripartite, multilateral, and peace agreements between international organizations and States. It also contains cooperation agreements and memoranda of understanding between UNHCR and other partners (with international organizations, States and non-governmental partners. See for more information on the latter, UNHCR agreements.

  • Constituent Instruments: this type contains the constituent instruments by which international organizations are created, such as Charters, Statutes and Rules of such organizations. 

  • General Comments / Recommendations: this type includes the General Comments and Recommendations issued by the UN Treaty Bodies as well as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Committee of Experts on Rights and Welfare of the Child.

  • Resolutions / Declarations / Recommendations / Decisions: a wide range of documents from various document sources, mostly non-binding.

  • Regulations / Directives / Decisions: this type contains the secondary legislation of the European Union. Also included are some proposals for legislation.

National / Domestic Legal Instruments

Here you can find domestic legislative instruments which are classified as follows:

  • Legislation: primary legislation issued in principle by the legislative branches of government, such as acts and laws. It also includes the constitutions.
  • Decrees / Circulars / Regulations: secondary (delegated) legislation issued in principle by the executive branch of government implementing the primary legislation, such as decrees, circulars and regulations. 
Comments on Legislation

In the legislative process, there are often consultations on the text of the draft legislation. You can find here comments and observations provided by stakeholders relating to draft legislation as well as comments and observations on legislation in force.  This includes comments on draft or in force EU legislation.

Legislation Compilations

Here you can find thematic compilations of legislation.