Memorandum of Understanding Between the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Association of Refugee Law Judges (IARLJ)

Whereas the rights of persons seeking international protection against persecution are protected by international law, in particular by the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, as well as by other international and regional instruments and by national laws, practices and jurisprudence developed to give effect to these rights;

Whereas the numbers of persons seeking such protection outside their countries of origin are significant and pose challenges that transcend national boundaries;

Whereas judges and quasi-judicial decision makers in all regions of the world have a special role to play in ensuring that persons seeking protection outside their country of origin are able to find effective protection in accordance with their rights and ensuring, in particular, that the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol as well as other applicable international, and regional instruments and national laws are applied fairly, consistently, and in accordance with the rule of law;

Whereas the International Association of Refugee Law Judges ("the IARLJ") is an association of national judges and quasi-judicial decision-makers established as a network and forum to assist and support its members and potential members dealing with refugee and asylum issues in all parts of the world, to share information and experiences on issues of common concern so as to develop a common understanding of relevant international, regional and national law and practices relating to the status and protection of refugees;

Whereas the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ("UNHCR") is the primary United Nations body mandated to provide international protection to refugees world-wide and whose work is of an entirely humanitarian and non-political character;

Whereas UNHCR and the IARLJ, being jointly concerned that basic principles of legal protection are available to all asylum-seekers and refugees without discrimination, in particular in procedures for the determination of claims to refugee status, now wish to formalise their co-operation which has existed since 1995 and to build further upon that relationship.

Therefore by this Memorandum of Understanding, the IARLJ and UNHCR reaffirm their mutual commitment to promote and encourage national systems for the identification, treatment and protection of asylum-seekers and refugees which are fair, humane, effective and at all times subject to applicable principles of international law and the rule of law;

To this end, the IARLJ and UNHCR agree, insofar as their respective resources, mandates and other priorities reasonably permit, to collaborate as follows:

1. to promote within the judiciary and with quasi-judicial decision-makers world-wide, a common understanding of refugee law and asylum principles and to encourage the use of fair practices and procedures to determine issues that relate to the legal protection of refugees;

2. to strive for judicial independence and to facilitate within national legal systems, the development of independent institutions which apply judicial principles to refugee law issues;

3. to encourage the sharing of jurisprudence, information, databases, experiences and practices relating to conditions in countries of origin and countries of transit insofar as they relate to asylum seekers and refugees;

4. to encourage the development of national procedures and practices which guarantee access by asylum seekers to judicial or quasi-judicial bodies and which are fully compatible with applicable international law standards and subject to the rule of law;

5. to promote capacity-building and networking among national judges and quasi-judicial decision-makers world-wide through, inter alia, research initiatives, publications, training, promotion, conferences, working groups and such other activities, including collaboration with other relevant bodies, which best further the objects of this Memorandum.

Signed at Geneva, Switzerland the 30th day of August 1999,

For and on behalf of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,

Erika Feller
Department of International Protection

For and on behalf of the International Association of Refugee Law Judges,

Geoffrey Care