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According to Wikipedia:

As of 2011, the UNHCR itself, in addition to the 1951 definition, recognizes persons as refugees:

"who are outside their country of nationality or habitual residence and unable to return there owing to serious and indiscriminate threats to life, physical integrity or freedom resulting from generalized violence or events seriously disturbing public order."

I'm not asking what the spiritual predecessors of that extension were; those can be easily identified as the African OAU definition and the Latin-American Cartagena variant.

I want to know by what procedure did the UNHCR extend its definition. (Who was for, who was against etc.)


For more verification of Wikipedia's claim, the 2011 UNHCR Resettlement Handbook (p. 19) really does say they have that extended mandate:

UNHCR’s definition of a refugee under its mandate

UNHCR’s mandate to protect refugees also extends to persons who are affected by the indiscriminate effects of armed conflict or other events which have seriously disrupted public order.

In addition to individuals who meet the criteria in the 1951 Convention definition, UNHCR recognizes as refugees persons who are outside their country of nationality or habitual residence and unable to return there owing to serious and indiscriminate threats to life, physical integrity or freedom resulting from generalized violence or events seriously disturbing public order.

(Emphasis in original.)

According to another UNHCR page, this extension seems based on some external decisions

Based on UNHCR's Statute and successive UN General Assembly and ECOSOC resolutions UNHCR's competence to provide international protection to refugees encompasses individuals who meet the criteria for refugee status contained in Article 1 of the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol and is extended to individuals who are outside their country of origin and who are unable or unwilling to return there owing to serious threats to life, physical integrity or freedom resulting from generalized violence or events seriously disturbing public order.

What precisely were those "successive UN General Assembly and ECOSOC resolutions"?

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The earlier evolution of UNHCR's thinking/position is recounted by R. Hamlin, in the book Let Me Be a Refugee as:

For its part, the UNHCR has gradually come around to the idea that its mandate includes advocating for an international complementary protection regime. Although the Executive Committee has reaffirmed on a number of occasions that the 1951 Convention is the “foundation” and “cornerstone of the international refugee protection regime,” in recent years the agency has also taken to insisting that “the human rights base of the Convention roots it quite directly in the broader framework of human rights instruments of which it is an integral part” (UNHCR 2001, 2009). In this way, the UNHCR seems to have adopted the Goodwin-Gill/McAdam unitary approach to the relationship between international refugee law and human rights law. Although some states have, historically, offered protection to people who fell outside the Convention definition of a refugee for a variety of reasons, by the 1990s the UNHCR began to push states to offer protection more consistently and expansively. Beginning in 1994, the UNHCR explicitly defined the people within its purview using the expansive OAU and Cartagena definitions, not the definition from Article 1 of the Convention (UNHCR 1994). Since 2005, UNHCR has recommended that states integrate their RSD systems to include complementary protection as part of one “comprehensive procedure” (UNHCR 2005). [...] the agency maintains the distinction between refugees and other migrants simply by encouraging an expansion of the refugee category. It is strategically necessary for the UNHCR to promote the distinction between categories to avoid being seen as interfering in migration policymaking, which is closely linked to sovereignty.

[Referencing:]

So from that it seems change in policy/def is quite old (1994), although Hamlin acknowledges the wind it received in 2005 with EU-related change (when UNCHR applauded EU's 2004 subsidiarity protection).

This 1994 UNCHR document does answer the question of the source of the extended mandate authority:

Using a variety of formulations, the General Assembly has regularly called upon the High Commissioner "to continue his assistance and protection activities in favour of refugees within his mandate as well as for those to whom he extends his good offices or is called upon to assist in accordance with relevant resolutions of the General Assembly". [citing in footnote]

GA res. 3143 (XXVIII), 14 Dec.1973. Other resolutions refer, e.g., to "refugees for whom [the High Commissioner] lends his good offices" (GA Res.1673 (XVI), 18 Dec. 1961; "refugees who are of [the High Commissioner's] concern" (GA res. 2294 (XXII), 11 Dec 1967; "refugees and displaced persons, victims of man-made disasters" (ECOSOC Res. 2011(LXI), 2 Aug.1976, endorsed by GA res. 31J.55 of 30 Nov. 1976; "refugees and displaced persons of concern to the Office of the High Commissioner" (GA res.36/125, 14 Dec.1981); "refugees and externally displaced persons" (GA res. 44/150, 15 Dec. ,1988; "refugees and other persons to whom the High Commissioner's Office is called upon to provide assistance and protection" (GA res. 48/118, 20 Dec.1993).

The list is a bit extensive, so I'm not going to go through the individual declarations. What turns out to be more interesting in this 1994 UNHCR document is that it outlines, on a couple of pages, what is basically a legal theory that the 1951 Convention while circumscribing the obligations of the member countries (particularly by adopting a certain definition of refugee whom the countries had to protect) , it did not impose the same limits on the UN[HCR]. The argumentation is rather detailed, so I won't cover it here; it relies not only the text of the convention but also minutes of the preparatory discussions etc.

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