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  The Refugees

San Jose Declaration

San Jose Declaration on Refugees and Displaced Persons under
the Auspices of the Costa Rican Government

International Colloquium in Commemoration of the Tenth Anniversary of The Cartagena
Declaration on Refugees


San José, 5-7 December 1994

The participants in the Colloquium have reached the following conclusions:

First. To recognize the overriding importance of the Cartagena Declaration in addressing refugee situations generated by the Central American conflicts of the past decade, and, consequently, to stress the appropriateness of resorting to the Declaration in order to find solutions both to pending problems and to the new challenges posed by uprootedness in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Second. To reaffirm the validity of the principles contained in the Declaration as elaborated in the documents Principles and Criteria for the Protection and Assistance to Central American Refugees, Returnees and Displaced Persons in Latin America (1989), as well as in the Evaluation of the Practical Application of those Principles and Criteria (1994), and to reiterate, in particular, the value of the refugee definition contained in the Cartagena Declaration, which, by being based upon objective criteria, has constituted an effective humanitarian instrument in support of State practice in extending international protection to persons in need thereof, beyond the scope of the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol.

Third. To stress the complementary nature and convergence between the systems of protection to persons established in International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law and International Refugee Law, and, with the aim of establishing a common legal framework, to reiterate the convenience for those States which have not yet done so to adhere to the pertinent international instruments. In this context, the Colloquium makes an appeal to the States party to the 1969 American Convention on Human Rights to adopt the domestic measures required to ensure the full application and promotion of its provisions, as well as supervision by the pertinent bodies provided for therein.

Fourth. To encourage the commitment of the governments, non-governmental organizations and the jurists of the region in favour of the promotion, development and harmonious application of international human rights law, humanitarian law, an refugee law.

Fifth. To urge governments to encourage, with the collaboration of UNHCR, a process of progressive harmonization of rules, criteria and procedures concerning refugees, based on the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the status of refugees, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Cartagena Declaration.

Sixth. To encourage governments to seek humanitarian solutions, within a coordinated framework, to pending problems of refugees and persons displaced as a result of situations which have now been resolved, or which are in the course of being resolved, by reinforcing voluntary repatriation and reintegration programmes in their places of origin, and considering, whenever possible, programmes to facilitate local integration, the issuance of essential documentation and the normalization of their migratory status, with the aim of preventing such problems from becoming new sources of tension and instability.

Seventh. To call upon governments to increase their region-wide cooperation in admitting refugee groups, including those fleeing from situations foreseen in the Cartagena Declaration, as well as to encourage concerted efforts to find solutions to the problems which generate such forced displacement.

Eighth. To reiterate the responsibility of the States to eliminate, with the support of the international community, the causes of forced mass exodus and, in this way, ensure that refugee status is only granted for as long as required.

Ninth. To underscore the importance of fostering full observance of economic, social and cultural rights, in an effort to contribute to their development and to their legal protection.

Tenth. To reaffirm that refugees as well as those persons who migrate for other reasons, including economic ones, have human rights which should be respected at all times and in all circumstances and places. These inalienable rights should be respected before, during and after their flight or return to their places of origin, with a view to ensuring their well-being and human dignity.

Eleventh. To stress the advisability of improving the situation of refugee and displaced children, taking into account the specific provisions in this regard set forth in the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Twelfth. To underline the importance of addressing the needs of refugee and displaced women and girls, particularly those in a vulnerable situation, in the field of health, security, employment and education, as well as to encourage the inclusion of gender-based criteria in the examination of claims for refugee status.

Thirteenth. To recommend the full participation of affected populations, especially women's groups and indigenous communities, by encouraging the development of mechanisms which facilitate concerted action in the design and implementation of programmes aimed at resolving situations affecting refugees, returnees and displaced persons.

Fourteenth. To encourage an integrated approach to the solution of problems of forced displacement, particularly as regards voluntary return and repatriation, within the framework of coordinated efforts in order to ensure, in addition to the security and dignity of the beneficiaries, the durability of solutions. In this sense, reintegration and rehabilitation efforts should be linked to medium and long-term sustainable development efforts intended to alleviate and eradicate extreme poverty, satisfy human needs, and strengthen respect for human rights, with due regard for civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

Fifteenth. To stress the contribution of the United Nations and the Organization of American States to the peace process in Central America and the Caribbean through peacekeeping operations and mechanisms for verification of compliance with specific agreements in the field of human rights. At the same time, to urge the organizations responsible for those operations to favourably consider requests made by concerned States that they continue to carry out their activities.

Sixteenth. To affirm that the problem of the internally displaced, albeit the fundamental responsibility of the States of their nationality, is nevertheless of concern to the international community because it is a human rights issue which can be linked to prevention of causes which generate refugee flows. In this regard, persons in this situation should be assured of the following:

(a) application of human rights norms and, when applicable, International Humanitarian Law as well as, by analogy, certain relevant principles of Refugee Law, such as non-refoulement;

(b) recognition of the civilian character of displaced populations and of the humanitarian and apolitical nature of the treatment afforded to them;

(c) access to effective protection by the national authorities and to essential assistance, with the support of the international community;

(d) attention to those rights which are crucial for their survival, security and dignity, as well as other rights such as adequate documentation, ownership of land and other assets, and freedom of movement, including the voluntary nature of return; and

(e) the possibility of attaining a dignified and safe solution to their displacement.

Seventeenth. To support the work of the Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations for the Internally Displaced; within this framework, to foster and contribute to the preparation of an international declaration founded on a set of principles and basic rules for the protection and humanitarian treatment of internally displaced persons whatever their situation or circumstances, without prejudice to the basic right to seek asylum in other countries.

Eighteenth. To note with particular interest the efforts initiated by the Permanent Consultative Group on Internally Displaced in the Americas, as a regional inter-agency forum dedicated to the study and consideration of the acute problems faced by the displaced within their own countries for reasons similar to those that result in refugee flows.

Nineteenth. To stress the positive contribution made by the churches, the non-governmental organizations and other sectors of civil society in providing assistance and protection to refugees, returnees and the displaced in Latin America and the Caribbean, through the coordination of their activities with those of the governments and the international organizations.

Twentieth. To call upon States to urge existing regional fora dealing with matters such as economic issues, security and protection of the environment to include in their agenda consideration of themes connected with refugees, other forced displaced populations and migrants.

Twenty-first. To urge governments and relevant international organizations to take account of the specific needs of indigenous populations affected by the situations of uprootedness, with due respect for their dignity, human rights, cultural identity and the links which they maintain with their ancestral lands. In situations of uprootedness, the affected population should be consulted directly and specialized approach and the full participation of indigenous populations in assistance programmes and in the planning of durable solutions in their favour, should be guaranteed.

Twenty-second. To support the efforts of the Latin American and Caribbean countries in the implementation of sustainable human development programmes, whose impact is crucial for both the prevention of and solution to the problems of uprootedness and forced migration; and to invite donor countries, financial institutions and the international community to collaborate in these efforts through technical and financial cooperation projects.

Twenty-third. To urge UNHCR to encourage the Latin American and Caribbean countries to disseminate and promote, at all possible levels, the norms relating to the protection of refugees, including those that emanate from the Cartagena Declaration, and their linkage with norms of International Humanitarian Law and, in general, to human rights; and to urge the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights to continue its dissemination and promotion efforts in this regard, in close collaboration with other competent organizations.III

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