Today marks the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Related to the Status of Refugees, the international document that defines who is a refugee, the rights of refugees, and the legal obligation of States to protect them.
The 1951 Convention was approved at a special United Nations conference on July 28th, 1951 and entered into force on April 22, 1954. It was initially limited to protecting European refugees after World War II, but a 1967 Protocol removed the geographical and time limits, expanding the Convention’s scope. The Convention is a central component of the international community’s commitment to the protection of refugees and some 147 States (out of a total United Nations membership of 192) have now ratified either one or both of these instruments. The Convention is by far the most widely ratified refugee treaty and remains central also to the protection activities of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
UNA-GB is commemorating the Convention’s 60th anniversary through a unique, Model UN mini-simulation at the Boston Children’s Museum. On Monday, April 11th, participating students from the Greater Boston area will have the opportunity to explore the “Torn from Home: My Life as a Refugee” exhibit at the museum, and then debate the international issue of Environmentally Displaced People representing different countries associated with the UNHCR. The countries that will be represented at this mini-simulation include Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chile, Costa Rica, Germany, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Maldives, Mexico, Mozambique, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Russian Federation, Spain, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam.
Today, more than 30 million people around the world have been displaced due to war and violence — and 10 million of those are children refugees. Specific countries in crisis right now are Iraq, Afghanistan, Burma, Colombia, DR Congo, Haiti, Pakistan, and Somalia.
The men, women, and children of these countries need your help! There are several aid organizations that work with refugees around the world which you can support, including UNHCR, Doctors Without Borders, Interfaith Refugee & Immigration Ministries, International Rescue Committee, OCHA, Refugee Council USA, Save the Children, and World Food Programme.
In the words of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “There is a fundamental base of universal human rights, and we are each called to recognize and protect those.” And what better time to start fighting for those human rights than now!