UNHCR relaunches Refworld as state-of-art online protection tool

News Stories, 14 June 2007

Screenshot of the new Refworld online homepage.

GENEVA, June 14 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Thursday rolled out the red carpet for the launch of an innovative online protection tool that provides invaluable information for those who have to make decisions on refugee status.

"We have a website now that can be considered to be one of the best in areas linked to human rights, linked to the need to make law accessible to the general public and to all relevant actors in this field," High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said at the launch of Refworld online in Geneva (www.refworld.org).

"It's always good to see our organization doing something that we can be proud of because of the quality, the substance and the innovation," Guterres told diplomats, representatives of non-governmental organizations, European Union officials and senior staff of UN agencies.

Refworld contains a vast collection of reports relating to situations in countries of origin, policy documents and positions, and documents relating to international and national legal frameworks. The data have been carefully selected and compiled from and with UNHCR's global network of field offices, governments, international, regional and non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and judicial bodies.

It's always good to see our organization doing something that we can be proud of because of the quality, the substance and the innovation

High Commissioner António Guterres

The free service provides the vital country and legal information that UNHCR staff and external partners need to help them make a decision about whether to grant an asylum seeker refugee status. For this to happen it has to be proved that the applicant has a well-founded fear of persecution and cannot or will not return home because of that fear.

"The result of not doing it properly can be very, very dire," Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller told the presentation, referring to the process of refugee status determination. She said Refworld was an "exceedingly important tool" for those making status decisions.

Refworld's unparalleled collection of protection information has been developed over the past 15 years, but until today it was only available in CD-Rom and DVD formats.

The new Refworld online is a top-flight web application, easy to use and hugely powerful. It has been developed to meet the modern web's highest standards and best practices.

It includes multiple and advanced possibilities for browsing the collection of more than 76,000 documents by region and/or country, by publisher, by topic or keyword and by document type. In addition, it has a powerful full text search engine and advanced searching facilities.

Refworld is updated daily and includes special features on topics of importance to UNHCR such as refugee status determination, statelessness, migration and related issues, gender equality and women, internally displaced persons, resettlement, voluntary repatriation and children.

© UNHCR/S.Hopper
A proud management and some of the Refworld online development team at the launch. Left to right, front: George Okoth-Obbo (Director, Division of International Protection Services), High Commissioner Guterres, Erika Feller (Assistant High Commissioner for Protection), Alwyn Greer (Head, Electronic Publishing Unit); rear: Status Determination and Protection Information Section staff Mignon Van der Liet-Senders, Richard Stainsby (Chief of Section) and Jerome Sabety.

It was jointly developed by UNHCR's Electronic Publishing Unit and the refugee agency's Status Determination and Protection Information Section in the Division of International Protection Services. The Irish government made a generous contribution towards development costs.

The result is much more than just an unrivalled human rights resource. Refworld online reinforces UNHCR's public commitment to its protection mandate, while reconfirming UNHCR's position as the leader in refugee decision support.

"This new Refworld has restored UNHCR's credibility in information and knowledge dissemination," Guy Goodwin-Gill, Professor of International Refugee Law at Oxford University, said after Thursday's launch. He added that the new version was clearly much more user-friendly.