International Refugee Law and the Non-Signatory States to the 1951 Refugee Convention: Developing a Research Agenda

Application for Participation

We are seeking applications to participate in the virtual workshop from both scholars and practitioners in the refugee field. Applications are especially encouraged from those based in non-signatory states, and from scholars and practitioners with lived experience of forced migration.


Interested authors should send an abstract (300 words) and a brief author bio (150 words) to by March 26, 2023. Decisions will be notified by April 10, 2023. Full papers will not be required.



Organised by the University of Oslo




The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol form the foundation of the international refugee regime. The great majority of the world’s states have signed or ratified the Convention and its Protocol yet many of the top refugee-hosting countries have not done so: 149 UN Member States are currently signatories to the Refugee Convention, its 1967 Protocol or both, while 44 UN Members are not.


We find these non-signatory states mostly in the Middle East and in South and Southeast Asia. In the Middle East region, only Iran, Israel, Egypt and Yemen are party to the Convention, while states such as Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan and most States in the Gulf region are non-signatories. Important non-signatory states in South and Southeast Asia include India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia. In other regions of the world, non-signatory states include Eritrea, Libya, Mongolia and Cuba. Uzbekistan is the only Commonwealth of Independent States country that is not a party to the Convention, while Guyana is the only non-signatory state in South America.


The research project BEYOND (‘Protection without Ratification? International Refugee Law beyond States Parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention’) at the University of Oslo aims to reconsider the impact of international refugee law by analyzing the various ways in which non-signatory states relate to the international refugee regime. The online workshop on ‘International Refugee Law and Non-Signatory States to the 1951 Refugee Convention: Developing a Research Agenda’ will provide an opportunity to engage in discussion, form networks and explore collaborations for future research on topics related to the interplay between international refugee law and non-signatory states.


The exploratory workshop will serve both to generate dialogue and to facilitate engagement with innovative theoretical and empirical work. We aim to identify key contemporary debates and chart a program for future research. We encourage submissions which engage with the overarching topics, as broadly constructed. We particularly welcome contributions focusing on how international refugee law norms are being disseminated and adopted in non-signatory states, in addition to how these states participate in the development of international refugee law by being present and active in global arenas for refugee protection. Contributions may include, but are not limited to, discussions of:

  • What is the influence of the Refugee Convention in non-signatory states?
  • How, and why, did non-signatory states engage in the drafting processes of the main refugee protection instruments?
  • How do non-signatory states engage with and help shape developments within the international refugee regime and its institutions, e.g. the UNHCR Executive Committee and other formal assemblies?
  • What lessons can be drawn about the complex effects of international conventions through an examination of the engagement of non-signatories with the Refugee Convention?”
  • Through which mechanisms and procedures do UNHCR, other international institutions and states promote accession to the Refugee Convention, historically but also more contemporarily?
  • What is the pattern of states that accede to the Refugee Convention, and of those that do not?
  • How does UNHCR negotiate memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with refugee-hosting non-signatory states? What are the contents of these agreements? How do non-signatory states influence the understanding and implementation of UNHCR’s international protection mandate?

  • How do local courts and legal aid providers in non-signatory States engage with international refugee law norms and principles?

  • How is refugee law taught? What does the teaching of international refugee law tell us about the international refugee regime? How should international refugee law be taught in a way that captures the experiences of non-signatory states?


Interdisciplinary – including historical, political and sociological – approaches are particularly encouraged.

Scope and Format

The online workshop will focus on the theoretical advancement of the study of non-signatory states and the international refugee regime, while at the same time facilitating an analysis of empirical single-country case studies and the sharing of experiences and perspectives across countries and regions. It will include Opening and Closing Keynote sessions, in addition to a series of thematic panels.


The workshop will take place over two half days, on 10-11 May 2023. Exact timings TBC.


The workshop will be run in English. Participant presentations will be limited to 10 minutes per presentation.