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Power and influence in the global refugee regime

Authors: Milner, James
Keywords: Refugee crisis; Global refugee regime; UNHCR
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: York University
Description: "Understanding the politics of the global refugee regime has been an important area of research in refugee and forced migration studies for nearly three decades. A specific focus of this work has been the challenge of fostering the various forms of international cooperation necessary for the regime to fulfill its core functions, detailed in the 1950 Statute of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as ensuring protection for refugees and finding a solution to their plight. Given the regime’s demonstrated inability to predictably secure this cooperation and fulfil these functions, however, there has been a sustained interest in the role that politics and interests play in either constraining the regime, or, more recently, in expanding the scope and functioning of the regime. While this literature has made significant contributions, it is striking that there has been limited overt and systematic engagement with notions of power in the global refugee regime. Echoing the observation of Thucydides that “the strong do what they have the power to do and the weak accept what they have to accept,” this limited attention to power may stem from a concern that engaging with the interests of the powerful within the regime may legitimize the actions of such actors and undermine the functioning and legitimacy of the regime itself. There have also been concerns that discussions of power may stray from the analytical to the editorial, prompting some, like Chimni, to note that “what I am propounding here is not a conspiracy theory” but instead that “refugees are pawns and not concerns, and that human rights violations are often used to justify violence and the naked exercise of power.”7 Moreover, where the role of power within the regime has been examined, power has arguably been conceptualized in a narrow sense, pointing to the need to develop a conceptualization of power that brings these diverse efforts into closer conversation while providing the basis for future research."
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Appears in Collections:International Relations & Ethnic Minorities: NGO and Think-Tank Reports

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