The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees


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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

  1. 1. THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES <ul><li>By: Darren Daley and Rizayel Mukashev </li></ul><ul><li>INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS & GLOBAL GOVERNANCE </li></ul><ul><li>IPOL8547, Dr. Laurance </li></ul><ul><li>Fall 2009 </li></ul>
  2. 2. <ul><li>Background: </li></ul><ul><li>The Russian Revolution and the famine in 1921 produced a million Russian refugees; </li></ul><ul><li>The League of Nations established High Commissioner for Refugees (HCR) in 1921; </li></ul>
  3. 3. Background (cont.) <ul><li>WWII and the establishment of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA); </li></ul><ul><li>The International Refugee Organization in 1946; </li></ul><ul><li>The establishment of UNHCR in 1951. </li></ul>
  4. 4. States vs. UNHCR
  5. 5. States vs. UNHCR
  6. 6. Normalization of Repatriation <ul><ul><li>1980s and 1990s: UNHCR begins involuntary repatriation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Deems when conditions are “safe” for return without consulting refugees </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>States pressure organization to relax this position </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>UNHCR demonstrates its substantial autonomy </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Principles of refugee rights versus pressure from states and refugee circumstances </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>UNHCR begins allowing for exceptions </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Emergence of exceptions cascade to become rule  repatriation culture </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Discourse and Conceptual Change <ul><ul><ul><li>Prior to 1980s: Repatriation as permanent solution (asylum and resettlement) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Post 1980s: Repatriation as preferred or durable solution </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The term “durable solution” does not exist in the UNHCR’s statute </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Term coined by High Commissioner Poul Hartling in late 1970s </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Signal to host countries concerned with the idea of permanent resettlement </li></ul></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Discourse and Conceptual Change (cont. 1) <ul><li>New categories introduced: conditions improved “substantially” or “appreciably” for safe return </li></ul><ul><li>Subjective refugee consent is viewed as impractical, especially when working with large groups </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Subjective replaced by more pragmatic, objective criteria </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Discourse and Conceptual Change (cont. 2) <ul><li>Modifying “voluntary repatriation” increases violation of refugee rights </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Decision to repatriate no longer dependent on refugee consent </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Efforts to avoid offending sovereignty-sensitive governments </li></ul><ul><ul><li>UNHCR requests “safety and dignity” for refugees, instead of respect for their human rights </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Introduction of new concepts: “safe return” and “voluntariness” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Reinterpretation of old concepts: “protection” (no longer legal protection) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Bureaucratic Changes <ul><li>Inter-relationship between protection and solutions and refugee law and action </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Emphasis on field operations and repatriation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Downgrade legal protection </li></ul></ul><ul><li>1980s: disband Protection Division </li></ul><ul><ul><li>– Creation of Refugee Law and Doctrine </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Result: protection officers loss of influence </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Reduced legal protection </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>– Designed to alter UNHCR’s definition of “protection” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Shift in willingness to intervene </li></ul></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Rules and Decision Criteria <ul><li>Formal and informal rules </li></ul><ul><ul><li>4 Preconditions for Repatriation: previous position </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Fundamental change in home country circumstances </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Voluntary decision to return </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Tripartite agreement: UNHCR + host country + home country </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Return marked by dignity and safety </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>3 Post-Reform Changes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Acing under less than ideal condition </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Judge safe return in comparison to camp conditions </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Refugee rights should take into consideration state’s rights and broader political objectives </li></ul></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Rules and Decision Criteria (cont.) <ul><li>Importance of repatriation as mechanism for rebuilding confidence and peacebuilding </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Repatriation as effect or potential cause of political stability </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Need for guidelines in the face of ambiguity </li></ul><ul><li>Confrontation: subjective willingness to return vs objective situation awaiting refugee return home </li></ul><ul><li>Handbook: repatriation is the ends with potential disregard for means </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Product of resource constraints, state pressures, staff succession </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. “ Voluntary” Repatriation of Rohingyas : A Case Study <ul><li>Repatriation Exercise of 1994-1995: Refugees from Burma to Bangladesh </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Bangladesh – UNHCR – NGOs – Burma </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>– March, 1992: UNHCR joins assistance effort </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Involuntary repatriation vis-à-vis manipulation of data </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Conditions hadn’t changed / UNHCR better positioned to monitor </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Widespread lack of residency proof </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>UNHCR limited ability to monitor return </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>On going human rights abuses in Burma </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Case Study (cont.) <ul><li>Dec., 1992: UNHCR withdrawal in protest </li></ul><ul><ul><li>– Jan., 1993: protests bring Bangladesh back to table with UNHCR </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The Desire to Return </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Refugees were not presented repatriation as an option </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>UNHCR embellished on improved conditions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>UNHCR oversold their monitoring presence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>UNHCR gave each family $20 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Burma Is Better Than It Was </li></ul><ul><li>Capacity to Monitor Return </li></ul>
  15. 15. Power and Pathologies <ul><li>Use of various crises and global developments to increase mandate </li></ul><ul><li>Exploit moral authority </li></ul><ul><li>Coordinating body to humanitarian agency </li></ul><ul><li>Expanded concept of “refugee” </li></ul><ul><li>Solution preference: shift in 1970s from exile toward repatriation </li></ul><ul><li>State pressure in response to regime’s demands </li></ul>