Refugees in International Relations
Dates: October 2008–present
Donors: MacArthur Foundation
Refugees lie at the heart of world politics. The causes and consequences of, and responses to, human displacement are intertwined with many of the core concerns of International Relations. Yet scholars of International Relations have generally bypassed the study of refugees, and Forced Migration Studies has generally bypassed insights from International Relations.
This project – led by Dr Alexander Betts and Professor Gil Loescher – attempts to bridge the divide between International Relations and Refugee Studies, exploring a range of ways in which refugee protection and other aspects of forced migration interact with world politics.
The project divides into a number of sub-themes:
- International cooperation and burden-sharing seeks to explain the behaviour of states towards refugees, when and why they contribute to durable solutions and burden-sharing, and the conditions under which international institutions such as UNHCR have historically influenced that behaviour.
- UNHCR and institutional change examines the role of UNHCR in world politics, seeking to explain change in the organization’s mandate and behaviour over time. It identifies ways in which UNHCR can learn lessons from the past in order to address present and future challenges.
- Implementation in world politics looks at how norms for a range of vulnerable populations become institutionalised through states signing and ratifying agreements, the project explores explanations for variation in implementation of norms across different states, in order to examine the relationship between politics and practice.
Activities and impacts
The project held a two-term seminar series, jointly convened by the Refugee Studies Centre, the Centre for International Studies, and the Global Economic Governance Programme, in Oxford between October 2008 and March 2009.
The series was attended by a range of policymakers and practitioners and culminated in the publication of an edited volume. The subsequent book, ‘Refugees in International Relations’ was launched at an event in Oxford in December 2010 and another at Columbia University in New York in February 2011.
The project’s work on international cooperation informed UNHCR’s 60th anniversary celebrations by feeding into the Expert Meeting on ‘International Cooperation and Burden-Sharing’ held in Amman in June 2011.
Research on the history of North-South cooperation also led to publication of a Forced Migration Policy Briefing, ‘Responding to protracted refugee situations: Lessons from a decade of discussion’, on the role of development assistance in overcoming protracted refugees situations, which was a key reference for the World Bank’s policy paper on forced displacement.
Loescher, G. [forthcoming 2012], ‘Human Rights and Forced Migration’, in M.Goodhart, ed., Human Rights: Politics and Practice, 2nd ed., Oxford University Press
Betts, A. [forthcoming 2012], ‘UNHCR, Autonomy and Mandate Change’, in J. Oestreich, International Organizations as Self-Directed Actors, Routledge
Betts, A., Loescher, G. and Milner, J. [forthcoming 2012], ‘Life Begins at Sixty: Opportunities and Challenges for UNHCR’, Journal of Refugee Studies
Betts, A. and Orchard, P. [forthcoming], 'Implementation in World Politics: How Norms Change Practice', Oxford University Press
Betts, A., Loescher. G. and Milner, J. (2011), 'UNHCR: The Politics and Practice of Refugee Protection', 2nd ed, Routledge
Betts, A. and Loescher, G. (2011), 'Refugees in International Relations', Oxford University Press
Loescher, G. and Milner, J. (2011) 'UNHCR and the Global Governance of Refugees' in Betts, Global Migration Governance, Oxford University Press
Milner, J. and Loescher, G., (2011) 'Responding to Protracted Refugee Situations: Lessons from a Decade of Discussions', Forced Migration Policy Briefing 6, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford
Loescher, G. (2009), ' A Universal Mandate to Protect: the Challenges of Protection', Harvard International Review
Betts, A. (2009), 'Protection by Persuasion: International Cooperation in the Refugee Regime', Cornell University Press
Betts, A. (2009), 'Forced Migration and Global Politics', Wiley-Blackwell
Betts, A. (2009), ‘The Refugee Regime Complex’, Refugee Survey Quarterly
Betts, A. (2009), ‘Institutional Proliferation and the Global Refugee Regime’, Perspectives on Politics
Betts, A. (2009), ‘Development assistance and refugees, Towards a North-South grand bargain?’, Forced Migration Policy Briefing 2, Refugee Studies Centre
Betts, A. (2008), ‘North-South Cooperation in the Refugee Regime: The Role of Linkages’, Global Governance
Steiner, N., Gibney, M. and Loescher, G. (2003), Problems of Protection: UNHCR, Refugees and Human Rights in the 21st Century, Routledge
Loescher, G., (2001), The UNHCR and World Politics: A Perilous Path, Oxford University Press
This project has benefited from the support of the MacArthur Foundation, through its funding of the Global Migration Governance project. It has also received significant practical support from UNHCR in facilitating research on the organisation.
The work on Implementation in World Politics by Alexander Betts and Phil Orchard was supported by a venture grant from the International Studies Association.