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This article reflects upon UNHCR's Convention Plus initiative, a multi-lateral process established in order to contribute to the development of a normative framework for global burden-sharing. Although the substantive achievements of the initiative have been limited, the article argues that Convention Plus has helped to develop significant new ideas relating to UNHCR's potential role in norm-creation within the refugee regime. Based on a regime theoretical perspective, and drawing on the wider literature relating to the role of norms in the refugee regime, the paper examines the procedural and conceptual innovations of Convention Plus, and how these might be adapted in future in light of the initiative's shortcomings. In particular, the article sets out two models for UNHCR's role in facilitating norm-creation, both developed in the context of the Convention Plus experience: firstly, a ‘top-down’ institutional bargaining model and, secondly, a ‘bottom-up’ good practice model. The former model emerges from the interests–linkages–norms approach implicit to the so-called ‘generic’ work of the initiative; the latter, from the situational work of the initiative, developed through the revival of ‘comprehensive plans of action’ and the use of pilot projects. The models are argued to be mutually supportive. The paper suggests that adapting these ideal-type models in light of the Convention Plus experience has implications for UNHCR's role in norm-creation, with regard both to developing a normative framework for global burden-sharing and also to developing other norms in response to other emerging challenges.

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Journal article


Oxford University Press

Publication Date



20 (3)


509 - 535