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This article explores the role of issue linkage in North-South relations in the global refugee regime between 1980 and 2005. It argues that North-South cooperation has been crucial for overcoming collective action failure in the regime. However, it suggests that because of the absence of a binding normative framework or overriding interest impelling Northern states to support refugee protection in the South, the prospects for overcoming North-South impasse have depended upon the ability of states and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to use issue linkage to connect the “refugee issue” to states' wider interests in other issue areas of global governance—notably migration, security, development, and peacebuilding. The article makes this argument by examining the four principal case studies of UNHCR-led attempts to facilitate North-South cooperation in order to address mass influx or protracted refugee situations in specific regional contexts: the International Conferences on Assistance to Refugees in Africa of 1981 and 1984; the International Conference on Central American Refugees of 1987–1994; the Comprehensive Plan of Action for Indochinese Refugees of 1988–1996; and the Convention Plus initiative of 2003–2005.

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Journal article


Lynne Rienner Publishers

Publication Date



14 (2)


157 - 178