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This study takes an analytical and empirical approach to assess how the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) demonstrated organizational autonomy in the face of realpolitik and member state interests. It uses as its case study the one year period (June 1999-June 2000) the organization was part of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo. UNHCR’s role in Kosovo is central to a discussion of international organizational autonomy because it raises questions about the nature and role of humanitarian organisations in state building operations. This paper argues that UNHCR exercised autonomy using three strategies: first, through its utilisation of authority (delegated, moral and expert); second, through exploitation of information asymmetries; and finally, through manipulation of stakeholder incentives and the ability to play stakeholder interests off one another.

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Working paper


Refugee Studies Centre

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