Chapter

UNHCR and the Making of Refugee Law

Ingo Venzke

in How Interpretation Makes International Law

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199657674
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191753114 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657674.003.0003
UNHCR and the Making of Refugee Law

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This chapter generally introduces international bureaucracies as autonomous actors in the practice of interpretation and then illustrates in greater detail how the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has contributed to developing the meaning of its Statute and of the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. While at the outset of its life UNHCR offered quasi-consular protection to a rather narrow group of refugees, it is now the world’s chief international agency providing humanitarian assistance. When new challenges of refugee protection arose to which the Convention seemed to offer no answers and prospects of any treaty amendment were dim, UNHCR vested its efforts into shifting interpretations instead. It has crafted documents of interpretative guidance and intervened in seminal court cases, thereby directing semantic developments and the making of refugee law.

Keywords: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; UNHCR; definition of refugee; international bureaucracies; statute of unhcr; Geneva convention relating to the status of refugees; UNHCR guidelines; domestic courts

Chapter.  32981 words. 

Subjects: Public International Law

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