Journal Article

“Mopping-up”: UNHCR, Neutrality and Non-Refoulement since the Cold War

Tor Krever

in Chinese Journal of International Law

Volume 10, issue 3, pages 587-608
Published in print September 2011 | ISSN: 1540-1650
Published online July 2011 | e-ISSN: 1746-9937 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/chinesejil/jmr019
“Mopping-up”: UNHCR, Neutrality and Non-Refoulement since the Cold War

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Since the close of the Cold War, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has undergone a fundamental mutation, reinventing itself as a humanitarian actor, extending its activities into “countries of origin” and, most recently, providing increasing assistance to internally displaced persons. Mainstream narratives present this expansion of UNHCR activities as the realization of a humanitarian potential previously curtailed and a signal improvement in the organization's work. This article offers a critical reassessment of UNHCR's evolution and, in doing so, questions the orthodox account. It traces the curve of UNHCR's recent development to the early 1990s and argues that the use of a humanitarian discourse masks what is fundamentally a shift to policies of containment—and the pursuit of State, not refugee, interests—which have undermined UNHCR's protection mandate.

Journal Article.  9068 words. 

Subjects: International Law

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