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The Rise and Decline of a Global Security Actor UNHCR, Refugee Protection and Security

ISBN: 9780199213085 | 0199213089
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pub. Date: 4/20/2014

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The Rise and Decline of a Global Security Actor investigates the rise of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as a global security actor. It follows the refugee agency through some of the past two decades' major conflict-induced humanitarian emergencies: in northern Iraq (1991), Bosnia (1991-95), eastern Zaire (1994-96), Kosovo (1998-99), Afghanistan (2001-) and Iraq (2003-). It analyses UNHCR's momentous transformation from a small, timid legal protection agency to the world's foremost humanitarian actor playing a central role in the international response to the many wars of the tumultuous last decade of the 20th century. Then, as the 21st century set in, the agency's political prominence waned. It remains a major humanitarian actor, whose budgets and staffing levels continue to rise. But the polarised post-9/11 period and a worsening protection climate for refugees and asylum seekers spurred UNHCR to abandon its claim to be a global security actor and return to a more modest, quietly diplomatic role.

The rise of UNHCR as a global security actor is placed within the context of the dramatic shift in perceptions of national and international security after the end of the Cold War. The Cold War superpower struggle encouraged a narrow strategic-military understanding of security. In the more fluid and unpredictable post-Cold War environment, a range of new issues were introduced to states' security agendas. Prominent among these were the perceived threats posed by refugees and asylum seekers to international security, state stability, and societal cohesion. This book investigates UNHCR's response to this new international environment; adopting, adapting, and finally abandoning a security discourse on the refugee problem.


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