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37 Geo. J. Int'l L. 583 (2005-2006)
Refugee Security and the Organizational Logic of Legal Mandates

handle is hein.journals/geojintl37 and id is 591 raw text is: ARTICLE

While the refugee protection system is one of international law's most recogniz-
able features, it routinely places massive numbers of refugees in camps in the
developing world, where they face chronic threats to their physical security from
crime and disorder, physical coercion, and military attacks. Yet key actors
responsible for refugee protection, including host states, advanced industrialized
countries, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),
have failed to prioritize refugee security. This article asks: (1) Why? (2) What
have been the consequences? and (3) What do these answers reveal about how
organizations carry out legal mandates in complicated political environments?
Conventional wisdom holds that security only recently became a major problem
in the refugee protection system; that UNH CR's role in enhancing refugees'
physical security is limited by the agency's legal mandate and practical con-
straints; and that problems of violence and physical security are largely episodic
concerns affecting small numbers in discrete refugee populations. Drawing on
historical documents, interviews, data on budgets and performance measures,
and legal doctrine, I show this conventional wisdom to be wrong. Only some of
the problems associated with the current system can be explained by international
geopolitics or by legal compromises reflected in refugee law. Instead, that system's
brutal realities also reflect bureaucratic dynamics, political pressures, and legal
interpretations shaping the discretionary choices of UNHCR and its nongovern-
mental organization partners. I develop the argument by tracing the remarkable
history of UNHCR as it transformed itselffrom a refugee advocacy organization
with a limited mandate into a modern relief agency. This evolution helps explain
the persistence of security problems and sheds light on the challenges of implement-
* Associate Professor and Deane F. Johnson Faculty Scholar, Stanford Law School; Faculty
Affiliate, Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). I am grateful for
support from Stanford Law School, the Stanford Center for International Security and Coopera-
tion, and the Stanford Center for International Conflict and Negotiation. Many thanks to Steve
Stedman, Eric Morris, Jeff Crisp, Diane Goodman, Peter Bouckaert, George Fisher, Kathleen
Sullivan, Rich Ford, Mark Kelman, Pam Karlan, Robert Weisberg, Alison Morantz,Jenny Martinez,
Allen Weiner, William Stuntz, Stephen Legomsky, Lawrence Friedman, Paul Brest, Gerald
Neuman, and James Hathaway. I appreciate the candor of the dozens of present and former
UNHCR officials and nongovernmental organization officials who agreed to be interviewed. I
received valuable assistance from the UNHCR Archives, as well as fine research assistance from
Marisa Brutoco, Kai Savaree-Reuss, Adi-Aron Gilat, and Mike Merriman. Thanks especially to Lucy
Koh, whose support infused this project with energy at every stage. Errors are mine.

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