Jihad TahaGlobal Refugee Studies

Fall 2014
Written Assignment

a) How can regime theory and social constructivist theory (for instance
securitization) illuminate the refugee regime and what are the main
components of this regime?
b) Discuss Humanitarianism from a critical perspective. Include a
discussion of humanitarianism as a political process and link to a
discussion about humanitarian aid
You must answer both questions.

The above-mentioned questions will be answered separately. The answer
to the first question will be of a more structured way where the different
parts of the question will be answered separately. The answer also
includes a more historical/descriptive approach, while the answer to the
second question is of a more from theory-to-reality answer, which moves
back and forth within the overall field of humanitarianism.

a) How can regime theory and social constructivist theory (for instance
securitization) illuminate the refugee regime and what are the main
components of this regime?
More than 51 million people are today forcibly displaced worldwide,
according to UNHCRs 2013 Global Trends Report, with around 11 million
refugees under the direct mandate of UNHCR, an increase of more than 1
million refugees since 2012. (UNHCR Global Trends Report 2013) The
increased number of refugees is the greatest number of refugees
registered in post-World War II era. (UNHCR 2014a) The international
community has therefore established international cooperation that seeks
to minimalize the negative consequences that might be the outcome of
having so many refugees around the world.
During the past 50-60 years, a new form of global regime has developed
in order to handle the great numbers of refugees that have been created
because of conflicts in several countries. The refugee regime, which
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Jihad TahaGlobal Refugee Studies
Fall 2014
Written Assignment

emerged with, first the creation of the League of Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees and afterwards with the United Nations Higher
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has already underwent a series of
changes since its establishment. (Betts 2009:37) However, what is a
refugee regime, what does it consist of and how can the change and
evolution of the refugee regime be explained? That is what this answer
will try to figure out.
Migration has been a key aspect throughout the history of the human
being. Both forced migration, due to war and conflicts, and voluntary
migration, due to improved job opportunities or studies, have been fields
of study for researches for decades. One of the main categories of forced
migration is refugees. A refugee is a person who “owing to a well-founded
fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality,
membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the
country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is
unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country." as stated in
article 1a of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees. Lebanon,
Pakistan, Iran and Chad are some of the countries that have received the
highest number of refugees fleeing conflicts in neighboring states.
International cooperation is therefore pivotal in order to tackle the
humanitarian emergencies and the arrival of refugee floods to neighboring
countries and regions. The international cooperation is important in
ensuring protection and finding durable solutions for refugees and, in
addition to that, resolving the root causes of conflicts, according to
Alexander Betts, head of refugee studies at Oxford University. (Betts,
2009:80) International cooperation is defined as being “when actors adjust
their behavior to the actual or anticipated preferences of others” (Betts,
2009:80). According to Betts, international cooperation is mainly of
importance when it comes to what he calls global public goods; goods that
are both non-excludable and non-rival between different actors. (Betts,
2009: 80) These goods are of benefit as, when they are provided or
secured, they are available for all actors regardless of their involvement in
providing or securing them. The goods will thereby benefit everyone, and
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Jihad TahaGlobal Refugee Studies
Fall 2014
Written Assignment

this might affect countries to adopt a more layoff position and wait for
other countries to do the job in providing the goods. It is therefore of great
importance that there is an international cooperation that ensures all
countries work together towards securing global public goods as what
happened with the creation of the vaccine against HIV/AIDS or in the fight
against Ebola in West Africa at the moment. (Betts, 2009:81)
Betts argues that refugees can be seen as global (or regional) public
goods, as ensuring them the necessary protection can benefit several
states at the same time, although these states aren’t directly involved in
the process of ensuring the refugees protection. The international
cooperation has therefore established a refugee regime that is responsible
for providing the necessary help for refugees fleeing from conflicts.
According to Stephen Krasner, a notable international relations professor,
a regime can be defined as being “norms, rules, principles and decisionmaking procedures that regulate actor behavior in a given issue area”
(Betts 2009:37). The refugee regime has, throughout history, been
supplemented by series of regional and international organizations
(mainly UNHCR but also ICRC, OAU and others) and agreements
(Convention on the Status of the Refugee, Cartagena Declaration in Latin
America, the 2006 European Council Directive etc.) that all have had an
impact on the evolution of the refuge regime. (Betts, 2009:6) In order to
understand what refugee regime entitles we need to observe it from an
international relations perspective.
According to Betts, and observed from an IR perspective, regime theory is
the area that focuses on the coordination between regimes on an
international level and with the providing of global public goods. It
examines the different roles of regimes and how they overcome
collaboration and cooperation problems and end up facilitating an
international cooperation. (Betts, 2009:81) Betts adds that refugee
protection is governed by international regimes, and therefore has
significant relevance for the refugee regime in terms of finding out what
refugee regime components as UNHCR can do to facilitate “mutual
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Jihad TahaGlobal Refugee Studies
Fall 2014
Written Assignment

beneficial

international

cooperation

between

states

that

can

simultaneously lead to better protection or durable solutions or address
the underlying causes of displacement” (Betts, 2009:81).
As mentioned above, the refugee regime has underwent a series of
changes that have happened in order to tackle new challenges related to
refugees in the world. It consists mainly of UNHCR, which was created in
the aftermath of the World War II that had created enormous refugee flows
in Europe. With the formation of the 1951 convention on the Status of
Refugees, a definition of who refugees were and what it implied with
respect to their rights was agreed upon. With the agreement on the 1967
protocol, several countries, including the US, signed the convention.
Instead of having a time and geographic limitation, UNHCR now had the
mandate to expand its work to other regions instead of the initial
European countries, and provide protection and solutions for refugees all
over the world. (Betts, 2009:38)
Increased security concerns in the aftermath of 9/11 and the “war on
terror” lead to increased (political, economic and social) concerns
regarding the increased migration flows, which in turn lead to an
enhancement of the not-so hospitable climate in many European
countries. (Betts, 2009: 39). The development in the international
cooperation, reflected by the conventions and UNHCR, due to historical
and political changes can be interpreted in different ways, depending on
the IR theories used. By using regime theory, which aims at explaining the
creation and persistence of regimes, the continuous existence of a
refugee regime seems a bit strange. The costs of the regime have been
high especially on powerful states in the context where migration flows
are moving from the South to the North, while the benefits have been
reduced. (Betts, 2009:108,110) This can be observed in both the
economic costs of having more refugees arriving at the European borders,
and on a social level where migration critics are gaining more influence.
But also in relation to the post-Cold War era where refugees were used as
political instruments to discredit opponents (Betts, 2009: 38). However,
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Jihad TahaGlobal Refugee Studies
Fall 2014
Written Assignment

Betts argues that the refugee regime has come to stay as states are
creating new forms of cooperation to address new challenges arising.
Challenges that the refugee regime cannot handle alone, which is why
states are developing international cooperation, signing agreements and
having discussions on how to solve these challenges. This has resulted in
the creation of new regimes for instance the human rights regime, IDP
regime etc. that all in some degree overlap the refugee regime. (Betts,
2009: 110, 122-123)
Nevertheless, the migration flows and the increased refugees in various
parts of the world have sparked a discussion about what Ole Wæver calls
“societal security” meaning that a given society can preserve its unique
characteristics, like identity and culture, without the interference of
changes or threats coming from outside the national borders. In the recent
years, the refugee regime has come under heavy criticism regarding
receiving refugees in European countries, one of them being Denmark.
Critics often talk about defending “our” values and “our” society from the
threats imposed by refugees and immigrants who arrive to Denmark.
(Wæver, 2010:13)
One of the best examples, is the Danish People’s Party that states that it
is “the Danes’ right and duty to preserve, defend and pass on the
essential values on which our society is built on” and “We will defend and
strengthen the Danish values that make up a condition for Denmark being
able to exist as a free country (…)” (Danish People’s Party – webpage).
Immigrants can therefore be seen as a potential threat to the state.
Wæver argues that situations where groups within a society feel
threatened and feel that their identity is being exposed to danger by let’s
say immigrants, and where they try to defend themselves, are increasing.
With the continuous internationalization, it is getting more difficult for a
Danish national to oppose these threats, even on a national level, as
decisions on border control and asylum policies are being centralized in
Brussels. (Wæver, 2010:14) He therefore claims that the only way to fight
the threats against ones identity is by strengthening existing identities
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Jihad TahaGlobal Refugee Studies
Fall 2014
Written Assignment

and thus culture becomes a security policy. (Wæver, 2010:14-15) This can
be used to explain why there is a tendency of producing us-them
concepts, which can be related to us wanting to hold on to our culture and
identity, as stated in the The Danish People’s Party example, and this
might explain why the refugee question is, once again, one of the main
topics in the Danish (political and social) debate.
Refugees have always been a central part of politics because, as Betts
states, the migration flows affect several countries at the same time, but
also

because

international

institutions

and

international

agreements/conventions, have regulated refugee protection. It is therefore
not wrong to assume that the refugee regime stands in front of major
changes in the (near) future. Both because of increased refugee flows
(due to escalating conflicts) and because of national interests that seek to
preserve societal security. Whether the international community is
heading towards more international cooperation or towards adopting
national policies that aim at preventing future threats to local identity and
culture, can only time tell.

b) Discuss Humanitarianism from a critical perspective. Include a
discussion of humanitarianism as a political process and link to a
discussion about humanitarian aid
Denmark has been one of the main providers of humanitarian aid to the
global South. In 2013, Danish contributions reached 16.4 billion DKK 1
equivalent to 0.85 % of the Danish GDP, one of the highest rates in the
world. Denmark is one among five states that live up to meet the
longstanding UN target for an official development assistance ratio of
0.7%. (Politiken, 2014) However, in recent years, critics have been
standing in line to slam the Danish development policies and the huge
1 This number includes bi- and multilateral aid in addition to humanitarian aid,
donations and loans
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Jihad TahaGlobal Refugee Studies
Fall 2014
Written Assignment

amount of money used on the world’s poor. The following will look more
into the criticism and how it can be related to the ongoing political debate
in Denmark.
Humanitarianism has for decades been criticized for being political and for
compromising refugee protection in order to secure state interests.
Jennifer Hyndman argues that humanitarian assistance is “synonymous
with neither protection, in the legal sense, nor solutions to displacement”
(Hyndman, 2000: 4). When looking at humanitarianism, in a post-Cold War
era, it developed to become “increasingly well-funded and politicized
process of balancing the needs of refugees and other displaced persons
against the interests of states.” (Hyndman, 2000:3) Nevertheless, critics
say that humanitarianism has moved to become an “apparatus that fulfills
certain political functions” (Agier, 2010:42), and no longer works towards
moral functions. Agier claims that the need of having “control” is one of
the reasons why humanitarianism has become a form of policing, which
can be observed in the discourse dealing with refugees and migrants. Fear
has taken over when talking about the global South, and these ex-colonies
now have the chance to be politically visible, which keeps fueling the
domination of the Western world over these countries. (Agier, 2010:30)
The West tries to contain the problems found in the global South so that
they stay where they are, including the migration flows that come from
areas that are unstable politically, socially, economically and ecologically.
Agier refers to Jonathan Benthal who explains this phenomenon as being
the North sending humanitarian aid into the South while the South repays
by sending unwanted migration flows towards the North. (Agier, 2010:30)
The unwillingness to accept refugees can also be seen in the Danish
debate. In fact, the past two weeks have shown a major change in the
discourse and rhetoric used to describe refugees and migrants who are
fleeing conflicts and aim at applying for asylum in Denmark. It started
with the Danish People’s Party who presented a proposal on sending all
asylum seekers in Denmark to countries located near their places of
origin. Denmark should thereafter establish local refugee camps run by
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Jihad TahaGlobal Refugee Studies
Fall 2014
Written Assignment

the Danish state in foreign territory. One of the countries suggested
holding such a camp was Kenya.

Surprisingly, the liberal party Liberal

Alliance went out and supported the idea. The party leader Anders
Samuelsen stated that asylum seekers should be “turned around at the
airport, on a plane and into a refugee camp near where they came from"
(Jyllands-Posten, 2014a) The same response was observed by opposition
leading party Venstre whereas ruling party, the Social Democrats called
refugees “unwelcomed”.
This discourse is somehow understandable. It reflects what the population
finds preferable. A recent poll amongst Danish voters showed that nearly
60 % of the population support the idea of creating Danish camps in
neighboring countries while 68 % support further restrictions on asylum
procedures (Jyllands-Posten, 2014b). The Danish humanitarian aid is thus
reflected by what the public sees desirable and not necessary by what is
needed. According to Hyndman, the popularity and the sympathy people
in the West have for migrants depends on where they are in the world. As
soon as they approach the western countries’ borders, the migrants turn
into “immigrants” and “foreigners”. As long as they and their tragedy are
far away, it is not a problem. (Hyndman, 2000:27)
Preventive protection is a relative new term that has emerged in
development studies and represents a paradigm shift when it comes to
refugee policy. It supports the discourse of having the right to stay in the
country of origin rather than the previous dominant belief of having the
right

to

leave.

(Hyndman,

2000:

17)

UNHCR

defined

preventive

protections as being “the establishment or undertaking of specific
activities inside the country of origin so that people no longer feel
compelled to cross borders in the search of protection and assistance.”
(Hyndman, 2000: 17) This includes establishing the so-called ‘safety
zones’ inside a given country where migrants can seek protection.
Preventive protection thereby deals with the protection of individuals in
their country of origin, which is pretty much in line with the current
political discourse in Denmark. (Hyndman, 2000:18,19) Hyndman argues
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Jihad TahaGlobal Refugee Studies
Fall 2014
Written Assignment

that preventive protection is closely related to states’ interests and she
implies that donor countries are among the states that consolidate power
while countries where intervention occurs are destabilized. An example
on this is Lebanon. The Syrian crisis and the enormous refugee flood has
had many destabilizing consequences for the neighboring country.
According to the World Bank, Lebanon is facing a reduction in GDP growth
by 2.85% each year since the crisis started in 2011 with the total cost
reaching US$7.5 billion by the end of the year. (UNHCR, 2014b) Lebanon is
thus facing major challenges with the 1.2 registered Syrian refugees (the
real number is estimated to be over two million) that have entered the
country. Public services have deteriorated with an extreme completion on
informal jobs leading to a wage drop. Meanwhile prices for basic needs
such as fuel and accommodation has increased. (UNHCR, 2014b)
Most Danish parties have been moving along with the changing discourse
towards refugees. However, voices in the debate criticize the negative
shift as being inhumane and that we, as human beings, are committed to
help whoever needs it. Even if they arrive at our front door. According to
Agier, humanitarianism is based upon seeing humanity as an identity
related to universalism and globalization, with no place for inequality. He
adds that humanity is thereby seen as being unique and where all
refugees are personified as being victims whose human qualities and
humanity are both abused and incomplete. (Agier, 2010:32,33)
Another aspect of the criticism goes on the influence of donor states on
the humanitarian aid. Especially on the work of the UNHCR. Hyndman says
contrary to the conventions, the statue of the UNHCR clearly emphasizes
on the “entirely non-political” role of UNHCR with UNHCR focusing on
different “groups and categories of refugees” and not individuals.
However, UNHCR funding comes primarily from donor governments who
donates voluntarily and often label the donations for specific locations.
(Hyndman, 2000:5,10) They thus have direct influence on the work of
UNHCR. UNHCR has also been outsourcing its operations and contracts to
NGOs targeting refugees. However, these NGOs are in some cases
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Jihad TahaGlobal Refugee Studies
Fall 2014
Written Assignment

reflecting national legislation as seen in Denmark with the introduction of
the Human Rights Based Approach, which has been criticized for being a
modern type of colonialism, built on western values. The work of UNHCR is
in that way also getting influenced by states and their policies.
Hyndman emphasizes on the idea of UNHCR only moving in to help, in a
given crisis, if donor countries are willing to pay. A donor hegemony, as
she calls it, is established because UNHCRs budget is formed through
earmarked voluntary contributions by donor states. (Hyndman, 2000:19)
That is observed when the Danish foreign ministry announces the
allocation of x amount of money in for example the fight against Ebola or
to the refugees in Northern Iraq. These allocations are then normally given
to organizations as UNHCR and Danish Refugee Council. This approach
might seem problematic as the people in crisis are not helped regardless
of their political backgrounds, religious beliefs or economic situation but
solely on whether donor countries find it in their interest to help.
Humanitarianism has been under heavy criticism because of its, according
to some, transformation into becoming a political tool used by donor
states in order to secure national interests manifested in not letting too
many people from the South reach the North. It can be argued that this
approach is to satisfy the populations’ increased mistrust and insecurity to
refugees coming to for instance Denmark. Refugee protection is therefore
happening on a larger scale in neighboring countries, which also has its
downsides, with an increased destabilization of host countries due to the
high number of refugees created by conflicts. Another aspect is the
increased influence of the donor states on humanitarian organizations as
UNHCR, as UNHCR is depending on the voluntary funding coming from
countries in the North, and therefore humanitarian aid is mainly allocated
after knowing that funds are available for the specific crisis. People who
really need help might in fact not get the necessary assistance.

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Jihad TahaGlobal Refugee Studies
Fall 2014
Written Assignment

Literature:
Articles:
Danish People’s Party – Webpage. “Arbejdsprogram” – URL:
http://www.danskfolkeparti.dk/Arbejdsprogram_-_Dansk_Folkepartis_v
%C3%A6rdier_-_et_endnu_bedre_Danmark
Jyllands-Posten, 2014a, ” Liberal Alliance: Afvis alle krigsflygtninge”
Marchen Neel Gjertsen, 08.10.14 – URL: http://jyllandsposten.dk/politik/ECE7093609/Liberal-Alliance-Afvis-alle-krigsflygtninge/
Jyllands-Posten, 2014b, ” Danskerne er parate til strammere asylregler”
Orla Borg, 10.10.14 – URL: http://jyllandsposten.dk/politik/ECE7100711/Danskerne-er-parate-til-strammereasylregler/
Politiken, “Dansk ulandsbistand ligger fortsat i top 5” Kenneth Lund,
08.04.14 – URL: http://politiken.dk/indland/politik/ECE2258080/danskulandsbistand-ligger-fortsat-i-top-5/
UNHCR 2014a – URL: http://www.unhcr.org/53a155bc6.html

Books:
Agier, Michel “Humanity as an Identity and Its Political Effects (A Note on
Camps and Humanitarian Government)” Volume 1, Number 1, Fall 2010
Published by University of Pennsylvania Press. Compendium for Global
Refugee Studies Fall 2014 “Theories of International Relations”
Betts, Alexander “Forced Migration and Global Politics”, Wiley-Blackwell,
2009
Hyndman, Jennifer “Managing Displacement: Refugees and the Politics of
Humanitarianism”, Borderlines, Volume 16, 2000, University of Minnesota
Press, Minneapolis, London. Compendium for Global Refugee Studies Fall
2014 “Theories of International Relations”
Wæver, Ole “3. Securitization and Desecuritization” found in the book “On
security” by Ronnie D. Lipschutz. Compendium for Global Refugee Studies
Fall 2014 “Theories of International Relations”

Reports:
UNHCR 2014b, “Syria Regional Response Plan 2014” - URL:
http://www.unhcr.org/syriarrp6/docs/syria-rrp6-lebanon-response-plan.pdf
UNHCR Global Trends Report 2013 - URL:
http://www.unhcr.org/5399a14f9.html#_ga=1.28899260.149543448.1413
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