Beyond Charity: International Cooperation and the Global Refugee Crisis

Beyond Charity: International Cooperation and the Global Refugee Crisis

Beyond Charity: International Cooperation and the Global Refugee Crisis

Beyond Charity: International Cooperation and the Global Refugee Crisis


With more than 18 million refugees worldwide, the refugee problem has fostered an intense debate regarding what political changes are necessary in the international system to provide effective solutions in the 1990s and beyond. In the past, refugees have been perceived largely as a problem of international charity, but as the end of the Cold War triggers new refugee movements across the globe, governments are being forced to develop a more systematic approach to the refugee problem. Beyond Charity provides the first extensive overview of the world refugee crisis today, asserting that refugees raise not only humanitarian concerns but also issues of international peace and security. Gil Loescher argues persuasively that a central challenge in the post Cold-War era is to develop a comprehensive refugee policy that preserves the right of asylum while promoting greater political and diplomatic efforts to address the causes of flight. He presents the contemporary crisis in a historical framework and explores the changing role of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Loescher suggests short-term and long-term reforms that address both the current refugee crisis and its underlying causes. The book also details the ways governmental structures and international organizations could be strengthened to assume more effective assistance, protection, and political mediation functions. Beyond Charity helps frame the debate on the global refugee crisis and offers directions for more effective approaches to refugee problems at present and in the future.


While nearly all the traditional wellsprings of refugees -- wars, famine, persecution, and strife -- still are forcing movements of peoples across national borders, two particular forces seem to be shaping the current contours of this global problem. The end of the cold war and the breakup of the Soviet empire have released ancient communal and regional conflicts long suppressed by communist rule, and the consequences of overpopulation and scarce resources are growing at a rate that may mark the beginning of a great world crisis for the next century.

In these circumstances, it is not surprising that many governments are hardening their positions on support for and admittance of large numbers of new refugees. Even "conventional" problems, such as the dilemma of the Kurds and Haitians, test the political capacity and public goodwill of the major powers. The issue is further complicated by increased blurring of the political and economic bases for refugee movements.

As in the past, leaders are constrained from housing large numbers of refugees by domestic economic pressures and, in some cases, the fear of political instability. Over the years, the world has turned away or remained ambivalent in the face of Jewish, Palestinian, and, most recently, Yugoslavian attempts to escape daunting or life-threatening circumstances. Yet, each of these refugee crises, in its own way, has shown how abiding and even dehumanizing the results of global inaction can be.

The principal international protector of refugees today remains the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), established in 1951 to assist those fleeing totalitarian persecution . . .

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