Refugees in International Relations

By Alexander Betts; Gil Loescher | Go to book overview

3
International Cooperation in
the Refugee Regime1

Alexander Betts


ABSTRACT

This chapter examines the conditions under which international cooperation
takes place in the refugee regime. It does so in two parts. First, it identifies the
nature of the cooperation problem within the refugee regime. While the
dominant conception of the refugee regime is as a Prisoner’s Dilemma game,
the chapter argues that this is misrepresentative because it fails to capture the
asymmetric North-South power relations inherent to the regime. Given that
the majority of the world’s refugees are in the South and the regime sets out
few norms obligating Northern states to contribute to the protection of refu-
gees who are not on their territory, the regime is more appropriately charac-
terized by the game theoretical analogy of a Suasion Game. Secondly, through
archival research, the chapter explores the conditions under which that coop-
eration problem has historically been overcome. It examines the four main
examples of ad hoc bargaining processes convened by the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) between 1980 and 2005 to facili-
tate North-South cooperation to address long-standing refugee situations.
The chapter argues that variation in the success or failure of these initiatives
is best explained by the role of issue-linkage. Rather than contributing to
refugee protection in the South for its own sake, Northern states’ willingness
to contribute has depended upon a belief that there is a substantive causal
relationship between refugees in the South and interests in other issue-areas
affecting the North such as security, migration, and trade. However, because
the material relationship between refugee protection in the South and other
issue-areas in the North has been subject to uncertainty or ambiguity,
UNHCR has played a significant role in influencing Northern states’ beliefs
about the causal relationship between issue-areas through a combination of
information provision, argumentation, institutional design, and playing
an epistemic role. The chapter has wider implications for IR insofar as

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