'We Live in a Country of UNHCR': The UN Surrogate State and Refugee Policy in the Middle East

The UN Refugee Agency: Policy Development & Evaluation Service Research Paper No. 201

UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series

28 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2011

See all articles by Michael Kagan

Michael Kagan

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law

Date Written: February 1, 2011

Abstract

Many gaps in the protection of refugees can be connected to a de facto transfer of responsibility for managing refugee policy from sovereign states to United Nations agencies. The primary solution offered to date has been to refocus attention on the primacy of state responsibility. Yet a refugee protection strategy focused on getting host governments to replace the UN surrogate state is not likely to be politically viable in many countries. Using Arab states in the Middle East as a focal point, this paper argues that the existence of a UN surrogate state offers important advantages to some host governments and can sometimes be a more viable political foundation for refugee protection than more conventional notions of state responsibility. Although unsettling to traditional assumptions about state responsibility, there are good reasons to seek such alternative strategies that may increase the political will of governments to protect refugees in the global south.

Keywords: refugees, refugee protection, refugee policy, UNHCR, UNRWA, responsibility shift, Middle East

Suggested Citation

Kagan, Michael, 'We Live in a Country of UNHCR': The UN Surrogate State and Refugee Policy in the Middle East (February 1, 2011). The UN Refugee Agency: Policy Development & Evaluation Service Research Paper No. 201 ; UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1957371

Michael Kagan (Contact Author)

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law ( email )

4505 South Maryland Parkway
Box 451003
Las Vegas, NV 89154
United States

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