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Part II Sources, Ch.10 The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

James Milner, Jay Ramasubramanyam

From: The Oxford Handbook of International Refugee Law

Edited By: Cathryn Costello, Michelle Foster, Jane McAdam

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 24 February 2024

Asylum — Non-refoulement — International organizations

This chapter addresses the role played by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the making and implementation of international refugee law. It begins by considering UNHCR’s mandate responsibilities and operational functions to better understand the structures that condition the scope of UNHCR’s engagement with the functioning of international law. While UNHCR’s 1950 Statute and the Refugee Convention both mandate UNHCR to serve particular functions, such as its supervisory responsibility relating to the Refugee Convention, its Statute also places particular constraints on UNHCR, especially in terms of the scope of its activities and its reliance on voluntary contributions from States to perform its mandated functions. The chapter then looks at how the roles UNHCR has played in the making and implementation of refugee law at the global, regional, and national levels, through its operations, and how these functions have evolved over time. By illustrating the various instances where UNHCR has demonstrated power, along with those instances where UNHCR has exhibited pathologies and has been constrained by the interests of States, the chapter points to the importance of understanding international refugee law within the political environment in which it functions.

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