Aid, Agency, and the Malleability of International Law: The Post-2003 Iraqi Refugee Crisis

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Aid, Agency, and the Malleability of International Law: The Post-2003 Iraqi Refugee Crisis

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Title: Aid, Agency, and the Malleability of International Law: The Post-2003 Iraqi Refugee Crisis
Author: Goldenziel, Jill Iris
Citation: Goldenziel, Jill Iris. 2012. Aid, Agency, and the Malleability of International Law: The Post-2003 Iraqi Refugee Crisis. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: Why do states tolerate large numbers of refugees? This dissertation offers an answer to this puzzle by examining changes in policy responses by the international community toward Iraqis displaced after the U.S. invasion of 2003. From 2003-2006, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt remained quiet about the growing humanitarian needs of displaced Iraqis. From 2007-2010, these countries abruptly shifted policy to claim that they were hosting millions of Iraqis, and to allow Iraqis greater access to public goods and humanitarian assistance. I argue that this policy shift occurred because of new opportunities to extract strategic rents from the international community in the form of foreign aid and development assistance tied to the presence of refugees. I also explain how and why the UN Refugee Agency facilitated host country behavior during these two time periods, even in contradiction with its mandate under international law. I ground my argument in more than 100 interviews with UN Agency officials, NGO workers, government officials, and Iraqi refugees conducted in Jordan, Syria, and Egypt and at the UN Refugee Agency Headquarters in Geneva between 2007 and 2010. I also utilize research in the archives of relevant newspapers, national departments of statistics, and the UN Refugee Agency Headquarters. Previous political science literature largely conceives of refugees as a burden on state infrastructure, or as a potential security risk. This dissertation challenges this literature by suggesting that, under some conditions, states may derive political and economic benefits from the presence of refugees, explaining why they tolerate displaced populations. This dissertation also contributes to the understanding of how authoritarian regimes adapt to new opportunities for strategic rents. This dissertation also explores how an international organization can operate as both a principal and an agent, constrained by the preferences of its member or donor countries, yet autonomously advancing its own interests while shaping the political environment in which it operates. I show how the malleability of international refugee law has helped actors to manipulate humanitarian assistance for their own gain. Finally, this dissertation explores how the destabilization of Iraq affected international relations within a region that has been forever changed.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10368152
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