Working Paper

What Does "Efficiency" Mean in the Context of the Global Refugee Regime?

Published 1 January 2005 / By Alexander Betts

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The language of ‘efficiency’ has increasingly been used as a rhetorical device to legitimate new approaches to refugee policy; in particular, extraterritorial processing and ‘protection-in-regions-of-origin’. This paper aims to explore what ‘efficiency’ might mean from the perspective of the global refugee regime in order to, firstly, expose the hidden assumptions implicit in the use of the ‘efficiency’ discourse in the current debate and, secondly, to explore what the concept might offer in defining the normative contours of a future regime structure. A critical application of the concepts of productive, allocative and dynamic efficiency is argued to offer far more nuanced insights for sustainable refugee protection than is implied by the contemporary debate’s misuse and abuse of the term. The paper assesses both the theoretical and policy implications that derive from a more rigorous conceptualisation of the meaning of efficiency, particularly insofar as they relate to the current debates surrounding UNHCR’s Convention Plus initiative.Keywords: Refugee regime, efficiency, Convention Plus, burden-sharing, protection-in-regions-of-origin, extraterritorial processing.


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