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5.0 out of 5 stars Refugees, security and a clear analysis of recent conflicts, 4 Mar. 2014
A. Roberts - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Rise and Decline of a Global Security Actor: UNHCR, Refugee Protection and Security (Hardcover)
A comprehensive, clearly written and powerful account of how massive flows of refugees over the decades have helped to shape world affairs. Floods of refugees have increasingly been treated by states and international bodies not only as a matter of humanitarian concern, but increasingly - through the 1990s especially - as a matter of security policy. As refugees have been seen as a security matter, at times a threat in themselves to the stability of other states, their presence has been treated as relevant basis for other states to intervene, at times militarily, in distant conflicts.

Though, primarily, written for an academic audience, the author's style is refreshingly clear and direct, so accessible to a wider audience. Her accounts of a series of conflicts are instructive: including wars in central Africa in the 1990s, conflicts in the Balkans, the invasions and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Her analysis of the changing role of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is especially telling. It expanded in the 1990s as the institution talked up the security aspects of refugee flows (and thus saw massive increases in funding from Western states), before changing its approach (and experiencing a sharp shift in fortunes) in the early 2000s.

Impressively researched, including much direct testimony from within the UNHCR, the book offers a clear analysis of how and why a UN body's fortunes can turn. Theoretically the book draws from, but also criticises, those who seek to understand the world from the context of security.

Given rising populations, the ongoing conflict in Syria that has generated a catastrophic flood of refugees in the Middle East, the great likelihood that other conflicts will produce large and potentially destabilising flows of refugees elsewhere, Anne Hammerstad's fluently written book is an essential study for anyone interested in understanding forces that shape world affairs today.
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