The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is a refugee agency (under the umbrella of the United Nations) that has a mandate of protecting and supporting refugees from a third country as requested by a government that is a member state of the UN.
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The agency focuses on providing voluntary assistance, resettlement and integration of displaced persons from a third country. It does this through funds obtained from donors and other arms of the United Nations. It is therefore imperative to note that the agency deploys its operatives to areas depending on the need and priority given to the places.
Despite the fact that UNHCR has in the recent past executed its duty in the best interest of all the refugees across the globe, the agency faces some setbacks and failures that need to be addressed with immediate effect. This should be done in order to restore the faith the globe has had on it.
Additionally, the agency should assure governments of its effectiveness in its mandate in order to secure its operations within their territories (Burger, and Rahm, 1996). The UNHCR has been doing a commendable job for refugees since it was founded in December 1949 but has, however, failed to provide services to areas according to priorities and need.
A November 2010 research carried out by the Policy Development and Evaluation Department, which is a UNHCR’s branch, revealed that the agency’s global strategic priorities are not in a position to give concrete information concerning resource allocation processes as well as the level of prioritization of a subject.
This came about despite the strategic priorities being a useful element in the agency’s checklist of involvements. This is an implication that the agency only provides services according to operatives’ own instincts without evaluating and assessing the levels of prioritization.
As a result of this, quite a number of nations that need genuine and urgent assistance from UNHCR end up receiving delayed services or no services at all. A good example is the case of Iraqi refugees who needed urgent and genuine help during a war that lasted for almost a decade. The political situation was unstable at that time in Iraq.
That was understandable but not a reason enough for UNHCR not to provide immediate shelter, clothing and other necessities to the refugees who were victims of the war. It is therefore important that the agency formulates measures to curb such an occurrence in future (Burger, and Rahm, 1996).
How the organization’s culture has led to the failure
The Executive Committee of the UNHCR holds an annual meeting in Geneva in Switzerland where member states review and approve reports and recommendations brought forward for implementation. Additionally, the panel also evaluates operational plans and policies as well as discusses finances during this annual meeting.
This is the most outstanding culture that derails the process of service provision to refugees across the globe according to priority. It is championed by the slow provision and review of reports that ultimately lead to delayed execution of recommendations that need urgent attention (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and United Nations, 2010).
Concerns have been raised in the agency over the slow pace at which reports are reviewed. This is because it gives member states inadequate time to go through the documents and make conclusive recommendations. It is probably the reason why it takes the agency quite some time to act upon being summoned by a member state to intervene in an issue that concerns refugees.
Laws that describe the situation
The 1951 Refugee Convention contained a law in its Article 33 that stated that no refugee should be returned to his or her country of territory where they would be perceptible to prosecution. This is an indication that no government is expected to expel refugees from its territories back to their motherland where their freedom would be jeopardized on account of either race, nationality, political ideology, religion or membership of a social group.
As a result, governments are obliged by law to house refugees within their territories for as long as they want to stay. That notwithstanding, governments are also required to communicate the presence of refugees to UNHCR (Zimmermann, 2010).
Existing elements of the organization that are most likely to cause a similar failure again in future
Even though UNHCR works well with other related agencies to effectuate service delivery to refugees, a lot still needs to be done in relation to partnerships. Partnership behavior in this agency is an existing element that is most likely to derail the process of providing immediate services to refugees and consequently taint the agency’s reputation as far as its mandate is concerned.
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Concerns have since been raised in relation to the promptness of the partnerships between UNHCR and other agencies that seek to provide voluntary services to refugees. This must therefore be addressed if the agency wants to assure member states of its commitment to executing its mandate.
Recommendations to avert future failures
As a way of hastening the process through which reports are reviewed and recommendations implemented, UNHCR’s Executive Committee should consider rescheduling its meetings to at least two per annum. It is through this that the committee will be in a position to give immediate responses to matters concerning refugees across the globe.
Burger, L., & Rahm, D. L. (1996). United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: Making a difference in our world. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Co.
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees., & United Nations. (2010). Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. New York: United Nations.
Zimmermann, A. (2010). The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol: A commentary. Oxford: Oxford University Press.