Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Krause on the 1951 Refugee Convention

 Ulrike Krause (Osnabrück University, Germany) has published the following article: "Colonial roots of the 1951 Refugee Convention and its effects on the global refugee regime," Journal of International Relations and Development (published online on 3 Jan. 2021). Here is the abstract: 

The founding of the 1951 Refugee Convention and today’s global refugee regime have mainly been linked to the Second World War and to the early phase of the Cold War in research. But what role does colonialism play here? This article complements Postcolonial and Ignorance Studies and uses online archival research to explore debates among state delegations about the Convention’s refugee definition and ‘colonial clause’ at the founding conference (2–25 July 1951). It illuminates delegations’ strategic production of knowledge and especially ignorance—meaning the construction of issues as irrelevant—leading to the prioritisation of ‘the West’ over ‘the Rest’. Colonial and imperial states generally dominated debates while colonised ones were excluded, and thus silenced. Despite broad support for the universal refugee definition, several powerful delegations demanded its limitation to Europe and therewith strategically subordinated and ignored the ‘Other’ refugees and regions in pursuit of geopolitical interests. They thus made the colonial ‘Others’ irrelevant in the creation of ‘international’ refugee law. I argue that these debates rendered the Convention’s founding ‘colonial-ignorant’, with lasting effects for the regime’s functioning.

Further information is available here.

--Mitra Sharafi