UNHCR and the pursuit of international protection: accountability through technology?

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Lindskov Jacobsen, Katja & Kristin Bergtora Sandvik (2018) UNHCR and the pursuit of international protection: accountability through technology?, Third World Quarterly. DOI: 10.1080/01436597.2018.1432346.

​Better management and new technological solutions are increasingly portrayed as the way to improve refugee protection and enhance the accountability of humanitarian actors. Taking concepts of legibility, quantification and co-production as the point of departure, this article explores how techno-bureaucratic practices shape conceptions of international refugee protection. We do this by examining the evolving roles of results-based management (RBM), biometrics and cash-based interventions as ‘accountability technologies’ in the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ international protection efforts. The article challenges the assumption that these technologies produce a seamless form of accountability that is equally attentive to donor requests and the protection needs of refugees. By focusing on how the constitution of these techniques as ‘accountability solutions’ shapes conceptions of the very meaning of protection (ie the problem to be addressed), we also show what dimensions of protection get omitted in this co-production of technical solutions and socio-political problems.

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