To what extent is UNHCR's intervention in Afghanistan shaped by incentives in the humanitarian marketplace?

My research aims to explore, from an inter-disciplinary perspective, the dynamics of competition that are inherent to the 'aid marketplace' in Afghanistan. I argue that actors within the marketplace are neither solely self-interested power maximisers, nor wholly altruistic actors, but rather seek to balance both rational agendas (maximizing financial and social capital) and normative agendas (aid goals specific to their organization or sector). Further, they do this within an incentive structure that encourages a focus on narrowly defined, or process-related, objectives, which in turn leads to fragmentation and undermines collective action goals.

In particular I focus on the evolving role of UNCHR in Afghanistan since 2001, its internal hierarchy of objectives and the ways in which it has promoted the needs of its various target groups (displaced people) in the context of a competitive environment.

Matthew Willner-Reid
Research Student