Geschwister Scholl Institute of Political Science

Language Selection

Breadcrumb Navigation


Mandate or Donors? Explaining the UNHCR’s Country-Level Expenditures from 1967 to 2016

Article by Svanhildur Thorvalsdottir, Ronny Patz and Klaus H. Goetz published in SAGE Journals


In recent decades, many international organizations have become almost entirely funded by voluntary contributions. Much existing literature suggests that major donors use their funding to refocus international organizations’ attention away from their core mandate and toward serving donors’ geostrategic interests. We investigate this claim in the context of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), examining whether donor influence negatively impacts mandate delivery and leads the organization to direct expenditures more toward recipient countries that are politically, economically, or geographically salient to major donors. Analyzing a new dataset of UNHCR finances (1967–2016), we find that UNHCR served its global mandate with considerable consistency. Applying flexible measures of collective donor influence, so-called “influence-weighted interest scores,” our findings suggest that donor influence matters for the expenditure allocation of the agency, but that mandate-undermining effects of such influence are limited and most pronounced during salient refugee situations within Europe.

The article can be found under the following link: