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International Burden-Sharing: Redistributive Politics Beyond the State

Project news (February 2010)

Dr Eiko Thielemann co-authored a report for the European Parliament a study on burden sharing for the European Parliament, 'What system of burden-sharing between Member States for the reception of asylum seekers?', February 2010


The literature on international burden-sharing, i.e. the question of how to share the costs for the provision of collective goods or common initiatives between states, has long been prominent among researchers interested in international organisations, in particular in the area of collective security. 

More recently, one has been able to observe a widening of the burden-sharing debate, with more questions being asked about states'regional and global responsibilities in areas such as peace-keeping, climate change and increasingly alsoforced migration.

In the latter area, countries have been faced with significant and very unequal responsibilities as a result of highly fluctuating inflows of asylum seekers into their territories. 

National (unilateral) policy responses in this area have often failed to achieve their objectives while producing significant externalities for other states.  Consequently, policy makers have increasingly advocated multi-lateral approaches to deal with the policy challenges posed by asylum seekers and refugees.

Against this background, LSE Migration Studies Unit Director Dr Eiko Thielemann is in the process of completing a research monographwhich will analyse the rationale, mechanisms and effectiveness of international burden/responsibility-sharing in the case of international refugee protection. 

Building on theoretical insights from the literature on international public goods, the analysis focuses on four distinct approaches:


  1. Regulatory (policy sharing)
  2. Distributive (resource-sharing)
  3. Re-distributive (people-sharing), and
  4. Market-based (build on the idea of countries' having comparative advantages in contributing to international public goods)

By comparing and contrasting these four approaches, the project aims to explore the driving forces and obstacles to international burden-sharing initiative, assessing their past record and future potential in achieving equitable and sustainable systems of international burden-sharing.

Migration Studies Unit