The global refugee population is at a post-1945 high. Since refugees are predominantly the consequence of state collapse, this suggests a deeper international problem: the rate of state failure exceeds that of state recovery. The international community needs coherent responses to meet its obligations to refugees and more effective ways of addressing the underlying problems of state fragility.

During the event Prof. Paul Collier shared conclusions and recommendations from his recent research and policy work, arguing that the existing international refugee system is hopelessly outdated, and proposed a new, job-based approach that better meets the duty of rescue.

He also outlined preliminary ideas on how domestic and international policies can better respond to the problems stemming from state fragility and its manifestations, such as the lack of state legitimacy for citizens; the lack of state capacity to implement change; violence and insecurity; a weak private sector economy; and the lack of resilience to shocks.

This event was chaired by Virginia Comolli, Senior Fellow for Security and Development, IISS. It took place in the Lee Kuan Yew Conference Room at Arundel House, 6 Temple Place, London WC2R 2PG.

Sir Paul Collier is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government and a Professorial Fellow of St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. From 1998–2003 he took a five-year public service leave, during which he served as Director of the Research Development Department of the World Bank. He is currently a professeur invité at Sciences Po and a Director of the International Growth Centre.

He has written for the New York Times, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. His research covers the causes and consequences of civil war; the effects of aid and the problems of democracy in low-income and natural resources-rich societies; urbanisation in low-income countries; and private investment in African infrastructure and changing organisational cultures.

His recent books include: The Bottom Billion (Oxford University Press, 2007), which in 2008 won the Lionel Gelber, Arthur Ross and Corine awards, and in May 2009 was the joint winner of the Estoril Global Issues Distinguished Book prize; Wars, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places (Vintage Books, 2009); The Plundered Planet: How to reconcile prosperity with nature (Oxford University Press, 2010); Exodus: How migration is changing our world (Oxford University Press, 2013); and Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System (Penguin/OUP, 2017) (with Alex Betts).

In 2014, Prof. Collier received a knighthood for services to promoting research and policy change in Africa.


Virginia Comolli

Virginia Comolli leads the Security and Development Programme, setting its research priorities and direction. She contributes to IISS research, represents the Institute at conferences internationally and in the media, and delivers briefings to government and corporate audiences.

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Event details

Friday 20 October, 12–1pm BST
Arundel House, London
Sir Paul Collier, Professor of Economics and Public Policy, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford
Virginia Comolli, Senior Fellow for Security and Development, IISS