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International Organization and Vulnerable Groups  

Dennis Dijkzeul and Carolin Funke

The manner in which international organizations (IOs) deal with vulnerable groups (VGs) has implications for the study of International Organization. Vulnerability provides an uncommon, but useful, vantage point from which to examine some of the strengths and shortcomings, as well as the relevance and challenges, of IOs. For IOs, the questions of “who is (considered to be) vulnerable” and “who does what, when, and how to address vulnerability?” need to be answered from both an empirical and a normative perspective. In this respect, it is important to highlight the different definitions, disciplinary perspectives, and evolving paradigms on vulnerability. Addressing the plight of VGs, specific IOs help people at risk or in need, especially when states are either unwilling or unable to do so. Yet VGs have usually struggled to make their voices heard, while structural causes of vulnerability have been hard to address. When aid arrives, it often is late, inadequate, or has unexpected side effects. Implementation of IO policies to support VGs usually lags behind norm development. Still, IOs have carried out considerable work to support VGs.