A global partnership to maintain the rule of law in times of crisis

Jun 16, 2022

Written by: ASG Asako Okai, Assistant Administrator and Director for the Crisis Bureau, United Nations Development Programme and ASG Alexandre Zouev, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions, Department of Peace Operations

On 20th March 2022, displaced women listen to Saido Abdullahi Hussein (in black on right of image), a member of the UNDP-supported Burtinle district local council, at Burtinle IDP camp in Puntland, Somalia. © UNDP Somalia

A mere cessation of conflict does not mean peace. Peacekeeping and peacebuilding are complex goals that require sustained focus, extensive resources and a wide range of expertise over long periods of time. For this reason, lasting peace can only be achieved through effective partnerships and with the participation of the affected communities.

Rule of law is the bedrock of durable peace and sustainable development. All too often, when countries experience conflict or instability, rule of law, justice and security institutions are the first to falter. Yet, these institutions are essential for people to live with dignity and without fear. And it also requires sustained support until it takes root again.

The United Nations Global Focal Point for the Rule of Law (GFP) works across the United Nations system, bringing together peacekeeping, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and many other United Nations entities[1] to implement programmes on rule of law, justice, corrections, police and security sector reform in crisis and conflict-affected areas, in partnership with UNDP’s Global Programme on Rule of Law and Human Rights.[2]

As the GFP marks its 10th anniversary this year, here are three stories of change brought about by its work.

Fighting Impunity in the Central African Republic

A series of internal conflicts since 2012 and overall insecurity has led to the breakdown of law and order and the disintegration of criminal justice institutions and basic infrastructure in Central Africa. According to a recent perception survey, 88 per cent of Central Africans consider themselves to be victims of crimes and violence committed in the past, and around 60 per cent believe that ensuring accountability for perpetrators is a prerequisite for peace.[3]

To respond to the high demand for justice and peace, the UN Peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA, together with UNDP and other United Nations entities, are working to fight impunity and build back skills and capacity of national justice, corrections and security institutions to maintain the rule of law.

Inaugural session of the Special Criminal Court in the Central African Republic. © UNDP CAR

Following the 2015 Bangui Forum on National Reconciliation, two transitional justice mechanisms were established to hold perpetrators accountable for committing war crimes and other serious human rights violations. Through the GFP, the United Nations has provided administrative, operational and funding support, as well as experts to the Special Criminal Court and the Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (CVJRR).

To date, the Special Criminal Court has received 237 complaints and has extended protective measures to 305 victims and witnesses. In April 2022, the Court commenced its first trial on war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in May 2019 in the Koundjili and Lemouna villages, where 46 civilians were massacred by rebel armed groups.

At the same time, the newly appointed 11 commissioners of the CVJRR will help improve access to justice for victims of armed conflict, conflict-related sexual violence, gender-based violence and other human rights violations in CAR through financial and technical support provided by UNDP and MINUSCA, in partnership with the Peacebuilding Fund.

Justice and Policing Assistance during the Transition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the second largest country in Africa, remains to this day one of the most fragile states in the continent due to the recurrence of conflict and abuses against civilians, committed mainly by armed groups. The conflict has weakened state institutions, there is widespread impunity for crimes and corruption, and absence of impartial mechanisms to prevent and peacefully resolve conflict.

United Nations partners are working together to identify and address the rule of law gaps that may arise as a result of the planned gradual drawdown and exit of the UN Peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, from DRC, including with regard to accountability for serious crimes and sexual and gender-based violence .

The Tribunal de Grande Instance of Kalemie in a mobile hearing session in Moba, DRC. ©UNDP DRC

In the Kasai Central and Tanganyika regions, where the peacekeeping mission has reduced its military presence since 2021, MONUSCO and UNDP are working together to support the local justice and policing institutions to sustain stability and peace.

They are providing training to national prison personnel, court clerks and police officers on topics including managing and securing prisons, and investigation techniques for war crimes and conflict-related sexual violence. For instance, in 2021, more than 500 police officers were sensitized on how to address cases of sexual and gender-based violence and many security and justice institutions were renovated and provided with necessary technical equipment.

Furthermore, United Nations partners mobilized their resources to increase access to justice for local communities and supported mobile hearings of local courts in different regions for over 150 cases.

Increasing Community Security in South Sudan

In South Sudan, instability and insecurity threaten hard-gained peace. In order to address systematic crimes, several measures have been taken and joint initiatives are being implemented by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan,UNMISS, and UNDP.

Among these, a community policing approach has been put in place in hotspots across South Sudan, which encourages collaboration among law enforcement agencies, officers and the communities they serve.

UNMISS peacekeepers engage in community dialogues to foster peace. © UNMISS

Stemming from this project, more than 50 Police Community Relations Committees (PCRC) have been supported and established in different regions of South Sudan. The Committees maintain dialogue within the communities and improve the relationship between local police and the communities, thereby increasing public safety. In 2021, over 300 meetings were held by the PCRCs in 10 locations in the country. They are also responding to survivors of gender-based violence and referring them to local services and authorities.

By bringing together the cumulative expertise of the United Nations, the GFP delivers tailored assistance to conflict-affected countries. Backed by the lessons and experience of the past 10 years, we remain committed to seeking even stronger partnerships and maximizing the impact of United Nations rule of law assistance.

Fana prison rehabilitated and equipped by the “Mandela Prisons” project with the support of UNDP and MINUSMA. © UNDP Mali/DS Photography

GFP: The Global Focal Point for the Rule of Law (GFP) is a United Nations coordination mechanism established in 2012 by the Secretary-General to enhance predictability, coherence, accountability and effectiveness in the delivery of United Nations rule of law assistance at country and international levels. At Headquarters, the GFP arrangement is co-chaired by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Department of Peace Operations (DPO). In the field, the most senior United Nations official in-country is responsible and accountable for guiding and overseeing United Nations rule of law strategies, for resolving political obstacles and for coordinating United Nations country support on the rule of law, without prejudice to the specialized roles and specific mandates of United Nations entities in-country. GFP partners include the Executive Office of the Secretary General (EOSG), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). In addition, the GFP brings together other United Nations entities working in the rule of law area, including the Team of Experts on Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) and the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA).

Corrections students at the National Judicial School in CAR at their initial training ceremony. ©UNDP CAR

MINUSCA: Concerned with the security, humanitarian, human rights and political crisis in the Central African Republic and its regional implications, the Security Council authorized, on 10 April 2014, the deployment of a multidimensional United Nations peacekeeping operation — the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) — with the protection of civilians as its utmost priority. Its other initial tasks included support for the transition process; facilitating humanitarian assistance; promotion and protection of human rights; support for justice and the rule of law; and disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation processes. MINUSCA subsumed the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA) on the date of its establishment. On 15 September 2014, the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) transferred its authority over to MINUSCA, in accordance with Security Council resolution 2149 (2014).

MONUSCO sensitizes new recruits in KongoCentral against the recruitment of children and other serious violations of human rights. © MONUSCO

MONUSCO: The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) took over from an earlier United Nations peacekeeping operation — the United Nations Organization Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) — on 1 July 2010, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1925 of 28 May to reflect the new phase reached in the country. The new mission has been authorized to use all necessary means to carry out its mandated tasks, including for the protection of civilians, humanitarian personnel and human rights defenders under imminent threat of physical violence and to support the Government of the DRC in its stabilization and peace consolidation efforts.

UNMISS peacekeepers deploy to help protect populations in South Sudan. © UNMISS

UNMISS: In adopting resolution 1996 (2011) on 8 July 2011, the Security Council determined that the situation faced by South Sudan continued to constitute a threat to international peace and security in the region and established the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) to consolidate peace and security and to help establish conditions for development. Following the crisis which broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, the Security Council, by its resolution 2155 (2014) of 27 May 2014, reinforced UNMISS and reprioritized its mandate towards the protection of civilians, human rights monitoring, support for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and the implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement.

1- On 21st March 2022, Fathi Hirsi Ali (in yellow), the founder of the Puntland Women Lawyers Association, speaks to a client outside her office in Garowe, Puntland, Somalia. © UNDP

UNDP Global Programme for Strengthening the Rule of Law, Human Rights, Justice and Security for Sustainable Peace and Development: The Global Programme is the main operational and financial instrument for UNDP globally to engage on rule of law, justice, security and human rights in contexts affected by crisis, conflict and/or fragility, and other specific development situations. It draws on some of UNDP’s most innovative rule of law programming in these contexts to assist UNDP Country Offices in developing multi-year, comprehensive rule of law projects and programmes that respond rapidly and effectively to the needs on the ground. The Global Programme is widely recognized for its ability to mobilize funds, provide technical and strategic expertise, and collaborate and coordinate across United Nations entities to enable more holistic, coherent and comprehensive responses to rule of law, justice, security and human rights challenges. Phase IV of the Global Programme will be implemented between 2022–2025. For more information: https://www.rolhr.undp.org/

[1] The Executive Office of the Secretary General (EOSG), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).

[2] UNDP Rule of Law and Human Rights website: https://www.rolhr.undp.org/.

[3] Perception Survey on Justice, Peace and Security, 2021, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, UNDP, MINUSCA, at http://www.peacebuildingdata.org/sites/m/pdf/CAR_Poll6_ENG.pdf and interactive map per indicator at http://www.peacebuildingdata.org/kmaps/maps/car06/#/.

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