A rule-of-law environment exists when all persons, institutions and entities (public and private), including the state, are held accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. Good governance of the security sector is thus an essential pillar of the rule of law.

The mission has both a responsibility and the capacity to influence how quickly and firmly the state is able to recover and extend its authority, legitimacy and capacity to apply equitable laws in a fair manner. This requires a comprehensive understanding of the actors involved in the rule of law, including those who provide security, policing and judicial services; those who manage those services; and those who hold service providers to account.

Operational Outputs

Human Rights and Protection Promoted

Human rights are at the centre of the work of the United Nations. The mission ...

Legal Framework Strengthened

Conflict tends to weaken legal frameworks over time. It usurps and destroys institutional infrastructures, and ...

Justice Sector Strengthened

A strong judicial sector supports the transition to sustainable peace. It also plays a key ...

Security Sector Strengthened

Strong security services exist in a rule-of-law framework with respect for human rights. They must ...

Police and other Law-enforcement Sectors Strengthened

Reinforcing the rule of law and sustainable peace are impossible without law enforcement. Police and ...

Corrections System Strengthened

Post-conflict corrections systems, when they exist, are weak. This leads to violations of prisoners’ basic ...

Defence Sector Professionalized

The goal of professionalizing the defence sector is civilian control of the military. The military ...

There are deep connections between strengthening the rule of law and SSR. Implementing institutional reforms is a complex and political change-management process. Many functions and institutions that administer justice will need capacity-building. Examples include ministries, police, prosecuting authorities, public defenders’ offices, courts and prisons.

While local ownership is fundamental, the mission may need to maintain a certain level of intrusiveness. This helps combat corruption and strengthens institutional integrity and accountability.

The MLT therefore plays a crucial role in crafting a comprehensive and holistic approach to strengthening the rule of law. Where there is non-state service delivery of security and justice, regardless of who provides security or justice services, they should equally be held accountable to the law and formal governance structures. All actions should be carried out in close consultation with all parties to the peace process as well as with civil society. Strategies should be needs-based and long term, and donors should be encouraged to remain engaged and stay the course.

The role of the MLT in strengthening the rule of law is likely to include:

  • supporting political dialogue on rule of law needs, norms and standards;
  • supporting national needs assessment in relation to international standards and good practice;
  • developing national security strategies with a focus on effective and accountable justice; and
  • facilitating international support.

The MLT may wish to consider the following in determining priorities:

  • Is the environment safe and secure?
  • Who is providing justice and security?
  • Does the country have the capability to absorb reform initiatives?
  • Is it possible to manage active spoilers destabilizing the environment?
  • Can a quick win in a geographic area supporting the rule of law help build confidence in the reform?
  • Is the host government stable enough to undertake reform?
  • Is the rule of law responsive to the gendered perceptions of security, law and order, and other issues?
  • Can law-enforcement agencies maintain public order within a framework of human rights?
  • Is it possible to address some areas of justice and SSR before reform in other areas begins?

  • All significant parties to the conflict have signed a peace agreement.
  • A comprehensive needs assessment and a PCA constitute the basis for support.
  • The host state displays willingness to carry out justice and security reform.
  • Bilateral donors provide resources to strengthen rule of law in a coordinated way.



  • A strong legal framework guarantees non-discrimination consistent with international human rights norms.
  • Legal frameworks acknowledge roles of women and minorities and respond to local traditions, culture and history.
  • A public administration that is rules-based and accountable, with adequate systems of appeal.
  • A strong and independent judicial sector can withstand external pressures.
  • Separation of powers and checks and balances ensure fair interpretation of laws.
  • A strengthened law-enforcement sector responds to women’s and minorities’ needs.
  • A strengthened corrections system is consistent with UN human rights standards.
  • Structural mechanisms and mediation processes exist for peaceful resolution of conflicts.
  • Functioning internal and external oversight and accountability mechanisms are in place.

Human rights are at the centre of the work of the United Nations. The mission must maintain a strong partnership on human rights issues with UN bodies. But an MLT may also need to make hard choices between peace and justice when promoting human rights. This illustrates a core leadership consideration on polarities. A mission must promote both peace and justice at the same time.

What are human rights principles?

Human rights are one of the three reinforcing pillars of the UN system. The other two pillars are development, and peace and security.

Human rights principles should inform a UN peace operation’s strategic planning. All personnel should ensure that they promote, respect and protect human rights. The HoM and the MLT must ensure that all staff are aware of their human rights responsibilities.

UN personnel who commit human rights abuses must face investigation. Such investigations are the responsibility of the HoM and/or the MLT. They should share any allegations of abuse with the Conduct and Discipline section.

Before supporting a non-UN security force, the mission must assess risks and benefits. This is set out in the UN’s HRDDP. The assessment must examine the human rights record of the recipient of support. It should also address the adequacy of measures to prevent human rights violations.

Human Rights sections in missions

The Human Rights section helps mainstream human rights across all mission activities. It conducts monitoring, investigations, assessments, reporting, advocacy and interventions; gives human rights advice; and provides support for institutional reform and capacity building to host governments.

The Head of the Human Rights section acts as the human rights adviser to the HoM. They are also the UNHCHR’s representative in the area of operation.

The MLT should engage with relevant actors in dialogue on the human rights situation. This should include human rights organizations, civil society and host-state authorities. It is now standard operating practice to issue joint reports on issues of concern.

Several other sections play a significant role in promoting and protecting human rights. One example is the Child Protection section. It usually coordinates with the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict and UNICEF.

Other relevant sections include Gender, and Rule of Law. Some operations also include dedicated components that address specific aspects of transitional justice.

The mission must maintain a strong partnership on human rights issues with the UN. The same is true for other humanitarian, development, political and related actors. But promoting human rights may lead to difficult choices. A mission must support peace and justice at the same time, and neglect neither.

Conflict and post-conflict situations often increase women’s exposure to risks. But women also play a role in promoting human rights and achieving sustainable peace. Although understood and accepted, these issues are not always acted on. A mission may even overlook them based on faulty “gender-blind” human rights approaches.

Conflict-related sexual violence

Ill-disciplined security forces and other groups often believe they can act with impunity. Sexual violence is common in armed conflict and in fragile states. CRSV consists of violent acts of a sexual nature. This includes rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution and forced pregnancy. It also includes any other form of sexual violence against women, men, girls or boys.

CRSV is a crime against international human rights law, criminal law and refugee law. Perpetrators can orchestrate CRSV in deliberate campaigns of terror against specific groups. As such, it can be part of a genocidal effort or mass atrocity. It may also occur in a more decentralized manner. This may be due to a general lack of discipline within units, or to a general lack of security and stability.

The mission should always ask for women’s views about CRSV. Women’s groups, NGOs, the media and CSOs can provide insights on CRSV and other issues. If women’s groups do not already exist, it may be possible assist in their creation.

It is important to remember that even discussing CRSV and SBGV is a cultural taboo in many cultures. Working in such cultures can be particularly challenging. The mission should practice context awareness and adopted local approaches to prevention methods.

Preventing and combating CRSV and SGBV are multi-dimensional activities. As such, they depend on the integrated capacity of the mission and the UN system.

The UN system usually sets up a sub-cluster or working group to address SGBV and CRSV in a specific response. Deploying enough uniformed women in the Military and Police components is a prerequisite. UNPOL may also deploy specialized teams with skills in investigations and SGBV.

The UN itself must never compound the situation through ill-discipline or predatory behaviour. On this issue, the MLT and the mission’s Conduct and Discipline section must remain vigilant.

Child protection

Children have particular needs as a consequence of conflict. Several peace operations mandates include provisions for the protection of children.

Armed forces may have recruited children at a young age. They may be victims of sexual violence, or parties to or victims of killings, maiming or abduction. They may also lack access to humanitarian relief or child-sensitive DDR programmes.

The mission may need to address abuses committed against children by armed groups. This might involve humanitarian support, relocation or reunion with family members. It could also include reintegration programmes, education and other forms of support.

Child-protection advisers will help the MLT identify child-protection priorities in a mission area. UNICEF, the UNCT and national actors may also play a role as appropriate.

Key Operational Activities

  • Regular monitoring of the human rights situation.
  • Incorporating human rights and protection concerns into mission planning processes.
  • Preventing human rights violations through mission-wide early-warning mechanisms.
  • Conducting threat and vulnerability assessments (e.g. for women, children, IDPs and minorities).
  • Establishing joint-protection teams consisting of military, police and civilian components.
  • Conducting in-depth investigations into serious human rights violations and/or specific cases.
  • Deploying human rights or multidisciplinary mobile teams to remote areas.
  • Conducting regular proactive patrols.
  • Ensuring appropriate security conditions to guarantee temporary demilitarized zones.
  • Undertaking advocacy and intervention actions at local, national and/ or international levels.
  • In conjunction with the OHCHR, issuing reports on human rights issues in the country.
  • Monitoring and reporting on grave violations of children’s rights.
  • Supporting institutional reform and capacity building within the host government and civil society.
  • Monitoring and obtaining access to all detentions by UN personnel.




  • Human rights principles, information and analysis inform mission strategic planning and policies.
  • Main roads and volatile areas such as markets, water points and schools patrolled.
  • Monitoring and reporting mechanisms and processes for grave violations established.
  • Strategic communications plan formulated and implemented.
  • Cross-cutting protection concerns mainstreamed in mission activities.
  • Integrated coordination mechanisms on cross-cutting protection issues established within the mission.


  • Strategies to prevent and respond to CRSV and SGBV devised and put in place.
  • Accountability for violations and remedies for CRSV and SGBV victims ensured.
  • Civil society’s ability to track human rights situation supported and developed.


  • Host population empowered to assert and claim its human rights.
  • State and other national institutions enabled to fulfil their human rights obligations.
  • Human rights training provided to state authorities, schools and teachers.
  • Development and implementation of National Human Rights Action Plans assisted.


Challenges and Risks

  • Local expectations exceed the mission’s ability to prevent violence against civilians.
  • The scope of the required mitigation measures reduces the likelihood of local consent.
  • Poor local capability to internalize mapping and vetting processes might reduce their credibility.
  • Host-country decision makers’ low engagement in M&E mechanisms could hamper effective benchmarking.
  • Corruption and political affiliations could hamper reforms.



There will always be a tension between the duty to speak out and the need to advance a peace process. Peace and justice are two important objectives in any mission. The mission must choose between silent diplomacy and long-term “light” advocacy.

The mission must always follow its own HRDDP. But the host government must also exercise its monopoly on the legitimate use of force. This can create tensions between the mission and local forces. There should be a balance between expediency and mapping and vetting. This reinforces the legitimacy and credibility of the process among civil society. The mission should engage with representatives from the local forces at all levels. Likewise, it should also engage with minorities and women.

The host government and civil society groups may sometimes be in conflict. The mission must always strive to maintaining good relationships with both. This is essential for realizing the mission’s own human rights benchmarks. It is also worth remembering when initiating new cooperation or activities.


See Also

2.7 Mission Resources & Conduct of Personnel

The UN Secretary-General’s management reforms grant an HoM greater delegation of authority (DoA). In principle, ...

Conflict tends to weaken legal frameworks over time. It usurps and destroys institutional infrastructures, and undermines their effectiveness through authoritarian control. Strong legal frameworks adhere to the rule of law and principles of human rights. They allow a state to frame its laws in response to the will of the people. This forms the foundation for an effective rule of law environment.

What are strong legal frameworks?

Discriminatory laws that fail to protect citizens’ rights can contribute to conflict. Strong legal frameworks do not discriminate against certain segments of a population. Laws passed under such frameworks promote the rights of all citizens.

Legal frameworks should be internally consistent and reflect cultural norms. They should also ensure the fair participation of women and minorities.

Within the mission, the MLT should promote the rule of law with national counterparts. But it needs to do so while balancing local ownership against the goals of the mission. The host government must create rule-of-law frameworks that respond to its national environment. In this context, coordinating efforts will be difficult. The MLT will need to manage tensions. Its continued political engagement will be crucial to legislative reform.


Key Operational Activities

The key operational activities in support of this output include:

  • Assessing needs and mapping existing legislative frameworks.
  • Supporting legislative reform.
  • Coordinating donor support.
  • Raising public awareness through strategic communications campaigns.
  • Engaging with civil society, including women’s and minority groups.




  • Needs assessment and mapping of legislative frameworks completed.
  • Donors and areas of engagement identified.
  • Planning with host government on reform needs conducted.
  • Obstacles to legislative reforms identified.


  • Legislative reform plans (including participation of minorities and women) initiated by host government.
  • Donor support prioritized.
  • Popular support for reform observed.


  • Legislative reform implemented.
  • Civil society support strengthened.
  • Constitutional processes initiated.


Challenges and Risks

  • International actors could seek to impose inappropriate legal systems.
  • The pace and style of legislative reform jeopardizes local consent.
  • A lack of local capability to absorb legislative reforms might lead to a loss of legitimacy.
  • Insufficient host-country engagement in M&E mechanisms could hamper effective benchmarking.
  • Tensions between the MLT and the host government might affect legislative reform plans.
  • Popular local laws and customary systems might clash with international human rights norms.
  • Corruption and political affiliations could distort the course of reforms.



There will be a short-term need to meet budgetary cycles. Donors and local stakeholders will also expect observable change. But sustainable legislative reform is a long-term process. If rushed, it may not reflect cultural norms, gender perspectives and citizen participation. The outcomes from such a process may not be sustainable. In the case of large-scale reform, spoilers may challenge its legitimacy. It takes time to build the capacity of legislative frameworks to adapt and absorb change.

There may be a discord between international and local standards. For example, customary systems and legislation on women’s access to voting may differ. The same may be true for issues such as inheritance and land ownership. The MLT should avoid over-zealous encouragement of reforms to conform to international norms. This may reduce tensions with the host government and elements of the population.

Should legislative frameworks represent a society or respond only to power holders? Support from those in power is imperative to drive the reform process forward. But responding only to those in power is unlikely to ensure the desired outcome. There should be a balance between expediency and legislative reform. This will reinforce the legitimacy and credibility of the process.

A strong judicial sector supports the transition to sustainable peace. It also plays a key role in reform of the police and corrections services. Strengthening the judicial sector requires a national security strategy. Such a strategy must recognise the links between justice and security. But capacity building in the justice sector takes time. There may be pressure for rapid justice to meet public expectations of reform. This calls for a balance between the reform process itself and local capabilities.

What is a strengthened judicial sector?

A well-respected judicial sector is vital to any peaceful transition. Its predictability and integrity attract foreign direct investment for development and commercial growth.

The focus of justice sector reform may be on criminal justice. But civil justice reform can also help reduce the incidence of crime and disorder. Such reform may include changes to inheritance and commercial law, and land reforms.

Unaddressed civil disputes can escalate into unrest or even violent conflict. But if citizens trust that the judicial process is fair, this creates trust in the host government. The reputation of the entire justice system also benefits.

The international community can provide comprehensive support to a judicial reform process. At the same time, it must assess whether its local counterparts are able to confront threats to the rule of law.

A mismatch between these threats and the authority of the mission is a recipe for failure. For example, it is not unusual for police reform to outpace judicial reform. This is unwise and can have a negative impact on all reforms.

The MLT is only one actor among those supporting judicial reform. The mission’s role is to champion national coordination of the reform process. This adds legitimacy and credibility to both the mission and the host government.

The host government’s role is to ensure that a strong judicial sector enforces the law. The MLT must balance local ownership of the sector against the mission’s own goals. It can also provide political leadership and help coordinate long-term donor support. By doing so, the MLT can help create an environment in which judicial reform can prevail over time.

Key national experts will be important for mentoring and supporting judicial reform. They will need to have expertise in the relationship between culture, context and law. Finally, the long-term nature of judicial reform requires sustained donor support.


Key Operational Activities

The key operational activities of the mission in support of this output include:

  • Conducting needs assessments.
  • Mapping existing judicial mechanisms, including traditional, customary and/or non-state mechanisms.
  • Promoting judicial and prosecutorial independence, professionalism, accountability and transparency.
  • Promoting effective enforcement of laws and fair access to justice.
  • Raising public awareness through information campaigns that include civil society perspectives.




  • Needs assessment and mapping completed.
  • Judges and all state officials in sector paid.
  • Obstacles to reform identified.
  • Environment for judicial reform created.
  • Public information campaign planned and implemented.


  • Decrease in number of people detained illegally without a court appearance.
  • Vetting processes for prosecutors/defence lawyers, discipline and judicial appointment systems supported.
  • Budget and staffing requirements analysed.
  • Donors coordinated to minimize overlap.
  • Judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers and court administrators held accountable in transparent processes.
  • Increased access to, and use of, justice mechanisms, particularly for women and minorities.
  • Increased representation of women in the judicial sector.


  • Judiciary is independent and free from politicization of financial affairs and staff.
  • Judges, prosecutors and lawyers are accountable for misconduct without any international involvement.
  • The legal profession adheres to rigorous standards of conduct.
  • The justice system performs essential criminal and civil law functions.
  • Measures to protect human rights (e.g. a human rights commission) are effective.


Challenges and Risks

  • Potential clashes between national and international norms on judicial reform.
  • A shattered formal legal system cannot undertake the breadth of measures required.
  • A weak civil society is unable to contribute to judicial reform.
  • Organized crime with ties to political power influences reform of the judicial sector.
  • Large-scale changes to court administration and management present logistical and resource challenges.
  • Integration of marginalized and vulnerable groups faces challenges.



Political and criminal influence over the judicial sector is an obstacle to the rule of law. But tackling it may have political consequences that could destabilize the peace process. In conflict, a variety of interests are often implicated in criminal activity. This can have an effect on post-conflict recovery and judicial reform. The hasty removal of judges, for example, can create a vacuum in power structures. It can also have a longer-term negative impact on strengthening judicial reform.

Judicial reform is a long-term process without a fixed end date. AT the same time, the mission and the donor community will need results. But they must balanced this against the time and local skills required to build reform. Effective reform is responsive to culture, context and capacity. To take one example, in the short term it may be necessary to use international experts. But they are unlikely to assist in developing a strong local legal profession.

There are often ties between organized crime and corruption. This can occur when the host government has not paid judges and other judicial sector staff. In such situations, the population gains access to justice through corrupt practices. If generally accepted, it increses the likelihood of resistance to judicial reform.

Well-developed traditional forms of justice often exist in a post-conflict environment. But they sometimes fail to adhere to international norms (e.g. with regard to women and minorities). The mission will need to balance cultural norms (expediency) against international norms (standards). It may also need to consider the strategic effctiveness of customary dispute resolution.

Strong security services exist in a rule-of-law framework with respect for human rights. They must be effective, accountable and sustainable. The security sector includes police, corrections, defence and the governance of these institutions. Creating, maintaining and reforming the security sector is a complex and political process. It can lead to tensions between the mission, the host country and donors. The mission should define early on how it will support SSR efforts. This depends on discussions with national, regional and international actors.

What is security sector reform?

SSR helps define norms and standards for the security and justice sectors. It identifies the needs and gaps that exist, and the means by which these gaps will be overcome. SSR is a critical activity for ensuring long-term security and rule of law in any country.

The mission’s primary role is to assist the national authorities in SSR. This is a long-term process that does not have a fixed end date. It is unlikely to conclude within the timeframe of the peace operation. The MLT should keep track of its support to SSR needs. This will involve several mission components, the UNCT and a host of external actors.

National ownership and leadership are key elements of a successful SSR process. Weak national capacity or weak political will from national actors may undermine it.

Many internal conflicts have political roots that continue into the post-conflict phase. Tensions are often played out in competition within and between security institutions. The mission should blend its external support with political engagement to resolve issues.

National SSR strategies reflect local cultures, sensitivities and historical conceptions of security. SSR does not seek to put in place a Western paradigm of the security sector. It understands that a Western model may not be appropriate.

But SSR planners should avoid accepting security practices that contribute to instability. The SSR strategy must resolve underlying conflict sources while preventing new crises.

SSR is a far-reaching systemic endeavour. It requires careful coordination on the part of the MLT. The SSR and DDR divisions or sections of the mission (which are often combined) are in the lead. Justice and corrections, and the police and military components, will provide support.

Many other actors may also play a role, concurrent with the UN’s activities. It will be essential to coordinate and achieve rationalization among these efforts. Above all, national institutions, laws, and processes should play a central role. There should also be coordination between SSR and DDR processes.

The peacekeeping assessed budget may fund SSR-related programmatic activities. This requires mission budget approval. But a fully-fledged SSR process may need donor support beyond the lifespan of the mission. Coordination with the UNCT, the World Bank and bilateral donors is essential.

Supporting SSR may involve reform of several sectors and actors. These include law-enforcement agencies, corrections, defence and intelligence services. SSR should also promote good governance and civilian oversight of these services. Initial investments will pay dividends in the medium to long term. An integrated approach will deepen the relationship between SSR and rule of law. It should include all relevant mission components and sections. Hiring and retaining high-quality personnel in these areas will be essential.


Key Operational Activities

The key operational activities of the mission in support of this output include:

  • Conducting multi-agency assessments to support the national SSR process.
  • Providing political and technical support to the national dialogue on the security sector.
  • Supporting the security sector strategy and related plans in relevant sub-sectors.
  • Helping create conditions for a more gender-equitable security sector.
  • Establishing the security sector’s accountability to civilian political leadership.



Process and Results

  • A national concept of security developed.
  • All-security-sector framework or strategy established.
  • Cooperation with and among civil authorities developed.
  • Human rights norms respected.
  • Monitoring systems created.


  • Assessment of security sector completed.
  • National dialogue initiated on shared vision and national security sector strategy.
  • Mission provides political support to overarching SSR process and technical support to sub-sectors.
  • Funding and support mechanisms agreed.
  • National ownership promoted within the UN and with other international actors.
  • Mission and UNCT activities coordinated in support of DDR.


  • National SSR strategy agreed upon by key national stakeholders
  • Oversight mechanisms in place and functioning, including both state actors and civil society.
  • Sector-wide plans (including plans finalized and are being implemented.
  • Mission and international community support the implementation of the national SSR strategy.
  • National and international expectations managed, with a public information strategy supporting the process.


  • SSR implementation advanced with continued commitment from national stakeholders and international support.
  • Public confidence in the security sector and its respective services restored.
  • Oversight bodies capable of leading, challenging, reproaching and controlling the security sector.
  • National and international policies and responses are better integrated with long-term development frameworks.
  • Meaningful input from civil society actors established and legitimized.
  • Monitoring system established to track changes/progress and identify evolving needs.


Challenges and Risks

  • Poverty and corruption challenge SSR efforts.
  • National elites’ divergent political interests derail SSR process.
  • Security sector services’ infrastructure is in poor condition.
  • SSR reforms do not keep pace with DDR processes or political reforms.
  • State revenues are low, and funding of SSR is inadequate.


The mission should take four principles into account when designing and supporting SSR:

  1. Support national ownership while incorporating good governance and respect for human rights.
  2. Balance efforts to enhance operational capacity against support to ensure effective governance.
  3. Foster transparency, accountability, dialogue and trust.
  4. Balance “do no harm” against “do what works” and “what is right”.



The mission will face many choices and trade-offs in relation to SSR. The most critical is that between public-order issues and accountable patterns of governance. While quick wins build credibility, they can also undermine deeper SSR efforts.


See Also

4.5 Public Order Established

Public disorder is destabilizing. It undercuts efforts to strengthen state security institutions. It is often ...

4.6 Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Programmes Implemented

Dealing with combatants is a crucial first step towards peace and reconciliation. DDR contributes to ...


Reinforcing the rule of law and sustainable peace are impossible without law enforcement. Police and other law-enforcement agencies are the most visible expression of governmental authority. Transitioning law enforcement from the military to the police is an important step. It signals the re-establishment of the rule of law within a human rights framework.

What is a strong police and law-enforcement sector?

The terms “policing” or “police” as used in this Handbook follow UN terminology. They refer to security agencies that exercise police powers (e.g. arrest or detention).

At the same time, the law-enforcement sector is a broad system. It includes judges, prosecutors, courts, corrections, customs and border services. It also covers court management and administration.

In many post-conflict societies, law-enforcement agencies lack legitimacy. This may be due to their involvement in the conflict, as well as corruption and human rights abuses.

The MLT’s support for law-enforcement agencies is thus critical to a stronger rule of law. This includes support for police, customs and border services.

But there are limits to what a mission can do. Under UNSC resolutions 2185 and 2382, any police-related activity must conform with the SGF. This includes its Guidelines on Police Command. In fact, the SGF should be front and centre in all operational considerations.

The SGF defines the “what” of UN police peacekeeping (policy). It also sets out the four core pillars of a UN Police Peacekeeping component outlined in the Policy:

When supporting law-enforcement agencies, the MLT may wish to consider the following:

  • Is the proper infrastructure in place for local actors to be responsive to reform?
  • Will the reform be sustainable?
  • Might comprehensive reform be premature?
  • Does the state of security allow the implementation of police reform?
  • Are there enough resources to support the reform with the right skills?
  • Is there enough political will exists in the host government for reforms?

The leadership role within the mission rests with the Police Commissioner. They are responsible for the mission’s support to the law-enforcement sector.

The MLT may need to coordinate mission activities. Many actors engage in strengthening the law-enforcement sector. The MLT should avoid overlap, duplication and gaps.

The legitimacy of the sector depends on the political management of law-enforcement agencies. Thus, the MLT should foster support for reforms at these political levels.

Continued human and capital resources to support long-term reform processes are crucial. Police and other law-enforcement mentors and advisers increase the legitimacy of reform.

Law-enforcement reform processes are long-term in nature. They depend on capability and capacity, as well as local perceptions of legitimacy. Reforming and rebuilding the police and other law-enforcement agencies requires long-term donor commitments.


Key Operational Activities

The key operational activities support of this output include:

  • Conducting needs assessments and mapping existing police and other law-enforcement agencies.
  • Supporting responses to protection issues (e.g. by including women’s perspectives on SGBV).
  • Supporting increased participation of women and minorities in law-enforcement agencies.
  • Providing operational support to the police and others under the mission’s mandate.
  • Supporting the management and oversight of law-enforcement agencies within the host government.




  • Needs assessment, census and mapping of police and other law-enforcement agencies completed.
  • Planning with host government on reform, restructuring and rebuilding initiated.
  • Internal security role of law-enforcement agencies delineated from that of the military.
  • Clarity achieved on national police, vision and strategy, and roles of UNPOL personnel.
  • Framework to oversee the provision of police, security and justice established.
  • Donors and areas of engagement identified.


  • Vetting, selection and recruitment of police and other law- enforcement personnel undertaken.
  • Accountability mechanisms reinforced.
  • Management and oversight of police and other law- enforcement agencies strengthened.
  • Institutional capacity of law-enforcement agencies strengthened.


  • Police and other law-enforcement agencies can respond to the needs of the population.
  • Agencies trained to operate within human rights frameworks.
  • Information-sharing on TOC institutionalized between neighbouring states, and regional and international forums.


Challenges and Risks

  • Lack of political will (and political interference) can compromise law-enforcement entities’ effectiveness.
  • Lack of infrastructure and resources inhibits the capacity for reform.
  • The police, other law-enforcement agencies or political management may be resistant to reform.
  • Entrenched corruption is an obstacle to accountable and legitimate law enforcement.
  • Police leaders’ knowledge of change management processes may be lacking.
  • Police leaders may not be able to use analytical tools to make the best use of intelligence.
  • Managing diversity is challenging in environments that have never experienced gendered approaches.



Short-term international support for strengthening host-state law-enforcement agencies is necessary. But over-reliance on international expertise can lead to dependency rather than self-sufficiency.

Recruiting, training and vetting police and other law-enforcement agencies is important. But material resources alone cannot ensure that reforms take root. Promoting a positive organizational culture may lead to quantitative short-term improvements. But it cannot guarantee quality in the longer term. Effective and transparent governance of the sector is essential for successful change.

Managing security and law is an obvious and immediate imperative. But it may result in putting host-state police on the streets without proper vetting. If care is not taken to vet out undesirable elements, this may compromise them in the long term. At the same time, UNPOL assuming responsibility may also affect national agencies’ credibility. To maintain a “light footprint”, the MLT must balance security and long-term credibility.

Post-conflict corrections systems, when they exist, are weak. This leads to violations of prisoners’ basic human rights. It also creates a lack of coherence between the elements of the criminal justice system. A corrections system that is humane, fair and coherent gains legitimacy and respect. It must partner with strong legislative, judicial, police and other law-enforcement agencies. Together, they create a legitimate and credible rule of law.

What is a strong corrections system?

A functioning criminal justice sector combats impunity. It extends state authority, protects civilians and ensures law and order.

The corrections system is an often overlooked element of the judicial system. It sits at the end of the criminal justice chain. It is also the most difficult sub-sector for which to attract donor support.

In post-conflict contexts, rule-of-law institutions are often undermined. Prisons are no exception. A weak corrections system can jeopardize other rule of law efforts. This can have a detrimental effect on security and stability.

The MLT should include corrections in its efforts to strengthen rule of law and human rights. It should make sure that it receives attention from the host government and donors.

The mission can provide mentoring for corrections personnel in the host country. The MLT can also help gain donor support for this sector, which is generally overlooked. Engaging actors that support long-term development of the corrections system will be important.

Technical advisers are critical to successful reform of the corrections system. Specific language on corrections in the mission mandate and budget will be vital.


Key Operational Activites

The key operational activities in support of this output include:

  • Supporting the host government with needs assessments and corrections system mapping.
  • Supporting the early functioning of key corrections areas.
  • Increasing access to legal advice and counsel for prisoners.

Assisting independent reporting on prison conditions and practices, including abuse by prison personnel.

  • Supporting the development of accountability mechanisms.
  • Supporting effective prison management and administration.
  • Supporting budgetary, legislative and legal frameworks for the corrections system.




  • Needs assessment and mapping of corrections system completed.
  • Reliable numbers and categorization of prison population established and registered.
  • Recruitment, vetting and selection processes initiated.
  • Strategies to accommodate the basic needs for prisoners in place.
  • Differentiation of prisoner categories (e.g. women and children separated into appropriate sections).


  • National plan for corrections reform, including training, in place.
  • Construction of new facilities or structural repairs and improvements to existing facilities.
  • Clear procedures in place for authorized legal documentation prior to detention.
  • Prison system manages inmates in line with UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.


  • Legislation governing management and administration of corrections system in place.
  • Population trusts the corrections system. • Independent internal and external oversight mechanisms in place.
  • Prisons and detention centres operate in compliance with international human rights standards.
  • Sufficient budget allocated to prison administration.


Challenges and Risks

  • A culture of impunity, and arbitrary sentencing and detention, affect the reform process.
  • Lack of political support and insufficient budgeting for corrections reform from host government.
  • Overcrowded prisons, often due to the high number of prisoners awaiting trial.
  • Limited trust from the population.
  • Limited or non-existent access to public counsel for the accused.
  • Low capacity, numbers and training of prison staff.
  • Limited international access to the corrections system, resulting in a lack of transparency.
  • Limited interest of the international community in corrections reform.



In a post-conflict setting, strengthening corrections may be a low government priority. If resources are scarce, a strong corrections system may also not enjoy local support. The MLT may need to balance this against supporting a system consistent with the rule of law.

Local perceptions of prisoners often lead to denial of their fundamental human rights. The MLT may need to consider the political aspects of corrections systems reform.

Resourcing the corrections system is a host-government responsibility. But reform is a long-term process that also requires sustained donor support. Attracting long-term resources from donors calls for the MLT’s active engagement.

Host governments may be unable to maintain corrections systems in post-conflict settings. While encouraging the host government, the MLT may need to be mindful of local capacity gaps.

The goal of professionalizing the defence sector is civilian control of the military. The military may need to regain the trust of the public and the international community. This is especially true following military involvement in conflict. Professionalizing the defence setctor is not only about rebuilding troop levels and training. It involves reconstructing both armed and non-armed elements of the defence sector. It must also civilianize its governance structures and normative values.

What is a professional defence sector?

Poor military discipline and standards or strained resources may catalyse a conflict. A peacekeeping mission can thus help improve the defence sector as part of an SSR process.

Training is a critical part of the process. It should include decision makers from across the sector. Typical activities include training in human rights, IHL, child protection and preventing SGBV.

Support to the defence sector may include many actors. This is because bilateral and multilateral agreements run alongside UN activities. Coordination and rationalization among all these efforts is thus essential.

External assistance should not undermine the legitimacy of the host government. National institutions, laws, and processes may be weak. But they must also play a central role in programmes and processes.

Defence sector support should form part of a national SSR process. It will also be important to coordinate with DDR programmes.

The mission should create an integrated and synchronized plan with the host government. This plan should detail the resources needed to professionalize the defence sector.

A long-term programme should take account of the life-cycle management of materiel systems.


Key Operational Activities

  • Securing agreement by the military to undertake institutional reform.
  • Conducting multi-agency assessments of defence sector.
  • Securing funding to restore infrastructure, recruitment and selection systems, and payments.
  • Establishing the principles and structures of defence accountability to civilian political leadership.
  • Introducing a process to harmonize military systems with prevailing security conditions.




  • Assessment completed, training and reorganization plan accepted by host government and military authorities.
  • Procurement for equipment and facilities initiative finalized.
  • Trainees selected, and trainers and mentors deployed.
  • Standards agreed.
  • Plan coordinated in support of DDR.
  • Roles and responsibilities of the police and military delineated


  • Essential equipment and facilities procured and available.
  • Administrative and financial systems in place and functioning.
  • Oversight mechanisms in place and functioning.
  • Payment and human resource systems in place and functioning.
  • National and international expectations managed through a public information strategy.
  • Agreement within the donor community to prevent overlapping priorities and efforts.
  • Military able to conduct small unit exercises.


  • Military reorganized and able to conduct operations in accordance with plan.
  • Support structure for the military established and functioning with limited international assistance.
  • Public confidence in the military restored.
  • Oversight bodies functioning and able to lead, challenge, reproach and control the military.
  • National and international policies and responses are better integrated with long-term development frameworks.
  • Meaningful input by civil society actors established and legitimized.


Challenges and Risks

  • Military infrastructure has been severely degraded.
  • Military professionalization does not keep up with political reforms.
  • Defence reforms do not keep pace with DDR.
  • Significant military disaffection with the peace agreement impedes reform efforts.
  • Military distances itself from the wider peace process or, at worst, resumes fighting.
  • Funding is inadequate, leaving the military weak and disaffected.



The initial need to field forces may not match long-term professionalization plans. POC may also conflict with plans to develop national protection capabilities and capacities. With limited resources, it may be difficult to balance short- and long-term requirements. Immediate security needs may even divert donor resources from long-term defence sector efforts.

Decisions on national or regional defence reform depend on needs and security assessments. Resources may not enable professionalization of the entire defence sector at once. The mission should consider trade-offs relevant to geography and culture.


See Also

4.5 Public Order Established

Public disorder is destabilizing. It undercuts efforts to strengthen state security institutions. It is often ...