Timorese National Police perform a tactical demonstration.
Peacebuilding involves a range of measures targeted to reduce the risk of lapsing or relapsing into conflict by strengthening national capacities at all levels for conflict management, and laying the foundations for sustainable peace and development. Peacebuilding strategies must be coherent and tailored to the specific needs of the country concerned, based on national ownership, and should comprise a carefully prioritized, sequenced, and therefore relatively narrow set of activities aimed at achieving the above objectives. The critical importance of strengthening the rule of law to peacebuilding, and to avoiding relapse into conflict, has long been recognized by the United Nations.
Conflict reflects a complete breakdown of the rule of law. Strengthening the rule of law in the immediate aftermath of conflict is therefore a complex and extremely challenging task. While each post-conflict situation is unique, such situations tend to present similar challenges to the rule of law. These include a lack of material, institutional and human capacity, and distrust of existing institutions responsible for upholding the rule of law. Weaknesses in these institutions and laws are often root causes of the conflict, and threats to the independence, impartiality and effectiveness of these institutions usually continue post-conflict. Continued insecurity, and a culture of impunity for past and continuing serious crimes and violations of human rights law, directly threaten the reestablishment of security and the pursuit of justice and reconciliation.
The United Nations approach to rule of law assistance applies in peacebuilding contexts, in which many United Nations entities engage in rule of law assistance. UN integrated peace operations and peacebuilding offices support, inter alia, the drafting and implementation of national justice and security strategies and development plans, constitution-making processes, legal reform, transitional justice, strengthening of the police and other law enforcement and security institutions, and justice and corrections institutions, gender justice and women’s security, justice for children, and housing, land and property issues relating to refugees and internally displaced persons. In some peacebuilding contexts, international police and military peacekeepers provide interim security and law enforcement. Many aspects of this work are linked to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) processes that are key components of transition out of conflict.
To fill what the Secretary-General called a “gaping hole” in the UN machinery and to help countries with the transition from war to lasting peace, following the World Summit in 2005 the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) was established, supported by the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) in the UN Secretariat. The PBC is an intergovernmental body that brings together the UN and all major players in each country’s peacebuilding process, advising on integrated peacebuilding strategies and mobilizing resources and attention in support of countries emerging from conflict. The Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) was established in 2006 to fund peacebuilding activities in countries under consideration by the PBC, and in countries in similar circumstances as designated by the Secretary-General. Rule of law activities have been key priorities of the Peacebuilding Commission’s support to Sierra Leone, Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, and the Central African Republic, and of many projects funded by the PBF.
In 2005, the Secretary-General recommended strengthening UN capacities in the rule of law field in the context of peacebuilding. Consequently, the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group supported by the Rule of Law Unit was tasked to act as a resource to the PBC and the PBSO by mobilizing UN system-wide expertise on rule of law in peacebuilding.