The Department of Political Affairs (DPA)

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The Department of Political Affairs (DPA)

DPA photo.

DPA is engaged in various types of rule of law activities through its oversight of political missions, its role in peacemaking and conflict prevention, and a number of special projects.

DPA oversees the work of more than a dozen political missions in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, the mandates of which often include the strengthening of national justice systems, supporting human rights and transitional justice mechanisms, and monitoring of rule of law conditions.  

Through its central role in peacemaking, conflict prevention, good offices and mediation, DPA is constantly involved in efforts aimed at peaceful settlement of disputes. In particular, these may include negotiations on peace agreements, which, in most cases, contain elements relating to rule of law such as transitional justice, constitutional arrangements, judicial and security sector reform. The Department’s Mediation Support Unit channels expertise on a wide range of rule of law issues to UN mediators and partners in regional organizations.

In the course of the past five years, DPA has been increasingly requested to establish and support a variety of mechanisms mandated to conduct factual investigations of various types. Their mandates and the context in which these investigative commissions have been created have differed widely. They have included:

  • International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). CICIG was established in 2007 with a multidimensional mandate to help Guatemalan authorities identify and dismantle criminal networks that have fostered organized crime and impunity. The Commission carries out investigations and takes part in criminal proceedings together with national authorities, using Guatemalan law and procedure; proposes public policies to strengthen the justice system; and assists in the implementation of technical assistance programmes.
  • International Independent Investigation Commission in Lebanon (UNIIIC). The commission was established in April 2005 to investigate the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Its original mandate was broadened at the request of the Government of Lebanon to provide technical assistance to national authorities concerning investigations into other attacks. The Commission ceased to function upon the opening of the UN-assisted Special Tribunal for Lebanon on 1 February 2009, when its Commissioner became the Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal.
  • Commission of inquiry into the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (“Bhutto Commission”). The commission, mandated to investigate the facts and circumstances of the assassination of former Prime Minister Bhutto, began work on 1 July 2009, and submitted a report to the Secretary-General in April 2010.
  • Since 2009, the Department houses the secretariat of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF), which coordinates UN actions to implement the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Strategy.