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Jul 18, 2013 | Publications

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Global Programme on the Rule of Law has released a series of annual progress reports since its inception in 2008. The latest, Strengthening the Rule of Law in Crisis Affected and Fragile Situations: Global Programme Annual Report 2012 was released on 24 June 2013.

The Rule of Law Programme’s overall objective is to work with fragile and conflict-affected states to assist them in the development of justice and security initiatives that strengthen the rule of law and contribute to its improvement in four main focus areas. These are: the provision of safety for all; building confidence in security and justice institutions; dealing with the legacy of violence and; improving the delivery of justice and security for women (11-12). Last year, the programme noted some remarkable accomplishments in these areas, many of which were brought about by security sector reform (SSR) practices.

First, the report outlines the importance of building effective and accountable police and improving security sector governance for providing safety. The UNDP assisted in capacity building, implementing civilian oversight mechanisms, improving relations with communities and supporting and coordinating United Nations SSR programs through the Inter-Agency SSR Task Force (15). Some notable successes were achieved through UNDP support to police and law enforcement in Tunisia, Afghanistan, Nicaragua and Timor-Leste, while SSR in Guinea-Conakry have helped to modernize their armed forces with the aim of allowing civilian authorities to better respond to the security needs of citizens (17).

Support and reform of the justice sector has also been recognized as vital in the areas of addressing the legacy of violence and building confidence in justice and security institutions. The UNDP assisted by strengthening national capacity for transitional justice and the justice sector as a whole (20). With the aim of improving access for marginalized citizens, the UNDP established mobile courts and alternative dispute mechanisms, provided legal assistance, and worked to incorporate traditional justice systems into the formal legal system (23).  The report highlights such work in Columbia, Guatemala, Timor-Leste and Guinea-Bissau.

Lastly, efforts to improve the delivery of justice and security have targeted female populations, by increasing their representation in security and justice institutions. For example, vocational training and professional development in the Gaza Strip led to recognition of the first female Mukhtar — a leadership figure who resolves disputes at the community-level (30). In other instances, the UNDP partnered with UN Women to provide legislative and institutional reforms aimed at increasing the participation of women in the justice system (32).

The report also outlines important policy developments, such as the appointment of the UNDP and the Department for Peacekeeping Operations as the Global Focal Points on Police, Justice and Corrections Areas in the Rule of Law.  Their mandate is to deliver and coordinate support in various countries as part of the Secretary-General’s ‘Delivering as One’ initiative to synchronize the efforts of UN agencies involved in post-conflict and crisis situations (34). Furthermore, the UNDP was involved in efforts to link small arms control to SSR through the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons (41).

In 2012, the UNDP and other members of the Inter-Agency SSR Task Force also produced their first set of Technical Guidance Notes on SSR Practices. These focused on the thematic areas of national ownership, gender, peace processes, democratic governance and national policymaking. The technical framework guides planning and implementation in the field and headquarters using a common SSR approach (43).

Moving forward, the report highlights lessons learned during the first phase that will be applied in the second. Specific lessons include evaluating impacts rather than just activities, building partnerships with diverse stakeholders and moving beyond technical institution-building to incorporate historical, cultural and political analyses (49). This will help ensure sustainable rule of law initiatives as the global programme expands. A full list of country programmes, activities and their results can be found in the latter half of the report.


Matthew Redding is a Research and Communications Intern with the Security Governance Group.