This article presents a bird's-eye view of two decades of UN rule of law assistance in Africa. The article is based on a dataset developed by the Folke Bernadotte Academy which covers a total of 36 UN peace operations (peacekeeping, political missions and offices).
Implementing comprehensive rule of law strategies is challenging for the UN as a whole, not least where peace operations are deployed. Such operations are deployed in situations where the rule of law is severely tested and where in such environments UN staff perform a number of critical functions, ranging from developing national rule of law plans and strategies, coordinating national and international stakeholders, advising on justice matters and providing technical expertise on specific topics. For the two leading UN entities in relation to post-conflict societies, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Political Affairs, the translating of rule of law policy into practical programme activities is a daunting task, specifically in terms of providing assistance that is timely, situational and aligned with the national priorities of the host country.
While there have been many positive developments in the UN's rule of law system over the past decade in terms of policy, practical experience and competencies earned on the ground, observations made on the basis of empirical data raise a number of questions critical to the UN's future commitment to rule of law assistance in peacekeeping and peace-building.