UN Photo/Marco Castro 2007

The High-level Meeting of the 67th Session of the General Assembly on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels will take place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 24 September 2012. This is a unique occasion for all Member States, non-governmental organisations and civil society represented at the highest level, to discuss and agree a forward looking agenda on strengthening the rule of law.

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Presentation of the Secretary-General’s Guidance Note on Reparations for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence


Meeting on "Enhancing Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems" 13 Novemeber 2014

The Permanent Missions of Afghanistan, South Africa and the United States to the United Nations, the Rule of Law Unit on behalf of the UN Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group (ROLCRG), and the International Legal Foundation (ILF) organised a panel discussion on “Enhancing Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems” in New York on 13 November 2014.


UN Rule Of Law Activities Europe Middle-East Americas Asia-Pacific Asia Pacific Africa

United Nations rule of law programming extends to over 150 Member States in every region of the world.

In at least 70 countries, a minimum of three UN entities carry out rule of law activities.

Five or more UN entities currently work on rule of law in over 35 countries, 17 of which host UN peace operations in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

Activities support the codification, development, promotion and implementation of international norms and standards in most fields of international law.

At national level, they involve strengthening the constitution, laws, institutions of justice, governance, security and human rights, transitional justice, and public and civil society engagement.

The UN includes judicial mechanisms, such as the International Court of Justice, and the ad hoc criminal tribunals and hybrid tribunals, established by the Security Council or through an agreement with the host country.

Click each region to see examples of current UN activities in the field of rule of law assistance.

In Africa

Burundi: In 2008 and 2009, the DPKO-led mission, BINUB launched two trainings for judges and prosecutors on professional ethics and court management and administration.  In over 20 sessions nation-wide, over 1600 judges and prosecutors completed the programme. BINUB assisted the Burundi National Police (PNB) in developing a ten-year Strategic Plan, and supported the development of a training programme on Operational Community Policing, the creation of a new Intelligence Service and the reinforcement of the capacities of the Inspector Général's Office. It conducted training sessions for more than 1200 PNB officers in human rights, techniques of police investigations, criminal statistics, police ethics and deontology, sexual and gender based-violence. BINUB is also supporting national authorities to implement SSR-projects focused on providing assistance to the PNB, military and intelligence service.

Central African Republic: In 2008, UNDP embarked on a two-year, US$ 12 million rule of law programme to empower national institutions, communities and civil society organizations to address the rule of law vacuum.

Cote’ d’Ivoire: UNHCR and NGO partners assisted 6,000 people to acquire birth certificates and other identity documents through targeted interventions with the authorities to prevent statelessness. The DPKO-led mission UNOCI assisted the Government of National Reconciliation in restoring civilian policing presence throughout the country, restructuring the internal security services; assisted the parties in the implementation of temporary and interim security measures in the northern part of the country, and participated in the new “Brigades Mixtes de Gendarmerie” and the Integrated Command Center. UNOCI is also providing assistance in the restructuring of defence and security forces and internal security services, with an emphasis on the provision of security during the electoral process. In support of these efforts DPKO's SSR Unit is working with UNOCI to establish a dedicated SSR capacity.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: In North Kivu, UNHCR trained 670 members of the army, police and local authorities in international protection and humanitarian law, which led to a positive impact on the treatment of civilians. DPKO's SSR Unit is assisting the DPKO-led mission, MONUC with the establishment of key SSR tools including a donor coordination matrix, and the delivery of briefings to Mission staff and national stakeholders. DPKO's DDR Section coordinates with MONUC on the disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement, and reintegration of combatants and their dependents from foreign armed groups to help increase security.

Guinea Bissau:  DPKO's SSR Unit is currently assisting the DPA-led mission UNIOGBIS in the establishment of a SSR support section, and, in coordination with DPA and the DPKO's Police Division, is developing a SSR integrated software to facilitate donor coordination in support of national efforts.

Liberia: The DPKO-led mission, UNMIL assisted the host country to recruit and train national staff and mobilized resources to reconstruct 13 prisons which were not functioning because of lack of security reinforcements and sanitation facilities. The SSR advisor has been instrumental in the finalization of the National Security Strategy and the associated implementation matrix. UNHCR supported the Government’s efforts to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence by publishing a prosecutor’s handbook on the issue.

Mauritius: UNDP supports the shift from the concept of a Police Force to Police Service and contributes to greater interaction between civil society and government, law-making institutions and justice enforcement mechanisms.

Morocco: UNIFEM provides assistance in strengthening the capacity of the family courts to ensure that the full understanding and application of the new Family Code will realize women’s human rights.

Mozambique: UNDP supports the reform of the criminal justice system through decentralization of the criminal justice system and in favor of alternatives to imprisonment.

Nigeria: UNODC has carried out an anti-corruption programme.

Rwanda: UNDP is conducting a training programme for community policing committees, increased involvement of the community in the maintenance of peace of security, dissemination of human rights principles and strengthened awareness on gender-based violence. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, an ad hoc international criminal tribunal, established by the Security Council in 1994 as a subsidiary organ of the UN, has finished more than 20 trials.

Seychelles: UNDP is together with UNODC implementing an in-depth assessment of the criminal justice system and the need for reform of the judiciary with the aim to establish sustainable and lasting mechanisms and improve overall administration of justice with a main focus on the criminal justice-system.

Sierra Leone: The Special Court for Sierra Leone was set up jointly by the Government of Sierra Leone and the UN Secretariat and has completed two cases. UNIFEM is focusing its efforts on making use of specific indicators to measure implementation of resolution 1325 and to ensure women’s inclusion in the reconstruction of the country.

Somalia: UNDP has developed a comprehensive justice system programme with a budget of approximately US$ 25 million in this ongoing conflict setting. DPKO's SSR Unit assists UNPOS in supporting the Transitional Federal Government to develop a national security strategy, giving direction to the development of the military and police forces, and including plans for combating illicit arms trafficking, DDR, justice and corrections capacities.

Sudan: The DPKO-led mission, UNMIS supported national authorities to form and lead a prison development committee and provided technical assistance in drafting prison law for Southern Sudan when none existed. DPKO's SSR Unit assists UNMIS in supporting the coordination of international assistance to the Southern Sudan justice and security sectors through the Justice and Security Sector Advisory and Coordination Cell established in mid-2009. In the South, UNHCR has carried out reintegration projects - including constructing courts – and enhanced the capacity of local communities to absorb the growing number of returnees. UNICEF is supporting establishment and scaling up of Family and Child Protection Units within the police. The opening of 29,145 kilometers of roads, assisted by DPKO UN Mine Action Service, increased freedom of movement and permitted the recommencement of trade. The final batch of 6,078 stockpiled anti-personnel mines was destroyed in Juba.

South Africa: UNICEF supported the inclusion of child rights provisions in the Constitution and the adoption of the first comprehensive post-apartheid Children's Act and Child Justice Bill. UNODC has implemented a comprehensive project on violence against women.

Regionally: In partnership, DPKO, DPA, INTERPOL, and UNODC are assisting post-conflict countries in West Africa in combating illicit trafficking and related crimes. DPKO's SSR Unit supports the dedicated SSR capacity in UNOWA in facilitating broad consultations with Governments, and security institutions, civil society and development partners on mainstreaming gender, poverty alleviation, human rights and humanitarian issues in SSR policy development and programming. It is also supporting the African Union (AU) in the elaboration of a comprehensive AU SSR policy framework and its implementation.

In Americas

Brazil: UNODC is working on countering human trafficking and fighting drug trafficking and organized crime.

Colombia: UNDP has been actively involved in supporting transitional justice activities and the victims of protracted conflict, and is expanding in 2009 its rule of law and access to justice activities significantly. More than 678,000 hectares of land were protected in 2008 through the Land Property Protection Project of the Government, which UNHCR supported with advice and sensitization campaigns. A Country Task Force to monitor, report and respond to grave violations against children is in place. The Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism is led by the SRSG CAAC and UNICEF. UNODC is working on countering human trafficking and fighting drug trafficking and organized crime..

Haiti: With the assistance of the DPKO-led mission, MINUSTAH, the host country established a legal aid clinic, community-based legal assistance clinic for dispute resolution and to house resource materials, and a magistrate’s school. MINUSTAH supported the Haiti National Police (HNP) to restore security resulting in a significant decrease in the reported number of kidnappings. It also supported the coast guard and assisted the Government in reforming and restructuring the HNP. Formed Police Units assist the HNP in maintaining safety and security and in support of the crime prevention strategy. UNICEF is supporting the provision of legal support to children placed in pre-trial detention and detention and building the capacity of the police on child protection in cooperation with MINUSTAH.

Guatemala: The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) was established as an independent investigative body by an agreement between the UN Secretariat and Guatemala.

Peru: UNIFEM is supporting efforts by women’s groups to ensure implementation of the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission regarding reparations to victims of sexual violence during the internal armed conflict. UNODC is promoting conflict prevention in coca growing areas.

Regionally: UNODC is recovering illicit assets, combating money-laundering and supporting law enforcement/intelligence cooperation between Latin America and West Africa.

In Asia-Pacific

Bangladesh: The problem of the Bihari/Urdu speakers, one of the largest protracted statelessness situations in the world, was resolved with the assistance of UNHCR in 2008 through the issuance of identity cards and voter registration.

Cambodia: The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia were established by an agreement with the UN Secretariat in 2003.

Indonesia: UNICEF supports the development of a national plan on the Elimination of Trafficking in Persons, prevention campaigns and a case management system to record and report cases of trafficking. UNODC assists the Supreme Court and other relevant institutions in strengthening their judicial integrity, capacity and professionalism.

Kazakhstan: The Government submitted draft national refugee legislation to Parliament for consideration, following intensive lobbying by UNHCR.

Kyrgyzstan: UNIFEM supports legal advisory centres in all seven provinces, where local organizations have provided assistance and legal representation to thousands of women.

Lao People's Democratic Republic: UNDP supports a research programme on customary law with the purpose of producing recommendations for how the system best may intersect, relate to or become part of the formal legal system.

Pakistan: The commission of inquiry into the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto began work on 1 July 2009 and has a six-month mandate.

Papua New Guinea: UNICEF is supporting the building of a comprehensive juvenile justice system based on Melanesian traditions and restorative justice.

Sri Lanka: UNHCR provided legal assistance and awareness training for national entities and NGOs on sexual and gender-based violence, enhancing the overall protection environment for Internally Displaced Persons in the country.

Timor-Leste: The DPKO-led mission, UNMIT formed and led a committee to conduct extensive training programmes for correctional staff and renovate structural conditions which allowed three prisons to re-open. DPKO's SSR Unit assists UNMIT in supporting national authorities with a comprehensive review of the security sector and an associated capacity development programme implemented by UNMIT in collaboration with UNDP. 

Regionally: UNDP Asia-Pacific Centre initiated a Project Implementation Plan in 2008 aimed at identifying the gaps and needs of governance aspects of the security sector in 5 countries in the Pacific. UNIFEM has been carrying out a Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women programme in Southeast Asia since 2004, facilitating the implementation of the Convention to advance women’s rights. UNODC is expanding its regional program to improve law enforcement capacities and cross border cooperation among Member States to fight transnational organized crime, as well as to support an independent and fair justice system at the national levels.

In Europe

The International Court of Justice, seated in the Hague, the Netherlands, is the principal judicial organ of the UN.

Albania: UNICEF is supporting alternatives to deprivation of liberty for children in conflict with the law, such as victim-offender mediation

Kosovo: UNDP is working closely with government counterparts to strengthen rule of law institutions, enhance access to justice and address women’s security through a US$ 6 million rule of programme. Under its executive mandate, the DPKO-led mission, UNMIK helped establish the Ministry of Justice and local judicial systems, supported the development of criminal procedure codes, and helped address cases of missing persons.

Turkey: UNDP works towards increased efficiency of the criminal justice system through support to a programme that provides for victim and offender mediation as an integrated part of the criminal process for certain crimes. This includes support to the High Council of Judges and Prosecutor that focuses on judicial independence, accountability and improved oversight.

Balkans: The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, an ad hoc international criminal tribunal was established by the Security Council in 1993 as a subsidiary organ of the UN, has indicted 161 persons. UNODC has scaled up its interventions in the Balkans in supporting member states in combating transnational organized crime and trafficking in human beings.

Regionally: UNHCR worked with governments and NGOs to improve reception conditions, including the quality of legal aid. A regional Quality Assurance Initiative was launched in Central Europe, aiming to help governments develop and maintain international protection regimes. UNHCR is also actively monitoring the legislative processes, policies and practices of European countries with regard to asylum. UNIFEM also supported the establishment of Women for Peace, a regional coalition of national women’s peace networks from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

In Middle-East

Afghanistan: The DPKO-led mission, UNAMA supported the establishment in 2008 of the Afghan Independent Bar Association and a new Legal Aid Department within the Ministry of Justice. UNAMA also facilitated the finalization of the National Justice Sector Strategy to ensure effective coordination of the establishment of the justice system and the National Justice Programme to implement the strategy. The UNAMA Police Advisory Unit advised and assisted the Ministry of Interior on key technical issues, and supported the Commander of Kabul police and other provinces on strategic and operational planning in co-operation with the International Security Assistance Force. UNIFEM has been promoting gender-responsive security sector reform and supporting women political leaders in an effort to increase women’s influence in peacebuilding and improve their access to justice. UNDP has a well-established rule of law programme which is composed of three projects, notably Strengthening the Justice System of Afghanistan, Access to Justice at the District Level, and the Provincial Justice Coordination Mechanism with UNAMA. UNODC is supporting a multi-disciplinary programme to promote criminal justice capacity-building.

Iran: UNICEF is building the capacity of the police in protecting the rights of children, including a mandatory course on the role of the police in a child-sensitive justice system.

Lebanon: The International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) was established in April 2005 to investigate the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and was superseded by the UN-supported Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

Occupied Palestinian Territory: In May 2009, UNDP’s Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People launched a 3 year, US$ 15 million programme on supporting the rule of law and access to justice for the Palestinian People. In Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, UNIFEM facilitated the efforts of women’s groups to develop a common agenda to influence the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through supporting the establishment of the International Women’s Commission for a Just and Sustainable Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

Regionally: UNHCR organized a series of refugee law training activities for government officials and parliamentarians in a number of countries in the region. UNODC is developing anti-corruption measures and criminal justice reform in Central Asia and also has also several projects in the region on children in conflict with the law.

 Click each region to see examples of UN rule of law activities