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Human Rights Field Operations: a New Protection Tool

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Chapter Summary

The end of the cold war and the disintegration of the Soviet Union made the world increasingly safe for violent, non-nuclear conflicts. As superpower intervention and the chance for escalation to a larger, potentially nuclear war diminished, existing conflicts intensified and new ones emerged. Some UN officials in the early 1990s sensed an opportunity to use human rights and international humanitarian law to begin a peace process. This idea and the subsequent initiatives originated in UN headquarters in New York, in particular the Department of Political Affairs (DPA). United Nations Observer Mission in El Salvador (ONUSAL) constituted a remarkable departure for both the UN and member states. Once the ONUSAL precedent was established, other human rights field missions soon followed. The UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) followed the El Salvador mission. The OHCHR finally entered the fray in mid-1994 after the beginning of the genocide in Rwanda that April.

Keywords: Department of Political Affairs (DPA); international humanitarian law; OHCHR; ONUSAL; UNTAC



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