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The Conflictual Promises of the United Nations' Rule of Law Agenda: Challenges for Post-Conflict Societies

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The role of UN missions in post-conflict societies has progressed through peace-keeping and peace-making to a more recent emphasis on peace-building. To accompany this new focus, the UN has articulated a rule of law agenda, two central components of which are promoting international norms and standards and facilitating national ownership. This paper explores the self-sanctioned role the UN has awarded itself in promoting the rule of law in post-conflict societies by exploring each one of these two central components and their interaction.

Meritorious in their own right, the potential of these two components of the rule of law agenda may position the UN in situations where both cannot be satisfied contemporaneously. In implementing its rule of law agenda, the United Nations will likely come to face the prospect of a local authority seeking to differ from international norms and standards. In such circumstances, the UN's rule of law agenda makes conflictual promises. The choices and prioritization that the UN will be called upon to make in such circumstances will reveal much about how it conceptualizes its role in promoting the rule of law in post-conflict societies. This paper seeks to delineate the nature of the choices confronting the United Nations in pursuit of its rule of law agenda.


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