NUPI Paper

International Policing and the Rule of Law in Transitions from War to Peace

Published: 5 Jul 2016

«Challenges to Collective Security» Working Papers from NUPI’s UN Programme: In transitions from war to peace there are few challenges more in need of urgent attention and careful planning than the issues of policing and establishment of rule of law.1 Development efforts are futile in situations marred by violence and recurrent conflict. The nature of the institutions of law and order is central to the relationship between state and society. In order to achieve a sustainable political settlement after conflict, these institutions need to be trustworthy, effective and legitimate. Neither is sufficient on its own: a technically effective police force may be used in a way seen as illegitimate by much of the population. Likewise, a high human rights standard may not in itself ensure that the police, the judiciary and the penal system manage to reduce crime and violence to levels compatible with societal and economic progress. It is thus equally important to have institutions established that are both effective and legitimate. However, this can be a very difficult and challenging endeavour since the deliberate misuse of, or the absence of, institutions of law and order often may have contributed to the fostering of conflict in the first place. Both institutional and cultural transformation is needed to achieve lasting peace. The international community has over the last decade become increasingly aware of the need for a more integrated approach to security-sector reform. That being said, there is still a long way to go in terms of developing functional holistic approaches to such reform processes. Attempts at shortcutting the need for local ownership through «executive missions» have not proven particularly successful. Any system of law and order not rooted in society itself runs the risk of being superficial (allowing informal systems to function underneath) or temporary (as it is dependent on the continued presence of scarce foreign personnel). While situations may arise that require full-fledged international executive responsibility, the best approach lies in a careful integration of security-sector reform efforts aimed at achieving a sustainable, locally rooted rule of law. There is no alternative to a sector-wide approach in this field, and the inherently political nature of any undertaking of this sort should be recognised from the outset.