United Nations Justice

Legal and Judicial Reform in Governance Operations

image of United Nations Justice

At the end of the 20th century, and at the dawn of the 21st, the United Nations was tasked with the administration of justice in territories placed under its executive authority, an undertaking for which there was no established precedent or doctrine. Examining the UN’s legal and judicial reform efforts in Kosovo and East Timor, this volume argues that rather than helping to establish a sustainable legal system, the UN’s approach detracted from it, as it confused ends with means.



Legal and judicial reform reconsidered

The preceding case-study chapters demonstrate that the UN’s approach to legal and judicial reform detracted from the goal of establishing a sustainable legal system; part of the reason for this detraction was the failure of the approach to address adequately the key tensions of a governance operation and justice sector reform. This chapter will highlight and sum up the issues raised by the UN’s experience, particularly as they relate to the five elements of the UN’s approach, and consider how these issues have been presented in the literature on justice sector reform and transitional administration more broadly. In discussing these issues, the chapter will contend with some of the assumptions underlying the UN’s approach; in locating them within the literature, the chapter will seek to find answers that academics or practitioners who have written on the subject may offer as to ways in which a different approach to legal and judicial reform might better address the tensions discussed.


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