Context & Background


The current reform of the Peace and Security pillar of the UN System calls for an enhancement of the effectiveness and coherence of peacekeeping operations and special political missions. Paramount in this process is the improvement of planning and management of UN Peace Operations, including the crucial phase of Mission transition, when commitment to resilience and sustainability of the initiatives supported during the lifetime of the Missions should be bolstered. It is also at this juncture that the interface with the ongoing reforms of the Development pillar of the UN System, which aims to increase effectiveness for delivery on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) enshrined in the 2030 Agenda becomes more prominent.

In order to deepen understanding about these interfaces and how they impact the delivery of substantive agendas to improve these processes, the UN has been accumulating lessons from different transition contexts. The present lesson identification project carried out at the request of the African Union - United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) by a joint DCAF-UN team contributes to this broader endeavor, by offering a practitioners’ understanding of the process currently ongoing in Darfur. The lessons were therefore captured firsthand, including identification of good practice and innovation deriving from implementation of the new whole-of-system transition concept by the AU/UN system to advance peacebuilding in Darfur. Whilst this project was ongoing, Sudan’s rapidly evolving political transition prompted the establishment of the upcoming UN Mission in Sudan, namely United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS).

The State Liaison Functions

In the making since 2014, UNAMID’s transition concept was consolidated in 2018 by the Special report of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the strategic review of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur and endorsed by resolution 2429 (2018) of the United Nations Security Council. Defining a two-pronged approach to peacekeeping and peacebuilding, the resolution proposed a whole-of-system approach to be implemented in collaboration with UNCT through joint “State Liaison Offices”(SLO), later adapted to “State Liaison Functions” (SLFs).

Envisaging to contribute to address the key drivers of conflict, four substantive areas were identified as critical to preventing relapse into conflict and enabling the Government, the United Nations Country Team, civil society partners and international actors to prepare for UNAMID’s exit. The four substantive areas are:

  1. Rule of law: police, justice, corrections;
  2. Resilience and livelihoods/durable solutions for the displaced population and host communities;
  3. Immediate service delivery for internally displaced persons;
  4. Human rights.

In order to preserve and build upon peacekeeping gains, the concept invited UNAMID and the United Nations Agencies, Funds and Programmes (AFPs) to identify key shared priorities in the four areas and to collaborate, through joint analysis, joint planning and joint delivery towards their achievement.

Whilst the abovementioned four areas formed the core of the SLFs, the scope of this study, is circumscribed to Rule Law (RoL) and Human Rights (HR).

Key Objectives

This report provides an evidence-based look at the added-value and strengths, as well as at the challenges faced through the adoption and operationalisation of the SLFs in the rule of law and human rights areas.   Accordingly, this lesson identification set the following objectives:

  1. To capture good practice, lessons and innovation from the development of the SLFs approach, and respective joint planning, implementation and coordination modalities by UNAMID and UNCT;
  2. To provide recommendations for improving implementation of the SLFs in the upcoming phases, including, potentially, in the context of the follow-on Mission (UNITAMS);
  3. To identify how the operating environment affects the results of the assistance provided on RoL and HR;
  4. To enquire into the role of key UN entities/initiatives (Transition Project, GFP PBSO, OHCHR, UNDP, etc.) in contributing/enabling service delivery on RoL in Darfur, considering a sequenced approach with that of the SLFs.
  5. To contribute to timely learning by upcoming transition processes (for example DRC, Mali, CAR) and provide recommendations for improvement.