Over the past three decades, UN peace operations have increasingly integrated robust human rights mandates, recognizing their vital role in conflict prevention and management, especially concerning the protection of civilians and governance deficits in fragile, conflict-affected areas. However, growing resistance to human rights language in peace operation mandates in recent years, coupled with diminishing host state consent and heightened political sensitivities, pose increasing challenges to the UN’s prioritization of human rights. These challenges are exacerbated in a context of downward pressure on large peace operations and the indispensable need for core human rights capacities during transitions or withdrawals.

This study assesses the impact of UN human rights efforts across various peace operations, including peacekeeping missions, special political missions, and regional prevention offices. Drawing on a year of empirical research and case study findings from ten mission sites, it explores how UN engagement with human rights enhances peace operation effectiveness, particularly in safeguarding civilians, and how peace operations contribute to improved human rights outcomes. Through comparative analysis, the study offers empirically supported insights into how human rights efforts within missions enhance early warning systems, civilian protection, peacebuilding among other mission activities and objectives, contributing to overall effectiveness across diverse mission types and conflict stages. Recommendations target the UN Security Council, host governments, the UN Secretariat, member states, and mission leadership, urging concrete actions to maximize human rights impact in conflict settings. Overall, the report underscores the indispensable role of human rights in shaping effective peace operations in these challenging times and in light of the future. 

The report was completed in collaboration with the United Nations University Centre for Policy Research (UNU-CPR), the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), and the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), as part of the Effectiveness of Peace Operations Network (EPON). The lead author was Professor Charles T. Hunt (UNU-CPR/ISS/RMIT University), with co-authors Emma Bapt (UNU-CPR), Adam Day (UNU-CPR), Fiifi Edu-Afful (KAIPTC), Hafsa Maalim (independent researcher), Nadia Nata (independent researcher), Claudia Pfeifer Cruz (SIPRI), Abigail Gérard-Baldé (CIVIC), and Wendy MacClinchy (CIVIC).   

Full report here

Executive summary here