The goal of this book is to assess the current protection efforts of these UN human rights field presences, examining best practices as well as weaknesses. Drawing from the evidence of hundreds of field-based interviews, it proposes conceptual frameworks for understanding how protection impact is achieved by a field presence, and suggests steps to address the existing weaknesses and insufficiencies. Above all, the goal is to help the UN make a greater and more effective contribution to human rights protection on the ground.
Human rights field presences were first launched by the UN in the early 1990s, with significant missions in El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, and Rwanda. These human rights missions each made substantial contributions to human rights protection. In the Central American cases they also paved the way for successful peace processes.1 In the two decades since then thousands of human rights officers have served in such missions in dozens of countries. It is now a standard expectation that UN Peacekeeping operations will each have a substantial human rights component, and independent human rights missions of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) are becoming increasingly common in other countries.