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In Search of Due Diligence Obligations in UN Peacekeeping Operations: Identifying Standards for Accountability

White, Nigel D.

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Professor of Public International Law


It is argued in this article that due diligence, grounded on positive duties under international human rights law, is a standard against which to measure the performance of UN peacekeeping forces. Its adoption by the UN will improve accountability, but in a controlled and principled way. A requirement that the UN act diligently to prevent human rights violations would not impose over-onerous obligations. For responsibility to be incurred an organisation must have clearly failed to take measures that were within its power to take. It is argued that the UN not only should be bound by norms of due diligence but is in fact bound by positive obligations derived from customary international human rights law. The development of some due diligence-type measures by the UN to prevent sexual abuse by peacekeepers and to protect civilians within areas of peacekeeper deployment, and the adoption of an explicit due diligence policy to delineate its relationship with non-UN security actors, are positive signs. However, the article demonstrates that the UN needs to further internalise and develop its due diligence obligations if it is to limit human rights violations committed under its watch. Furthermore, it needs to create accountability mechanisms to ensure that it develops the rather limited measures taken thus far, including provision for victims to be able to hold the organisation to account for failure to protect them from human rights violations. Only by accepting its responsibility and liability to such victims will be the UN be driven to improve its due diligence when mandating, preparing, training, deploying and directing peacekeeping operations.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 19, 2020
Online Publication Date Dec 18, 2020
Publication Date Dec 18, 2020
Deposit Date Oct 21, 2020
Publicly Available Date Dec 18, 2020
Journal Journal of International Peacekeeping
Print ISSN 1875-4104
Electronic ISSN 1875-4112
Publisher Brill Academic Publishers
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 23
Issue 3-4
Pages 203-225
Keywords United Nations; peacekeeping; due diligence; responsibility; accountability
Public URL
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