When Do-Gooders Do Harm: Accountability of the United Nations toward Third Parties in Peace Operations

in Journal of International Peacekeeping
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The United Nations’ mandate in a peace operation can be multi-dimensional, ranging from ceasefire monitoring to investigating human rights abuses to post-conflict stabilisation and recovery. The exercise of wide-ranging powers comes with risks of failure and unintended consequences. Like any organisation, the un is subject to flaws in decision-making that may result in harmful impact to the local population. Until recent times, international lawyers have paid scant attention to the un’s potential to inflict harm in the pursuit of its noble aims. The expansion of the un’s role over the decades has given rise to greater awareness of its accountability gap under international and municipal laws. The organisation’s response to recent claims from third parties illustrates the challenges that lie before victims in attaining accountability in a manner consistent with international human rights standards. This article examines the multifarious questions of accountability of the un toward third parties in peace operations. It argues that greater accountability is most practically achieved not through attempts to close gaps in international law, but through giving effect to existing mechanisms by applying a balancing approach to immunity and strengthening internal oversight and redress mechanisms.




Bruce C. Rashkow, ‘Immunity of the United Nations: Practice and Challenges’, International Organizations Law Review, vol. 10, no. 2, 2014, pp. 332–348. doi: 10.1163/15723747-01002006.


Bruce C. Rashkow, ‘Immunity of the United Nations: Practice and Challenges’, p. 333.


Kirsten Schmalenbach, ‘Third Party Liability of International Organizations: A Study on Claim Settlement in the Course of Military Operations and International Administrations’, Journal of International Peacekeeping, col. 10, no. 1, 2006, p. 33–51. doi: 10.1163/187541106X00034.


Bruce C. Rashkow, ‘Immunity of the United Nations: Practice and Challenges’, p. 342.


As of 22 November 2016. Haiti Cholera Response Fact Sheet, United Nations in Haiti, http://mptf.undp.org/document/download/16954 (accessed on 22 November 2016).


Yale Law School, Peacekeeping without Accountability: The United Nations’ Responsibility for the Haitian Cholera Outbreak, 2013. Accessed at http://www.law.yale.edu/news/17237.htm on 4 March 2014.


Kristen E. Boon, ‘The United Nations as Good Samaritan: Immunity and Responsibility’, Chicago Journal of International Law, vol. 16, no. 2, 2016, forthcoming; http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2712326 (accessed on 11 September 2016).


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