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International Peacekeeping


This article traces the origins, development and implications of Human Rights Up Front (HRuF), a bold and visionary initiative launched by former Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in 2013. While HRuF is part of a broader continuum of human rights-related reforms, its scope and focus is distinctive. HRuF puts the imperative to protect people from serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law at the core of the UN’s strategy and operational activities, and obliges staff to speak out about abuses and looming crises. Using the case study of South Sudan and drawing on over 150 interviews conducted in-country, this article considers the implications of HRuF for peacekeeping and, specifically, for impartiality, a norm traditionally regarded as the ‘lifeblood’ and ‘heart and soul’ of the UN Secretariat. I identify three challenges that have hindered the UN’s ability to deliver impartially on its protection and human rights mandate and the consequences thereof for the UN’s perceived legitimacy in South Sudan. Further, I examine how the Organization has tried, with mixed success to manage the dilemmas and tensions that have arisen from the privileging of individual, as opposed to state or government, security, and the implications for the broader functioning of the UN.


This work is freely available under a Creative Commons license.