One of the main purposes of the United Nations, as articulated in article 1 of the Charter, is to maintain international peace and security by taking effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace. The rule of law ensures that international law and the principles of justice apply equally to all States and are equally adhered to. Respect for the rule of law generates an enabling environment for achieving the purposes of the Charter.

When situations of armed conflict do occur, the protection of civilians is a United Nations priority. Any protection activity, be it physical, political or through the establishment of a protective environment, must be based on the rule of law and aims to give the applicable laws practical relevance in difficult circumstances. The applicable normative framework and the obligations of Member States are critical to all protection work. To protect civilians better, Member States must adhere to the relevant international treaties, include their provisions in national legislation and establish well-functioning institutions and internal controls. Similarly, important are education and information concerning compulsory norms and prohibited practices and criminal enforcement in cases of serious breaches. In other situations of violence and insecurity, a strong rule of law, which protects human rights, helps prevent and mitigate violent crime and conflict by providing legitimate processes for the resolution of grievances and disincentives for crime and violence. Conversely, weak economic development and inequality can be a trigger for crime and violence.

Establishing rule of law institutions is vital to ensuring immediate security and the necessary stability for peacebuilding to take root. Strong justice and corrections institutions, together with accountable police and law enforcement agencies, which fully respect human rights, are critical for restoring peace and security in the immediate post-conflict period. They allow for perpetrators of crimes to be brought to justice, encourage the peaceful resolution of disputes and restore trust and social cohesion based on equal rights. Establishing such conditions is equally important to peace and security and to sustainable development. In this regard, the United Nations recognizes the need to employ a broad approach by supporting the entire criminal justice chain. As part of a comprehensive approach to enhancing the rule of law and human rights, it is essential to support nationally owned efforts to reform the security sector.

Some of the greatest challenges to peace and security are crimes which, while committed on national territory, permeate national borders and affect entire regions and ultimately the international community as a whole. This is an evolving challenge for the rule of law and the protection of human rights and illustrates well the strong linkages with peace and security.

Terrorism brings violence and instability, can limit freedom of movement and access to employment and educational opportunities, degrades the quality of life and threatens the basic rights of people, including the right to life and security. Terrorism represents a threat to security and stability and can undermine economic and social development. Eighteen universal instruments (14 conventions and 4 protocols) against international terrorism, including the relevant Security Council resolutions, have been elaborated within the framework of the United Nations relating to specific terrorist activities. Similarly, transnational organized crime in diverse areas threatens peace and security and undermines the economic and social development of societies around the world.

Through its peacekeeping operations, the United Nations aims to address the situation of those individuals and communities most affected by conflict, with the overarching goal of assisting national political processes, conflict resolution and stabilization. Peacekeeping operations assist countries to strengthen the rule of law by restoring and maintaining security, protecting civilians, paving the way to peacebuilding, reconstructing communities and creating the enabling conditions for sustainable peace. Rule of law activities in peacekeeping are people-centered initiatives. They are tailored to local realities and assist communities to produce concrete peace dividends.