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The Department of Political Affairs (DPA) manages a number of field-based Special Political Missions (SPMs), some of which operate in very challenging security environments. Many of these missions have complex mandates – including in areas such as the strengthening of national systems of justice, police and corrections; human rights and transitional justice – which often have implications on the rule of law, both directly and indirectly. Missions with rule of law mandates include Afghanistan, Guinea-Bissau, and Somalia. DPA-led UN regional offices, such as the UN Office for West Africa, can also have mandates in the rule of law.

The Department is also active in many of the areas of the world currently wracked by or recovering from conflict, using good offices and mediation through a network of political liaison offices, Special Representatives and Envoys of the Secretary-General. Peacemaking efforts may include negotiations on peace agreements, which, in most cases, contain elements relating to rule of law such as transitional justice, constitutional arrangements, and judicial and security sector reform.

Frequently, DPA will rely on other UN entities (for example Department for Peacekeeping Operations) and United Nations Development Programme in the areas of police, justice, and corrections) to provide specialized services in some of the relevant mandate areas.