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Using Agent-Level Factors to Explain Variation in Human Rights Promotion Strategies

In this article, Tom Buitelaar proposes a systematic framework for analyzing the impact of individual characteristics of peacekeeping leaders on the behaviour of field-level personnel in UN peacekeeping operations.

Tom Buitelaar
19 January 2023
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The article analyses the role of individuals in field-based International Organizations (IO) missions. More specifically, it investigates how agent-level factors shape the approach that directors of human rights units in UN peace operations take towards human rights promotion. A theoretical framework is proposed in which individuals’ socializing experiences influence their value frameworks, which can in turn explain the approach they take. In a structured focused comparison of two directors of the Joint Human Rights Office in the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the article illustrates the plausibility of this framework: agent-level factors did a better job at explaining variance in the approach to human rights promotion than alternative explanations. These agent-level factors, therefore, have at least some explanatory powers; individuals working in IOs are not just ‘leaves in the wind’.

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