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Reforming institutions contributes to achieving a central objective of an effective and legitimate transitional justice policy: the prevention of future human rights abuses. One important aspect of institutional reform efforts in countries in transition is vetting processes to exclude from public institutions persons who lack integrity. The multifaceted shortcomings of post-conflict or post-authoritarian public institutions call, however, for a comprehensive approach to institutional reform. These operational guidelines situate vetting in the broader context of reforming a public institution’s personnel and propose a framework to develop an effective and legitimate personnel reform programme in countries in transition.
The document is divided into three major sections. The first defines the concept of vetting in the context of institutional reform and transitional justice. The second discusses the political conditions of post-conflict or post-authoritarian reform, identifies the sources of a personnel reform mandate, recommends priorities in transitional personnel reform, and proposes the development of a public consultation and information strategy. The third presents the operational guidelines themselves and recommends a three-stage methodology emphasizing the need to assess the situation and needs; to define the personnel reform objectives; and to design a feasible personnel reform process that respects fundamental rule-of-law standards.
The qualities of public personnel fall into two basic categories, capacity and integrity. Capacity refers to the qualities that enable personnel to fulfil the technical tasks of the institution’s mandate. Integrity relates to the qualities that enable it to fulfil this mandate in accordance with fundamental human rights, professional and rule-of-law standards.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” response to vetting and personnel reform in transitional contexts. A context-specific approach based on public consultations and a realistic assessment of needs and available resources is, therefore, a basic condition for effective reform.1 The operational guidelines provide a methodology to develop context-specific vetting and personnel reform programmes. Not every point of these guidelines will, however, be relevant in each situation; specific types of institutions raise particular challenges that are not all elaborated; and the political and practical realities of a country emerging from conflict or authoritarian rule might place considerable constraints on the reform process. While it is advisable to follow the three basic steps of the proposed methodology—assess the situation, define the objectives and design the process—these guidelines should be used as a toolbox rather than an operating manual.