The UN Security Council has approved a resolution paving the way for a UN police force to be deployed in Burundi.
The resolution, drafted by France, calls on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to draw up a list of options for the proposed presence within 15 days.
Burundi has been in turmoil since April last year, when President Pierre Nkurunziza sought and won a third term that the opposition said was illegal.
Since then more than 400 people have been killed.
There is concern the violence could grow into ethnic conflict in the region.
In January, the UN said it found evidence that Burundi’s security forces gang-raped women while searching the homes of suspected opposition leaders and heard testimony of mass graves.
Mr Ban will have to consult the Burundian government about the proposed force but President Nkurunziza has expressed opposition to an intervention by the UN or the African Union.