By Lisa Ferdinando
/ Published January 31, 2018
The Defense Department and the United Nations held an inaugural training course for national investigative officers for U.N. peacekeeping operations, aimed at holding peacekeepers accountable for abuses such as sexual misconduct and preventing further crimes.
More than two dozen participants from 11 African nations took part in the course held in Entebbe, Uganda, Jan. 15-24, said Mark Swayne, the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for stability and humanitarian affairs.
The course is a fulfillment of a U.S. pledge at the 2016 U.N. Defense Ministerial on U.N. Peacekeeping in London to support the U.N. and partner troop contributing countries to address conduct and discipline requirements in peace operations, Swayne said.
The course provided training on how peacekeepers should address sexual exploitation and abuse allegations, he said, adding the oversight will result in greater accountability for individuals and units responsible for abuses.
“Ultimately, this should lead to a decrease in these incidents, which not only severely harm the people and communities peacekeepers are charged with protecting but also undermine the credibility of the entire U.N. peacekeeping enterprise,” Swayne said.
The U.N.'s original requirement for all troop contributing countries to designate at least one national investigative officer per unit was originally made to all U.N. member states in early 2015, he said.
The joint U.S.-U.N. National Investigation Officer Course for U.N. peacekeepers is the result of a whole-of-U.S.-government effort. On the U.S. side, this course was funded through the State Department's Global Peace Operations Initiative, developed and taught by the Defense Institute for International Legal Studies, facilitated by U.S. Africa Command, and coordinated through a close partnership between the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and the State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
Additional Courses this Year
The Defense Institute of International Legal Studies is the lead U.S. defense security cooperation resource for global legal engagement and capacity building with international defense sector officials, said the institute’s director, Air Force Col. Kirk Davies.
The institute offers resident courses at its headquarters in Newport, Rhode Island, and conducts expeditionary engagements around the globe, he said.
The national investigative officers course is designed to teach investigation basics, the particulars of investigations in a peacekeeping environment, and augment participant understanding of national standards and legal requirements for successful justice and accountability in the troop contributing country’s justice system, Davies said.
“Specifically, the course seeks to build the knowledge, skill and ability of participants so that they can more effectively respond to and investigate possible misconduct of contingent personnel in peacekeeping operations,” he said.
Current planning includes two programs annually in the Africom area of responsibility, and one each in area of responsibility of U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Southern Command, Davies stated.
Rewarding, Impactful Assignment
Barry Harrison, a retired Navy judge advocate with 25 years of active-duty practice in many of the topic areas, described his assignment as a course instructor as a rewarding assignment that will make a difference in global operations.
“The greatest success is to have a role in assisting peacekeeping forces to more effectively and professionally carry out the important mission and vital tasks in highly complex contemporary peacekeeping missions,” he said.
There were logistical and language considerations, Harrison said, as well as challenges in helping participants better understand how to apply the information in the course within the context of their own justice systems and processes.
The training, he pointed out, had the singular goal of training the investigators who will apply what they learned in operations around the globe.
“Watching the participants eagerly interact with course facilitators, subject matter experts and with each other over the course, and see[ing] them grow in their knowledge and capability was very fulfilling,” Harrison said.
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