From online environment to the field – training of UN Security Management System online
In cooperation with the United Nations Department of Safety and Security and the United Nations Department of Peace Operations (UNDPO), the Finnish Defence Forces International Centre conducted the first fully online version of the Peace Operations Security Management Course during 17–27.10.2021. Before the Online Phase, the learners independently conducted both the Mandatory and Self-Study Phases in the Finnish Defence Forces Learning Management System, FDF Moodle.
The United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) and the United Nations (UN) Safety Management System (UNSMS) aim to enable the conduct of UN activities while ensuring the safety, security and well-being of UN personnel (both locally and internationally recruited personnel), individually deployed military and police personnel in peace operations, other categories of personnel and eligible family members. In practice, UNDSS provides UN leadership and strategic guidance in regard to security issues and, within the UNSMS, it provides integrated security support, security risk management and emergency responses. It is noteworthy that, compared with traditional military or police contributors, UNDSS’s kinetic capacity is very limited, which highlights the importance of staff members’ personal competencies.
As a part of implementing the strategic priorities in practice, the Peace Operations Security Management Course (POSMC) has been systematically designed to reflect the UNDSS strategic plan from 2020. The course aims to prepare civilian personnel, police and military for safety and security management-related interaction and cooperation between the different components in ongoing and future peace operations; attending to supporting personal, professional growth; and learning and working as a group. These themes were also observed by two researchers, whose aim was to produce data about the ways in which the online learning activities and tools support the participant’s personal learning needs. The results of this research will be published in the near future.
"Within 6 months we were able to transform the course from being a residential course to being fully online. Even though we had some shortfalls in the beginning with the online solution, I must present my gratitude to the whole POSMC Team and its instructors for how they adapted and upgraded their performance on the way", says Course Director Maj Sippo Juures from the Finnish Defence Forces International Centre (FINCENT). "It’s always great pleasure to work with a course that sets high-level goals to catch and at the same time push us (i.e. FINCENT) to explore new ways to deliver teaching and education. I also give my thanks to our learners who put in the effort to join this course for over two months while they were working in different peace operations at the same time."
Senior Instructor from FINCENT Lt.Col. (G.S. ret.) Esa Vanonen is also satisfied with the result of the work done with the course delivery transformation and the implementation on the online course. According to him, the online solution is useful in many ways: “We were able to bring to the table the most qualified subject matter experts, which is much easier in an online environment than in an in-house iteration. Also, the fact that most of the learners were actually taking part in the course straight from peace operations and their respective duty stations enabled them to immediately transfer their learning into practice.”
Senior Instructor from UNDSS Enrique Oribe describes the benefits of the online solution: “The online solution provides flexibility and the global reach which allowed both the instructor team and the learners to share their wide experience and expertise in the field. Also, the longer timeline allows the continuous adaptation based on the learners’ feedback and after-action reviews (AAR) to customise the core programme according to the strengths and challenges identified.” Both Senior Instructors praised the team spirit and teamwork effort among the learners, notwithstanding the fact that learning and interacting in an online environment can be challenging at the beginning.
The online working was also observed and commented on by two Senior Mentors, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Juha Kilpiä and Brig. Gen. (ret.) Mauri Koskela, who provided learners with their wide experience from different peace operations and working in the UN system. During the online phase, the Senior Mentors underlined the cruciality of safety and security for the whole operation and fulfilling its mandate.
One of the POSMC learners, Mr. Dawit Baharu from Ethiopia is currently working in Sudan Abyei with the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) mission as Deputy Chief Security Officer. "As per my opinion, the course was so vital and benefitted from learning from senior individual’s experienced knowledge. It was a golden opportunity for me. The course was delivered online and benefitted from lots of supporting materials to learn from.” Baharu also states that the course was well designed and easy to work on, encouraging studying and learning more. “I have been working with the UNSMS for the past 27 years. It is my first time working with a peacekeeping operation mission. Therefore, I learned so many things when working with integrated security forces and actors in the peacekeeping operation mission.” He also says that the lessons learned from the course will be applied in his work in UNISFA by integrating these into the policies of the security forces, which consist of UNMIL, UNPOL and other security actors of UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes (UNAFPs).
Another learner on the course, Lt.Col. Emmanuel Seppey from Ghana is currently serving with UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) as Chief of Training and Evaluation at the force headquarters. "The syndicate room discussions lead to providing solutions from military, police and civilian security perspectives after having listened to subject matter experts in the plenary. The AAR were also very helpful in bringing out best practices." Seppey concludes in regard to the course solutions. He also sees the benefits of the learning outcomes to his work in the field: "I engage with both the police and civilian security. The course has been great help in providing more understanding and coordination." Seppey promotes the course to "all military, police and civilian security who, by the nature of their work, have to coordinate with each other to achieve a mission mandate at the sector and force headquarters”.
The UN POSMC will next be organised in August 2022.