A Brazilian Air Force officer participates in the selection process open to general staff service members of UN member countries for the first time.
Brazilian Air Force (FAB, in Portuguese) Colonel Alexandre Corrêa Lima joined the international staff of the United Nations Integrated Multidimensional Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSMA, in French). He reached MINUSCA headquarters, in Bangui, September 3, 2018, for a one-year mission.
The United Nations (UN) Security Council founded MINUSCA in the Central African Republic (CAR), September 15, 2014. As of October 2018, nearly 12,000 female and male military service members serve in the mission made up of about 15,000 personnel. More than 40 countries take part in MINUSCA, while troops on the ground, spread throughout the country, come from 16 countries, principally Africa and the Middle East.
Col. Alexandre joined the security reform sector, responsible for assisting CAR with restructuring its military and internal security forces. “This function supports and coordinates the preparation of strategic plans, as well as monitoring and audit activities,” he said.
To be eligible for the job, the officer participated in a selection process opened to general staff service members of UN member countries, an unprecedented move for FAB officers. “I hope to be the first of many others. Our officers, from the three forces, are very well trained and prepared throughout their careers,” he said.
The selection process for missions begins with a consultation with UN member countries. In Brazil, the consultation process included the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defense, and Armed Forces. An officer is recommended based on the UN job description. A file is sent to UN headquarters, in New York, where resumes are evaluated.
Several countries presented applicants for the MINUSCA position. UN evaluated all resumes and created a shortlist with the best applicants, representatives from four other countries and Brazil. The UN international board interviewed all applicants in English and French.
Col. Alexandre believes that his fluency in both languages, especially in French, was decisive for his selection. “In my field of work, the day-to-day language is French,” he said. “During the interview, members of the board in New York asked questions in English, and the members in Bangui, my current leadership, asked questions in French.”
The UN requirements for the position included emotional stability to face daily challenges, respect for cultural diversity, and adaptability. Col. Alexandre’s professional career, with previous experience in peacekeeping missions, was also decisive for his selection.
The officer had been part of the peacekeeping troops of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti for a year. “It helps a lot, because I’m already familiar with the UN’s organization, processes, and operating mode,” he said.
Col. Alexandre’s selection for MINUSCA shows his readiness, technical capacity, and high level of professionalism, said FAB Colonel Antonio Luiz Godoy Soares Mioni Rorigues, of the Office of the Military Advisor to the Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United Nations, in New York. “Brazil is an active participant in UN peacekeeping operations since 1948,” he said.
Preparation of Brazilian service members
According to Col. Soares, the Office of the Military Advisor monitors different steps of UN staff recruitment, motivating and supporting preparation of Brazilian applicants. The office facilitates interaction between Brazil and the UN for matters related to peacekeeping operations. “But the UN’s decision is made without interference from member states,” he said.
For retired Brazilian Army General Gerson Menandro Garcia de Freitas, military advisor to Brazil’s mission, Col. Alexandre’s selection, and that of all Brazilians deployed to other missions, embodies Brazil’s traditional role as a peacekeeping nation. “It shows our country’s commitment and engagement with the three pillars of the UN’s system: peace and security, human rights, and sustainable development,” he said. “This is also an opportunity for professional growth and continued education for our service members, police officers, and civilians.”
The Office of the Advisor assists Brazil’s permanent representative to the UN on defense matters. The office has three officers from the three branches of the Brazilian military and serves as a link between Brazil and the UN headquarters for peacekeeping operations matters.
The office identifies opportunities for service members and police officers and submits them to the Brazilian Defense Ministry, which determines priorities, recommends applicants, and establishes guidelines, jointly with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The process encompasses “individual positions and missions, the deployment of troops, contingents, and resources, such as aircraft, ships, and combat vehicles,” Gen. Menandro said.
Brazil in UN missions
Since 1948, Brazil has participated in 41 of 71 UN peacekeeping missions with nearly 46,000 Blue Helmets. The country contributed with troops in Angola, Haiti, Lebanon, Mozambique, Timor-Leste, and the Suez Canal, among others.
Brazilian service members are deployed in eight of 14 peacekeeping missions throughout the world. “The commander and the flagship of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon are Brazilian, a Brazilian Navy admiral and ship, and so is the commander of the Military Component of the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the peacekeeping operation with the largest military force on the ground. He’s a general officer from the Brazilian Army,” Gen. Menandro concluded.