After seven years in operation, the Brazilian Joint Center for Peacekeeping Operations (CCOPAB, per its Portuguese acronym) is today an international model for training service members and civilians operating under the direction of the United Nations. Also known as the Sérgio Vieira de Mello Center in homage to the Brazilian diplomat who died while serving in Iraq in 2003, the center has trained more than 3,500 people, including service members from partner nations such as Argentina, Canada, Chile, France, and the United States.
“CCOPAB is sought after by various nations, whether for visits, for sending instructors, or for receiving students,” the center’s press office reported to Diálogo. “We might say that we are considered a model center.”
Participants may receive different kinds of training, from the Training Internship for Unit and Platoon Commanders to the Military Translators and Interpreters Internship. There is an ever increasing demand and the annual number of students has jumped from 433 in 2010 to 611 in 2016, including contingents from Brazil (the Brazilian Army, Navy, and Air Force, civilians, police, and firefighters) and from abroad.
“The reason why CCOPAB has become a benchmark is because of the integrated work that has been done in the presence of service members from the three military branches as well as the participation of military police and civilians in planning and giving the courses,” said Brazilian Army Major Anderson Félix Geraldo, an engineering officer who is a CCOPAB instructor and coordinator of the Training Internship for Journalists and Press Advisers in Conflict Areas.
“That integration allows for the development of comprehensive and multidisciplinary Academic Subject Plans that align the hands-on experiences gleaned during the mission (i.e., lessons learned) with the theory taught in the classroom,” Maj. Felix explained, “As a result of that, CCOPAB has obtained certification from the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations for the Joint Staff of Peacekeeping Missions Internship, the Military Observer Internship, and the UN Police Training Internship.”
Courses and internships
Brazilians and foreigners take the same course at CCOPAB’s headquarters in Rio de Janeiro. “UN training is the same throughout the world. So, be they service members, police, or civilians, they all acquire the same knowledge,” CCOPAB said, “We have courses given in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.”
Among the main courses, the following stand out:
CCOPAB also offers the Military Translator and Interpreter Internship, which trains volunteer service members to perform the duties of translator and interpreter while on peacekeeping missions. “They develop linguistic competency in English, French, or in the native language of the host country in order to carry out the duties of a translator and interpreter,” the center said. And, as part of the Logistics and Reimbursement during Peacekeeping Operations Internship, the center trains officers and noncommissioned officers from Brazil and partner nations to perform duties related to the Administration and Logistics of Peacekeeping Operations.
“In addition to that, CCOPAB trains journalists on how to operate in conflict zones,” Maj. Felix said. “This year we trained 38 press professionals from every region of Brazil.” The reporters learn about human rights, international humanitarian law, first aid, firefighting, what to do in collapsed structures, reacting to mines and explosive war debris, communication and negotiation, risk analysis and mitigation in journalistic coverage, and moving through at-risk areas. “We also have lectures by professionals who pass along their experiences,” he concluded.
Created in 2010, CCOPAB evolved from other agencies. The first of these was the Brazilian Army’s Center of Preparation and Evaluation for Peace Missions, founded in 2001 within the Land Operations Command’s Division of Peacekeeping Missions. Its purpose was to direct the training of all Brazilian service members designated for peacekeeping missions.
“In 2005, the Brazilian Army created the Peace Operations Training Center (CIOpPaz, per its Portuguese acronym), which trained what was then the Haiti Brigade, 3rd Contingent, comprising the School Units Group, 9th Infantry Brigade,” according to the center. Since then, these contingents have been used pursuant to Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter, which covers operations related to threats to peace, breakdowns in peace, and acts of aggression.
On June 15, 2010, a Brazilian Ministry of Defense decree assigned CIOpPaz to train Brazilian and partner nation military members and civilians to serve on peacekeeping missions. The decree also changed the organization’s name from CIOpPaz to CCOPAB.
The challenges of peacekeeping missions
Today, the training for peacekeeping missions involves significant challenges. “Peacekeeping operations are multidimensional and have immense cultural diversity. Communication, respect for diversity, different cultures, and languages, and respect for all genders are concepts that must be very well conveyed,” CCOPAB said. “In this respect, we have already acquired a sound methodological basis.”
In the coming years, the center will attempt to further consolidate and expand its experiences in this field. “CCOPAB has the goal of becoming a center of excellence in areas related to military, civilian, and police training for peacekeeping and humanitarian demining missions,” the center said.
In addition to contributing to the training of international contingents, Brazil has historically participated in peacekeeping missions. Brazil has sent more than 50,000 service members on nearly 50 UN missions. In 2014, the country assumed the coordination and military command duties in the operations of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH, per its French acronym), and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), in 2011.
“MINUSTAH highlighted just how essential our participation was for achieving political stability in Haiti,” the Ministry of Defense said in a press release. “And UNIFIL already stands out for putting Brazil in a leadership role over the only naval force operated by the UN in the world.”