On October 23rd, 21 Chilean, Paraguayan, and Uruguayan service members completed the most recent Protection of Civilians (POC) course offered by the Uruguayan School for Peacekeeping Operations (ENOPU).
The students -- who were part of the Army, Navy, or National Police -- completed courses on the United Nations' (UN) peacekeeping operations (PKO) missions focused on protecting civilians during conflict, on the problems they may encounter in distinct mission areas, and on the measures used to resolve them. The course was made available by the UN's Department for Peacekeeping Operations and Integrated Training Service (ITS), and concluded with informative talks and an exercise requiring students to apply what they learned.
The training program helps prepare Uruguayan Troops for peacekeeping missions throughout the world. Since 2004, for example, Uruguay has contributed Soldiers and police officers to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Uruguay had 1,200 Troops in the Caribbean nation by 2010, though its contingent has been gradually reduced to 250.
In addition to Haiti, Uruguay also contributes to UN PKO missions in the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), and the UN Operation in the Ivory Coast (UNOCI), according to the UN report “Troop and Police Contributors.”
Protecting civilians a top priority
Military Troops headed to overseas missions will have to interact differently with the people they encounter than they would if they were at home or in a situation of war, so training them on protecting civilians is important. “In fact, our diplomatic mission to the UN has always maintained POC as one of its top priorities,” said Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Frachelle, ENOPU's director. “When ITS offered up a training kit specifically dedicated to this topic, we decided to adopt it immediately.”
In addition to training Uruguayan Troops, members of the military from other friendly nations have also participated in ENOPU's PKO courses. The school collaborates regularly with other countries in different ways, such as sending Troops and instructors to POC courses abroad, or bringing international courses to be taught locally.
“The majority are sent to countries considered friends, such as Argentina and Chile, for example. We also send instructors [abroad] as part of bilateral agreements or as part of duties of the Latin American Association of Peacekeeping Operations Training Centers. Some of our instructors are also at the service of the UN itself, so through the UN, we have sent instructors to courses in countries like Austria, Sweden, and Mexico.”
In September, several nations contributed to training Uruguayan service members deploying to MONUSCO in the Tactical Combat Life-Saving Course (TCLS) . The combat medic course was customized for the Uruguayan troops at ENOPU and taught by four Peruvian and two Salvadoran instructors, two U.S. combat medics from the Special Operations Forces, and a member of the U.S. Southern Command's Command Surgeon’s Office.
Col. Frachelle explained that Uruguay has a long tradition in peace missions, "but within a context where the environment and threats in our mission areas are constantly evolving, so we too must evolve our techniques and training in order to remain current".
Courses like POC and TCLS are important components of peacekeeping missions. “As years have passed – and with them the growth in international cooperation in the formation and training for peacekeeping missions – results have gotten much better. We hope that there will be continued investment in this area, which is of high importance for a large part of the international community, especially those states which cooperate on this issue. Uruguay is committed to working toward peace.”
Preparing service members for peacekeeping missions
“In order to do my job, I must always be aware of the missions’ mandates, and, without a doubt, protection of civilians is of great concern to peacekeeping missions," Elena Backer, a translator and interpreter for the Uruguayan Army who participated in the course, told Diálogo . “I always have to be up to date on the content and terminology utilized in the missions."
Backer, who works for the National System of Peacekeeping Operations, added: “The ENOPU course provided me with a holistic view on the topic because it dealt with external influences and how this, in turn, affects all levels of a peacekeeping operation. All of the instructors had deep understandings of their training modules and communicated their knowledge with eloquence and grounding. It is of utmost importance that these types of courses be offered to the Armed Forces and even to civilians and other police officials, since the content of these courses gives students a general vision of what the UN’s missions’ goals and missions are."
In 1998 the Uruguayan Military created the National School of the Army for Peacekeeping Operations (ESPE) to support overseas missions, but officials later changed the institution's name to its current form, ENOPU.