The UNSOC – diversity with quality

UNITED NATIONS STAFF OFFICER COURSE

SWEDINT offers a variety of courses aimed at military, police and civilian personnel, all between one a three weeks. One of the larger courses, both in terms of course length and number of participants, is the United Nations Staff Officer Course, the UNSOC. For three weeks during April thirty-six students from nineteen different nations studied and trained together in the classrooms at SWEDINT for their pre-deployment preparation. The purpose of the UNSOC is to ensure a common military approach to work at Force- and Sector level Headquarters in UN peace keeping missions.

“I feel that what I have learned before, both at the Naval Academy and the Officers Candidate School, is in compliance with what they are teaching here at SWEDINT. So for me it’s a natural continuation of that”, says 1Lt Røe, here with maj Rudahunga. Photo: Jan Gustafsson - SWEDINT/NCGM
Capt Karki will deploy to a UN mission sometime in 2016, either to Lebanon or the Sudan. As it will be her first mission as a peace keeper, she is keen to understand the rules and responsibilities of the UN, and the role as a peace keeper. Photo: Jan Gustafsson - SWEDINT/NCGM
Language barriers and cultural differences make patience when you are in an operation with different nationalities all the more important. Photo: Jan Gustafsson - SWEDINT/NCGM

In order to get a comprehensive grip of the realities of a peace keeping operation, part of the training is done together with civilian students at the UNCIVSOC, a course running parallel to the UNSOC.

- “The understanding of the civilian component in a peace keeping mission, and how working “hand-in-hand” will help achieving the mandate, will be very useful for me as a staff officer”, says Emmanuel Rudahunga, army major from Rwanda. 
Maj Rudahunga has been on mission before, in Darfur, Sudan, but believes the UNSOC course will enhance his ability to have a wider view.
“In the beginning it was a challenge to work with colleagues with quite diverse backgrounds and different mindsets, but as you work together you learn to really work as one.”

The diversity of students at SWEDINT is illustrated very clearly by the student sitting next to the Rwandese major, 1Lt Sharon Røe, a naval lieutenant from Norway. She will deploy to UNMISS in Juba, South Sudan, in September on her first international mission. 1Lt Røe agrees that the multinational dimension that nineteen different nationalities bring to the classroom is valuable.

     “I’m actually quite impressed with how they have managed to integrate all the different nationalities, find the common ground among people from so many different backgrounds and from that position lift the entire group.”

1Lt Røe says she is really happy with the course, and that training with such a diverse group of officers adds another dimension to what they do. To understand different ways to view things, to have patience when you are in an operation with different nationalities and realising that getting all perspectives taken into account is a prerequisite in order to have the best planning.
“And it is a thorough introduction to both the UN system and the military planning process. I particularly appreciate the focus on the planning process, and that we’ve gone through it several times”, says 1Lt Røe “It’s demanding, and some days have been a bit PowerPoint-heavy, but overall the balance between lectures and practical exercises has been very good.”

Capt Aashina Karki from Nepal doesn’t know yet where she will go, but she knows that she will definitely be deployed to a UN mission sometime in 2016, either to Lebanon or the Sudan. As it will be her first mission as a peace keeper, she is keen to understand the rules and responsibilities of the UN, the role as a peace keeper. And the UNSOC gets her approval as well.
“It’s very systematic and organised, and it will definitely be a help for me when I deploy. Sometimes it is demanding, but there is an atmosphere of cooperation here which I appreciate and the interaction between the officers from over eighteen different countries has been really good”, says capt Karki.