Training to Stay and Deliver – Reflections on the POSMC 2021 online course
Ruolanto, Minna; Schroderus, Jukka-Pekka (2021)
Finnish Defence Forces International Centre
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The United Nations operates in an increasingly challenging environment, which generates new demands for the competencies of all UN personnel, especially within positions related to operational security. War is, by nature, a highly complex and dynamic form of social conflict (Malešević 2010), and during the last decades’ conflicts the UN has become a target for violence, and the number of peacekeeper fatalities has been at an unacceptable level (Cruz 2017). It is important to note that war is not the only phenomenon affecting the operational safety, security, and well-being of personnel in today’s context, where climate crisis, hybrid interference, and cyber threats occur (UNSMS 2017). Other drivers affecting the safety and security of operations reflect global megatrends, for example: pandemics, the use of technologies, and growing socioeconomic inequalities. Generally, the lines between political, criminal, and terrorist agendas, often coupled with fragmented armed groups and intercommunal violence at the local level are blurred. Overall, heightened geopolitical tensions, a frayed global consensus on principles and values, and some skepticism over the relevance and impact of external interventions all have fundamental effect on the operational environment as they exist simultaneously (UN 2021). To manage the increasingly complex security challenges, the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) Strategic Plan 2020–2022 focuses on evolving its capacity to support UN entities in delivering their programmes and commitments globally, safely, effectively, and in a transparent way. The plan highlights two main priority areas: excellence in the workforce and improved ways of working. The importance of individual competence and skills as team performance building blocks cannot be overemphasized (UNDSS 2020). As the UN has most often been attacked because of inaction, focus on the operational behaviour on the ground is crucial (Cruz 2017). As a part of implementing the strategic priorities in practice, FINCENT’s Peace Operations Security Management Course (POSMC) has been systematically designed to reflect the UNDSS strategic plan (UNDSS 2020) and support the safety and security priority commitment area in the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative. The course aims to prepare civilian personnel, police and military for UNSMS safety and security management-related interaction and cooperation between the different components in ongoing and future peace operations, aiming to support personal, professional growth and learning and working as a group (See. Fritz-Millett 2011). The content and structure of the POSMC are designed to be conducted in modules in-house, by eLearning, in hybrid implementations or by Mobile Education and Training Teams in the operations area. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the POSMC 2021 course was conducted entirely online. The online version of the POSMC was a pilot conducted as a joint effort with the learners, course director, senior mentors, senior instructors, instructors, facilitators, and other subject matter experts. The course was conducted during August–October 2021 (FINCENT 2021c). In addition, the learners attended a pre-course learning phase, including eLearning courses provided by the UNDSS and Peace Operation Training Institute (POTI), and selected reading materials. The Moodle learning management system (LMS) was used for distributing all the learning materials and activities during the course (Moodle 2021). It is noteworthy that most of the learners attended the course alongside their daily work in the operation areas. This provides a valuable addition to the development of the course as well as the evaluation of the results. For the course contents and implementation improvement purposes, we conducted a study that reflects the training needs assessed by the UNDSS, UNDPO, and FINCENT. We asked: Which pedagogical solutions supported individual learning processes during the course, how does the shared learning process support your real-life work context, and which UN Core values, core competencies, and managerial competencies appear during the facilitated syndicate working sessions, and in what ways? The data consists of observations of the learners’ personal learning folders as well as feedback and observations from the syndicate work sessions during the online phase. A compilation of the after-course survey (closed questions) is available in Appendix 1.
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