Everyday Life in a Peace Operation
The role of civilian experts is to support the host country in the (re-)construction of civilian capacities – from the restoration of public security and the protection of civilians as in the case of the Congo to the expansion of state structures and democratic participation in South Sudan or the establishment of a judicial system in Iraq. Civilian experts are neither development workers nor diplomats, and they typically do not provide emergency or humanitarian assistance.
What awaits civilian experts depends on the location, the type of mission and its mandate, and their specific job descriptions. Experts must often cope with restricted freedom of movement, a precarious security situation, frequent personnel changes within the mission, and significant cultural challenges.
One ZIF civilian expert working with the EU police mission EUPOL Afghanistan describes his living and working conditions as follows:
“We live and work in a compound, i.e. an enclosed and secured area where both mission offices and staff accommodations are located. The premises are heavily secured, guarded around the clock, and have a bunker, the inside of which I’ve already seen during armed skirmishes in the immediate vicinity of the compound. We can only leave the grounds in armored vehicles. So we all spend a lot of time on the compound where life and work are closely intertwined. Due to this proximity, it is sometimes difficult to make a cut and to switch from work mode to leisure mode.”
On the other hand, another ZIF expert reports the following from her deployment with the OSCE mission in Tajikistan:
“If I can say one thing, then it is that I live among Tajiks. I live in a quarter of Dushanbe that is known for its colorful farmer’s market. Though I stand out as a foreigner in my neighborhood, I am accepted and I enjoy being greeted warmly by the lady at the kiosk next door when I go shopping in the late evening. At the same time the government of the country is watching the activities of the OSCE and its employees. Ostensibly there are no direct security risks for me, but I have to pay very close attention to following the rules of the country and not making careless statements, both in public and in private interactions with locals.”
One of the appeals of working in an international peace operation is also one of the biggest challenges: Collaborating with colleagues from all over the world – whether in Sudan, Kosovo, or Iraq.
One civilian expert gives the following example:
“The approach of some colleagues from other countries on the question of which standards to convey in the training we develop is exciting, but also challenging and at times incomprehensible to me. Everyone weighs and interprets differently. I had to learn that cultural and political background can play a central role for a jurist’s understanding of law. Some situations were eye-openers and I learned to reflect on my own understanding of law on the basis of my own socialization.”