U.S. Partnership Helps Bosnia and Herzegovina Step up to the Challenge of International Peacekeeping

Posted by Mike Smith
October 1, 2014
Bosnian and U.S. Army Service Members Participate in Joint Exercise

Nearly 20 years ago, Bosnia and Herzegovina was at the center of one of postwar Europe’s most horrific conflicts. But over the past decade, it has become a regional leader in training military, police, and civilian personnel to serve as international peacekeepers. I recently travelled to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital, for a truly special event: we’re celebrating Bosnia and Herzegovina’s reaching Full Training Capability, a “graduation day” of sorts for one of our most important partners in the State Department-led Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI).

The Global Peace Operations Initiative is a U.S. Government-funded security assistance program started in 2005 working to meet the growing global demand for specially trained personnel to conduct international peace operations by building the capabilities of U.S. partner countries to train and sustain peacekeepers; increasing the number of capable military troops and police units available for deployment; and facilitating the preparation, logistical support, and deployment of peacekeepers.  GPOI promotes international peace and security, saving lives while reducing the burden on U.S. military forces, and helping set the stage for post-conflict recovery around the world.

Bosnia and Herzegovina was among our first GPOI partners in 2005, and brought a great idea to the table: they wanted to develop a Peace Support Operations Training Center. This Center would not only train Bosnian armed forces, but also those of other countries in the region, to effectively contribute to international peace and security. With a $5.8 million investment from GPOI, as well as support from other international partners, Bosnia and Herzegovina has turned the Center into a major hub for peacekeeping education, and has trained military, police, and civilian personnel from 48 countries in accordance with current UN standards. Bosnia and Herzegovina is only the third of 66 GPOI partner countries to mark the milestone of Full Training Capability, and the first of our 11 GPOI partners in Europe.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has also been a leading voice in efforts to integrate more women into peacekeeping forces.  GPOI and the U.S. military’s European Command (EUCOM) provided a U.S. Military Advisor to the Center, who helped develop a specialized course to increase training attention to protecting women and girls in conflict zones. Earlier this year, the Center built on this success with the hosting of a major international conference that brought more than 150 international experts together to discuss this important aspect of peacekeeping operations, and establishing Bosnia and Herzegovina as a regional training expert for women, peace, and security.

We know that now more than ever, there is a growing global demand for trained peacekeeping personnel. International stability requires peace operations, and peace operations require well trained, effective peacekeepers.  Like any graduation, Full Training Capability does not mark an end, but the beginning of a new peacekeeping partnership with GPOI.  We applaud Bosnia and Herzegovina’s continued national investment in peacekeeping and look forward to building on our partnership through GPOI to save lives and help set the stage for post-conflict recovery around the world.

About the Author: Mike Smith serves as the the Director of the Office of Plans and Initiatives in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

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