Nearly 100,000 United Nations (UN) peacekeepers help stabilize conflict-affected countries, maintain peace and security, and protect civilians around the world. The UN requires all personnel to meet strict standards to qualify for service as peacekeepers and to uphold the highest standards of conduct, professionalism, and accountability while they are deployed. While the vast majority of men and women who serve do so with honor and integrity, acts of misconduct unfortunately do occur, including incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) against the very people peacekeepers are deployed to protect.
The UN has a zero-tolerance policy against sexual exploitation and abuse. In an effort to increase accountability for such acts of misconduct, the UN now requires troop contributing countries to assign a National Investigation Officer (NIO) to every deployed military unit of 150 or more personnel. NIOs are military officers that are assigned to deploying units to investigate and document incidents of potential misconduct and gather evidence so that troop contributing countries can take effective disciplinary and legal action when required. It is essential that NIOs are properly trained by legal and subject matter experts to fulfill this critical role.
The United States is committed to supporting the UN’s zero-tolerance policy against SEA and addressing issues of misconduct by peacekeepers. To this end, in 2018 the United States, through its Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) program, funded and coordinated the development and implementation of a joint UN–U.S. NIO Course focused on improving accountability for conduct and discipline issues, with a focus on SEA.
The regional NIO training course brings together investigative and legal subject matter experts from the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and the U.S. Defense Institute of International Legal Studies (DIILS) to build the knowledge and skills of officers deploying as NIOs to more effectively respond to and investigate allegations of misconduct against their military contingent personnel.
The course weaves investigative exercise scenarios throughout interactive classroom instruction and incorporates a field exercise with a variety of role players, including interpreters, for a realistic depiction of conditions that an NIO may encounter in-mission. The course emphasizes accountability for SEA by peacekeepers and improves students’ knowledge of the processes, procedures, and techniques required to conduct effective investigations in UN peacekeeping.
The Nepal Army is hosting the fourth iteration of the regional NIO training course from November 28– December 7, 2018 for 21 students from nine Indo-Pacific region troop-contributing countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka).
The conclusion of the course in Nepal will bring the annual number of trained students to over 100 students from 32 countries in the African, Latin American, and Indo-Pacific regions; most of whom will serve as NIOs in-mission or as instructors for NIOs in their countries.
GPOI is managed by the Department of State, in close partnership with the Department of Defense, and works with 54 active partner countries around the world to build peacekeeping capacity. Capacity building support from GPOI ranges from equipment and facilities to training opportunities like the NIO course. Other GPOI training includes modules on preventing SEA, where applicable. Through training activities like the NIO course, GPOI is helping build a cadre of trained officers who can more effectively uphold the UN’s standards of conduct and improve accountability in the missions.
About the Author: Andrew Strike is currently serving as a Public Affairs Specialist in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.