U.S. Helps Peacekeepers Avoid Deadly Explosive Hazards through the Global Peace Operations Initiative

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A Guinean peacekeeper serving with United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) conducts a sweep for landmines and improvised explosive devices
A Guinean peacekeeper serving with United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) conducts a sweep for landmines and improvised explosive devices (Photo Courtesy of UN Photo)

U.S. Helps Peacekeepers Avoid Deadly Explosive Hazards through the Global Peace Operations Initiative

In recent years, international peacekeeping missions have become more complex and more dangerous. From 2015-2018, a total of 154 United Nations (UN) peacekeepers were killed in malicious attacks in operations. In a growing number of incidents, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were the weapon of choice. The United States, drawing on its own hard-earned experiences in recent decades, is proud to have developed and delivered new training materials on tackling IED threats that will help keep peacekeepers alive and improve chances of mission success. 

These training manuals, focused on counter-improvised explosive (C-IED) training, were funded and developed through the Department’s U.S. Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense and the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS).

U.S. Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet presents a copy of one of eleven U.S.-developed training manuals to UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix

The growing IED risk led the UN to commission the report, Improving Security of United Nations Peacekeepers: We Need to Change the Way We are Doing Business (better known as the “Cruz Report”), which was published in December 2017. This report examined causes for the growing number of peacekeeper casualties and outlined recommendations for improving force protection. Improved force protection was subsequently incorporated as a key tenet of the UN’s Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative, launched by the UN Secretary-General to renew member states’ political commitment to peacekeeping.

A critical line of effort to reduce peacekeeper casualties is improved preparation and training for peacekeepers on counter-IED threat mitigation, explosive ordnance disposal, and conventional munitions disposal. UN Mine Action Services and capacity-building partners such as the United States have increased support for counter-IED and related training for troop and police contributing countries. However, the differences in training standards across the UN and other training providers has hampered the effectiveness of such efforts. 

To address this issue, the UN Mine Action Service requested U.S. support to develop standardized training materials in line with UN doctrinal requirements. Through the Global Peace Operations Initiative , the United States funded and managed a project—working in support of the UN Mine Action Service and with other member states—to develop a set of 11 training courses. Global Peace Operations Initiative funding contributions totaled approximately $1.25 million for this effort, in addition to the provision of U.S. Department of Defense and Department of State subject matter expertise. 

The UN Mine Action Service rolled out the completed counter-IED and explosive ordnance disposal standards as well as the new course materials at an international workshop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Africa Command, which took place July 29 – August 2 in Nairobi. This event helped synchronize and standardize global efforts to generate improved capacity to defeat these deadly explosive hazards and further improve the interoperability of UN peacekeeping forces. 

The Global Peace Operations Initiative is the U.S. government’s primary tool for building international capabilities to more effectively conduct UN and African Union peacekeeping operations. Established in 2004, this program has sustained bipartisan support for more than a decade. It serves as a model initiative for fostering international collaboration in support of shared peace and security objectives. 

The Global Peace Operations Initiative brings together the Department of State and the Department of Defense to strengthen international capacity and capabilities to implement United Nations and regional peace operations. GPOI’s 54 partner nations comprise the bulk of uniformed forces engaged in UN peacekeeping operations around the world. Through our program activities, GPOI assists partner countries to enhance their self-sufficiency in training for peacekeeping operations; and, so far, over half of our GPOI partners have achieved this level. 

Through the Initiative, we are committed to the effective development and delivery of peacekeeping training meeting or exceeding UN standards. GPOI has funded more than 20 projects directly in support of UN initiatives to develop doctrine, guidance documents, military unit manuals, and training materials, as well as execute UN training events and provide advisory and technical assistance. International peacekeeping personnel serve an indispensable role in advancing the cause of peace and security in a world ever more burdened by violence and instability. As a leading source of financial, technical, and material support for building peacekeeping capacity, the United States is proudly committed to safe, effective, efficient, and accountable peace operations worldwide. 

About the Authors: Jennifer Pulliam serves as the program Director for the Global Peace Operations Initiative and Larry Swift serves as the Training Manager with the Global Peace Operations Initiative, both in the Office of Global Programs and Initiatives in the Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

Larry Swift
Jennifer Pulliam