The United States, in collaboration with the Government of India, is continuing its longstanding support for the United Nation’s zero-tolerance policy against sexual exploitation and abuse through the global launch of the UN National Investigation Officer ‘Training of Trainers’ course to prepare personnel to investigate instances of sexual misconduct involving peacekeepers. This work was funded by the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and its Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI), and the event was hosted by India.
Since 2018, GPOI has funded and coordinated the United Nations’ delivery of seven regional National Investigation Officer (NIO) courses. NIOs are military officers that are assigned to deploying units to investigate and document incidents of potential misconduct. They gather evidence so that troop contributing countries can take effective disciplinary and legal action when it is required. It is essential that NIOs are properly trained by legal and subject matter experts to fulfill this critical role. 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 against the very people peacekeepers are deployed to protect.
Our previous NIO courses have trained over 170 personnel from 36 countries across the African, Indo-Pacific, and Latin American regions. This year, building off a strong collaborative peacekeeping capacity building relationship between the United States and India in which we jointly conducted four iterations of a UN Peacekeeping Course for African Partners between 2015-2019, the United States and India expanded on this cooperation with the global launch of the UN NIO ‘Training of Trainers’ course, which was held at the Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping in New Delhi in April 2022. The Integrated Training Service of the UN Department of Peace Operations (DPO) and the Investigations Division of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) taught the course, which drew 26 participants from Australia, Bangladesh, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Peru and Tanzania.
The NIO ‘Training of Trainers’ course worked to build the knowledge and skills of troop contributing countries to prepare their own National Investigation Officers to effectively respond to and investigate possible misconduct implicating peacekeepers. This includes documenting and investigating allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse. This ‘Training of Trainers’-type training will allow troop contributing countries to train their own NIOs without additional assistance and fulfill the UN’s requirement to assign an NIO to every deployed military unit of 150 or more personnel.
The NIO ‘Training of Trainers’ course included two mandatory e-learning modules, which participants were required to complete successfully before moving on to the in-person component. This face-to-face training focused on practical skills, such as investigative interviewing, investigation techniques, and report writing. In addition to tests of technical and substantive knowledge, the training also offered opportunities to work on practical application of theoretical knowledge through scenario-based tabletop and field training exercises. The latter include a variety of role players, including interpreters, for a realistic depiction of conditions that an NIO may encounter in-mission.
Participants noted that they appreciated the hands-on learning and lectures by experienced instructors, which enhanced their already substantial knowledge of how to conduct and document investigations. Several said they looked forward to applying the lessons they learned in their respective training institutions in their home countries. At least six participants are set to deploy to the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo later in 2022.
The NIO ‘Training of Trainers’ course highlights the U.S. commitment to supporting the UN’s zero-tolerance policy against SEA and address potential issues of misconduct by peacekeepers. Additional GPOI-funded NIO ‘Training of Trainers’ courses are scheduled to take place in Uruguay in December 2022 and Uganda, likely in Spring 2023.
GPOI is managed by the Department of State, in close partnership with the Department of Defense, and works with nearly 50 active partner countries around the world to build peacekeeping capacity. GPOI also engages in multilateral partnerships with countries like India to synchronize our peacekeeping capacity building efforts worldwide. India is the third largest contributor of military and police personnel to UN peace operations. The U.S.-India peacekeeping capacity building partnership continues with the recent completion of a jointly sponsored UN Peacekeeping Contingent Commanders Course at the CUNPK in September 2022. Capacity building support from GPOI ranges from equipment and facilities to advisory support and training opportunities 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 a Public Affairs Specialist in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.