- Promoting Human Security
- As the Displaced Return Home, Improving Access to Justice in Northern Uganda
- Deployment Updates: Rule of Law in Afghanistan
- Conversations for Conflict Resolution in the Seas of Southeast Asia
- Conflict Lessons to Bank On
- Visiting Wounded Vets
- Release of the United Nations Civilian Capacity Review
- Stories from the Field: Expeditionary Diplomacy in Southern Sudan
- Partner Profile: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- Training Leaders for Afghanistan's Borders
- A Bridge to Democracy in Paraguay
- Civilian Response Corps Member Profile: Bob Coburn
- Organizational Learning: Translating Knowledge into Change in Practice
- The Civilian-Military Partnership in Afghanistan
On a fateful day in January, Mohammed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire in an act of desperation. Mr. Bouazizi did not demand much from his government and had relatively few needs in this world. But when the police confiscated Mr. Bouazizi’s produce scale, they took part of his livelihood with them. He no doubt felt powerless in the face of a corrupt government and overwhelming security services. His desperation was shared by many, and so with the act of one man, a democratic revolution seized an entire region.
Mr. Bouazizi’s death, and the revolutions that followed, remind us of the powerful continuum of human security—or the idea that in order to achieve national and global stability, we must focus on the needs of citizens. It is a continuum in which the links are always connected--from the fate of one person to the stability of a nation—yet often frail.
Following the release of the First Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), the State Department, collaborating with USAID, will strengthen the continuum of human security to national security using the full suite of our diplomatic and development tools. Along with our sister agencies in the field, we will build on existing efforts to increase civil society engagement, enhance public diplomacy, incorporate technological innovation, and refine conflict prevention and response strategies.
The efforts of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) have long recognized this important connection and the central role of human security in U.S. foreign policy. Since its establishment under Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2004, S/CRS has advanced issues that fall in the tumultuous wake of post-conflict zones and fragile states, such as supporting Sudan’s referendum on independence and strengthening Haiti’s judicial and police systems. In Afghanistan, members of our Civilian Response Corps from across the U.S. government are helping to rehabilitate imprisoned Afghan insurgents and reconcile them with their communities. Another Corps member helped train and provide tools to a women’s group to plant saffron as a replacement for poppy. Such efforts are giving young people viable ways to ensure their own security and that of their families—diminishing the Taliban’s recruitment efforts.
As we increase our coordination both in Washington and the field, I look forward to working with S/CRS at the frontier of this work. Leveraging the full spectrum of civilian expertise and resources, we will continue to advance human security as a foundation of our foreign policy.
Maria Otero, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
Recently, the United States delivered three new community justice centers to officials in northern Uganda, where much of the country’s public service infrastructure was destroyed by the 23-year-long Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurrection. The new centers, part of a three-year, $6.5 million effort, include police stations, courthouses and housing for police and magistrates as well as police training. Uganda’s chief justice, Benjamin Odoki, who represented the government of Uganda at the inauguration of two of the centers on March 23 and 24, said the centers “will help demystify the justice system and strengthen citizens’ confidence in the judicial process. Case backlogs and delayed justice will now be an issue of the past.”
Implemented jointly by USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives and the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, the program aims to prevent a security vacuum in the aftermath of a conflict that has affected the entire region. The LRA, a vicious, cult-like rebel group, created a humanitarian catastrophe for over two decades before being driven out of the country in recent years. Since the 1980s, the group has killed and kidnapped tens of thousands in Uganda, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, including many child soldiers, and displaced more than 1.8 million people. With the cessation of violence, however, these displaced populations have re-established communities, placing new demands on local government to provide basic services and security. In addition to the community justice centers, the U.S. law enforcement program provides support for the Ugandan police forces, prosecutors, and civil society in an area previously governed by the military.
U.S. funding program comes through so-called 1207 authority, which allows the Department of Defense to transfer money to other U.S. agencies to support stabilization work. The 1207 program targets small-scale, short-term, sustainable projects that address key conflicts that affect U.S. interests. The State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization monitors the progress of the program, which supports 33 projects in 28 countries worth more than $440 million.
As part of broader efforts to help Afghans improve the rule of law in their country, a U.S. civilian-military group known as Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435 advises Afghan officials on modernizing their justice and detainee systems.
In late March, Afghan governors and senior ministry representatives reported progress on several fronts, including the creation of provincial justice centers in Mazar-e-Sharif, Nangarhar, Khost, Kandahar, and Herat that help locals resolve disputes. Elsewhere, the Afghans reported, the Ministry of Interior is moving forward with collecting data including fingerprints, iris scans and digital images that will augment the nation’s current handwritten record system. In the future, the information may be used for a more secure national identification system that will enable voter registration, motor vehicle registration, business registration, trade licensing, and school enrollment.
The task force and Afghans also created an electronic case management system at the Afghan National Detention Facility, known as Pol-e-Charki, designed to expedite prosecutions, which the Afghans plan to expand to prisons nationwide. As next steps, the Afghan officials are planning more justice centers and prison security upgrades, including better housing for prisoners and staff, and transfer of high-risk prisoners to Pol-e-Charki.
In addition to military personnel, the Task Force includes U.S. Civilian Response Corps officials from the State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, USAID and the Departments of Agriculture, Justice and Homeland Security, among others. Corps members work in partnership with numerous Afghan ministries to support improvements to the justice system and support rehabilitating Afghan insurgents for reintegration into society. For example, the task force has helped create detainee review boards, developed educational programs and ensured that U.S. detainee systems aligned with the Afghan criminal justice system. Corps members from the Department of Justice provided corrections support and prosecutorial expertise, USAID Corps members met with local leaders to prepare communities to receive detainees, and Department of Agriculture Corps members provided farm training programs at the detention facility.
A provincial governor reads about the electronic tazkera, which records personally identifiable information including fingerprints, iris scans and digital images during the Provincial Governors Shura hosted by Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435, Tuesday, March 29, 2011.
Smuggling, trafficking and terrorism in the North Sulawesi and Sulu Seas have been an ongoing problem for Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, and a growing concern for the international community. To address these transnational crimes, the State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) collaborated with the Department of Justice’s International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) to support an annual conference among the three countries to increase security and communication in their waters.
These neighboring states have different cultures and legal structures. The conference, known as the Trilateral Interagency Maritime Law Enforcement Workshop (TIAMLEW), is designed to facilitate cooperation among the countries’ maritime law enforcement agencies. This coordination is crucial because the ocean passageways are economically and politically critical to Asian shipping and the development of all three nations.
The conference, first held in July 2009, has been successful in bringing together the agencies from each country that deal with marine security to discuss maritime law enforcement and to develop policy recommendations.
The most recent workshop, facilitated by two representatives from S/CRS, took place in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia on March 14-16. Seventy-five delegates from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines attended. It led to 12 recommendations to increase and formalize maritime domain awareness, cooperation, and coordination among the nations. The conference also served as a platform for bilateral discussions between Indonesia and Malaysia to develop immediate recommendations for rules of engagement in disputed territorial waters and to respond to transnational crimes at sea.
What makes the conference unique is its regional focus and working-level diplomatic approach. It provides a venue for local representatives and technical experts to gather to develop a solution to the security issue in their shared seas. The effort seeks to build relationships between officials as they develop their own strategy for responding to maritime security issues in the region.
U.S. support for the conference is provided by the 1207 program, in which Department of Defense money supports stabilization work led by other departments. The 1207 program targets small-scale, short-term, sustainable projects that address key conflicts that affect U.S. interests. S/CRS monitors the progress of these programs, which support 33 projects in 28 countries worth more than $440 million. Its partner, ICITAP, works with foreign governments worldwide to develop effective, professional, and transparent law enforcement.
A new World Bank report provides some stark reminders about the high level of conflict in the world today, along with some new strategies for dealing with it. According to the Bank’s 2011 World Development Report, 1.5 billion people live in areas experiencing or threatened by organized violence. That’s about a quarter of the world’s population.
Those conflicts take a toll on the countries where they happen as well as on the people who live there. A civil conflict costs the average developing country 30 years of GDP growth, the report says, and poverty rates are more than 20 points higher in countries with protracted violence than in others. Perhaps most shockingly, no low-income fragile state has yet achieved a single one of the Millennium Development Goals, the UN benchmarks designed to track countries' progress on battling poverty, inequality and violence.
On the positive side, the report examined developing countries that have successfully emerged from conflict and found two common threads: short-term confidence-building measures; and long-term sustained efforts to build national institutions. The short-term efforts include building inclusive coalitions to help defuse the incentives for violence and taking visible action to signal positive, sustained change, the report says. Fighting unemployment quickly appears to be a key to head off conflict. But the long-term part of the equation may take a generation or more to take root.
The presence or absence of legitimate civil institutions is often the determining factor in whether discontent turns into violence, the report finds. Countries with weak institutions have a 30 to 45 percent higher risk of civil war, for example, while building government legitimacy helps reduce risk. Confidence in government is the first step in long-term institution-building, which is just one reminder that setting good policies at the outset can make a real difference.
The work of the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization and others in the U.S. government shares some of the report’s goals and strategies, especially its focus on conflict prevention and building host-government capacity. Like the United States, the report stresses the importance of regional and global partnerships to address problems like trafficking and food insecurity, as well as work with international organizations to share knowledge and set procedures.
The report also notes the changing nature of conflict over time, and suggests that global institutions should adapt. Rather than state-to-state or civil war, many conflicts turn on control of minerals or operations of transnational groups such as extremists or the international drug trade.
The World Bank publishes a World Development Report each year. This year’s focuses on conflict, security, and development. The authors said they tried to turn usual procedure on its head by going to civil society and reform groups in fragile and post-conflict countries before turning to experts or academics.
What next? The report says it is “intended to fuel a continuing conversation on ways in which societies can escape destructive cycles of violence.”
The full version of the World Bank's 2011 World Development Report is available at http://wdr2011.worldbank.org.
Christine Davachi, Jon Gandomi, Katya Sienkiewicz, and Jason Lewis-Berry visited wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in February to boost morale and show support for veterans hurt in combat. Civilian Response Corps members Gandomi and Lewis-Berry, along with USAID’s Sienkiewicz, recently completed tours in Afghanistan, where they worked closely with U.S. service members. Davachi, also of USAID, and Gandomi will deploy to Afghanistan in the coming months. This was the second Corps member visit to Walter Reed in the last year.
In February, the UN released its Civilian Capacity Review, a report intended to strengthen the international response to countries facing the immediate aftermath of conflict. The report seeks to expand recruitment and deployment of the international community’s civilian expertise and to bolster efforts to transfer peacebuilding skills to post-conflict countries. Failure to improve in these areas will increase the risk that countries relapse into conflict, the report says.
The report offers several recommendations to increase host-country ownership of post-conflict programs, such as more support for building host-government capacity, expanding local procurement, and increasing the involvement of women in the peacebuilding process. It suggests ways to identify the skills and expertise available from UN member states and recommends adding flexibility to how the UN spends its peacebuilding money.
A key theme threaded throughout is the need to collaborate with local and regional governments, civil society, and private industry to increase efficiency and sustainability. By working with the United Nations and other international partners, host-country governments can increase their ability to manage programs and expand the local workforce, thus driving private sector growth.
The report proposes creating a UN group that would promote long-term agreements between developed nations, NGOs, and other international organizations. Additionally, the review recommends improving the quality of civilian training in order to broaden the international community’s peacekeeping expertise.
The report includes input from a wide range of experts and implementers, including the International Stabilization and Peacebuilding Initiative (ISPI), an informal network of countries and multilateral organizations that includes the United States. Implementation of the report’s recommendations now falls to the UN Under Secretary-General for Field Support.
The full Civilian Capacity Review is available at http://www.civcapreview.org.
By Clint Fenning, Foreign Affairs Officer and Standby member of the Civilian Response Corps
In Southern Sudan, every aspect of life presents its people with opportunities to move forward together, building the foundation of a new nation. On my recent deployment here to support the U.S. government’s work to ensure the region’s peaceful transition to an independent country, I learned that even the smallest everyday decisions people make have an impact on the future of Southern Sudan.
The Civilian Response Corps’s work supports the U.S. Consulate General in Juba by applying a blend of traditional and expeditionary diplomatic tools to partner with what will become the world’s newest nation. Along with other Corps members, I regularly visit the most remote regions of Southern Sudan to expand and develop relationships with everyone from state governors to tribal elders, as well as international partners and civil society organizations, to support the U.S. government’s intensified diplomatic and development efforts. In Southern Sudan, this is no easy task. We must fly, drive, and walk in order to arrive at a key meeting – perhaps with a tribal chief and often under the shade of a tree – to better grasp the country’s many challenges and opportunities.
To help carry out this mission, I spend the majority of my time travelling to three bordering states in Southern Sudan: Unity, Warrap, and Lakes. All three are connected by complex conflict issues such as ever-present cross-border cattle raiding—a source of income, identity and conflict—in addition to issues that stem from North-South relations with Khartoum. Part of my job is to understand the most pressing conflict dynamics the states are facing, and report on how these issues might affect U.S. government policy and programs.
For example, fellow Civilian Response Corps members James Patton and Marie Pace and I spent a seven-hour drive over arduous roads accompanied by the Wildlife Police, County Commissioner and the Lakes State’s Advisor for Peace and Reconciliation to explore how state authorities are managing its natural resources, which can be a driver of conflict or a tool for economic growth and stabilization, in the Wulu County national park.
In the park, we saw four hippos as well as opportunities for micro-businesses in honey and Shea butter, but perhaps more importantly, the ride allowed us to build a relationship with local officials. We not only discussed how they plan to manage the national park but also explored how they approach security and governance in the country. This is the kind of diplomacy that helps the United States prevent conflict and promote regional stability in complex and fragile environments like Southern Sudan by partnering with local leaders to think through the complex challenges they face. It takes this kind of persistent, face-to-face contact to really gain an understanding of the pivotal issues.
We organized our trip to give the newly appointed county commissioner an opportunity to meet constituents and extend the reach of government. Throughout the tour, he was able to connect directly to the people of Wulu County and give them a chance to connect to their government.
The people of Southern Sudan know that they are at a crucial point in their country’s history. The next few months will determine the shape of the world's newest democracy and the fragile peace it promises to a society ravaged by decades of war. While the nation certainly faces many challenges, I was inspired by the resiliency I saw in the Sudanese.
"It takes this kind of persistent, face-to-face contact to really gain an understanding of the pivotal issues."
The Corps seeks out many of DHS’s areas of special expertise to address conflict prevention and response, including training, assessments, and technical assistance. For example:
Recent DHS Corps deployments to Afghanistan include: leading a civilian-military planning effort for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul; support for improving prison conditions; and support for the U.S. Border Management Task Force, including an advanced training academy for Afghan officers. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made an official visit to Afghanistan in December, where she emphasized the importance of having trained Afghan border and customs workers to address smuggling and other border threats.
Many DHS components provide support to U.S. stabilization and other work overseas, including Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Coast Guard (USCG), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Secret Service (USSS), the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
DHS defines its broader role overseas as to protect the United States, expedite the lawful flow of people and goods, build capacity for security and resilience, and promote strategic relationships. Over 2,000 DHS personnel are active in 77 countries.
Though thousands of police and soldiers in Afghanistan have gone through basic training, the state of the country’s borders suggests the need for more training in border security. Enter the Afghan Advanced Border Management Academy, which gives specialized training to Afghans in management, leadership, and integrated border security operations. Given the country’s porous borders and drug trafficking, increased capacity, infrastructure and modern technology are key to border security and, ultimately, the security of the country as a whole.
This novel program, supported by the United States, is aimed at mid- to senior-level Afghan officers from all government agencies responsible for border issues, including the ministries of Finance, Interior, and Defense. The first sessions of the four-week course have graduated more than 100 officers. Ministry officials select the individuals who participate, singling out promising candidates for the advanced training. Afghan graduates will take over the training program as it grows and transitions into local hands. “These are the people who are going to lead border security in this country in the future,” said George Talton, acting Deputy Director of the U.S. Embassy’s Border Management Task Force in Afghanistan.
At the academy, U.S. instructors teach classes on drug law, corruption, criminal prosecution, the Afghan constitution, and human rights, among other topics. The program consists of practical exercises, computer training on laptops provided to each student, homework and tests. Most are already familiar with computers, but learn report-writing and software skills. With Afghan literacy rates so low, even among soldiers and police, it’s essential to capitalize on the skills of those who can read and use computers. After the course, graduates return to their agencies across the government and around the country.
The program not only brings together Afghan government agencies, it represents an interagency effort for the United States as well. The academy is the brainchild of the Border Management Task Force, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection Office, and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Counter Narcotics office. Talton, a U.S. Border Patrol agent, is overseeing the academy as a member of the State Department’s interagency Civilian Response Corps. NATO’s Afghanistan training mission has also been involved. “The only way that the successful programs are working is by including all the strategic partners needed to get the job done,” Talton said.
The plan is to train Afghan instructors to teach at the academy and put it in Afghan hands within a year and a half to two years, said Keith Arrington, a former task force Deputy Director who shepherded the program into existence. The handoff would be the final step in months of work for U.S. officials, who developed the program and proposed it to Afghan ministries. Because most academies provide only basic police training, the Afghans were eager to give top officers greater opportunity. The first class began in January. In March, the academy moved into a modern facility, complete with a library and study areas. Providing advanced training was just the next logical step in handing the border security over to Afghan control, said Arrington.
The border challenges may seem immense, but U.S. officials are optimistic about the program. “The environment is very different from the United States, but we are focusing on the education of Afghan personnel and technology and infrastructure improvements as the keys to success,” Talton said.
In 2008, the ruling party in Paraguay handed over power for the first time in 61 years. A former Catholic bishop, Fernando Lugo, defeated the ruling Colorado party with a campaign that emphasized empowering the country’s poor. Lugo’s election represented the rise of new priorities and, counter to political trends in some South American neighbors, an opportunity for the spread of democracy and good governance.
Among the immediate targets for these efforts were four neglected states on Paraguay’s border with Brazil. Drug trafficking, organized crime, and violence had grown there, an area intentionally neglected during the Alfredo Stroessner dictatorship. Aid projects had been left unfinished, undermining public trust in the government. Seventy percent of the people in the region are under age 30, and there are few jobs.
In response to a request from President Lugo, the United States launched the Northern Zone Initiative, known by its Spanish acronym IZN, in March 2010. The program tests whether very modest U.S. investment can jump start economic security and improve governance through work with citizens and local government. It aims to improve government services and reduce lawlessness – which will support the government of Paraguay and cut into drug trafficking— as well as promote economic development.
Budgeted at $4.5 million over 18 months, IZN is a small program by some standards, but its approach is providing tangible, sustainable results. Funding for the IZN comes to the State Department via the Department of Defense under a program known as 1207, while USAID is investing additional money in economic growth, governance, and environmental management.
The IZN project is part of a coordinated effort with the government of Paraguay and various U.S. government agencies. It includes humanitarian assistance and a mobile medical clinic from the U.S. military. USAID manages the program in Paraguay, while the State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization monitors progress from Washington. State, USAID, the U.S. Southern Command and others share a single agenda, which allows for greater coordination. U.S. Ambassador Liliana Ayalde has been a driving force behind the tone and vision of the program, engaging Paraguayan officials, beginning with President Lugo, as well as the private sector, women’s groups, cooperatives and church representatives.
IZN implementers have invested in more than 60 small projects in the four border states. Many show results in 30 to 90 days, far more quickly than the usual timeframe. “Normal development projects don’t have results in six months,” said Steven E. Hendrix from USAID, coordinator of IZN for the U.S. Embassy in Paraguay. “This program is producing tangible, measurable, sustainable impacts in the short term.”
The IZN fills a niche that is neither conflict response nor long-term development or humanitarian work. But it is responding to under-governed areas where conflict lies just below the surface. The short time frame requires getting participation and investment from local groups and the private sector to ensure that the work will continue after the program ends. Working with local authorities, citizens vet and select the projects, which also improves the chances of sustainability. Meanwhile, to complement the improved economic opportunities, the government of Paraguay is deploying new police to reinforce community security.
Healing, Baking, Farming
In the town of Chore, the IZN is adding a medical laboratory onto an existing clinic that serves 40,000 people each year. Previously, the nearest lab was 37 miles away, and some tests had to be sent to the capital, Asuncion, 140 miles away. Like many of IZN’s projects, the lab expands an existing facility, rather than starting from scratch, which helps ensure it will be maintained in the future. Nearly a third of the $29,000 cost came from a local government contribution. Similar programs have added roofs and rooms to schools.
Sixty-five miles to the northwest in Belen, the program helped create El Progreso Honey and Bakery under the auspices of an agriculture cooperative. Formerly unemployed women receive technical assistance and economic guidance to make a sustainable business. The bakery recently added a second shift to try to keep up with the orders they are receiving from schools and businesses. The community was chosen precisely because it sat at the intersection of local conflict and unemployment. On a small scale, the program brings social stability and badly needed income, providing residents with alternatives to organized crime, marijuana production, or small insurgent groups that undermine stability in the area.
Elsewhere, the program is helping agricultural associations improve their productivity. Many growers have seen their income increase; in some sectors their production may triple. That kind of growth attracts jobs as workers see profits in licit enterprise. In Guajayvi, experts are training banana producers to grow heavier bananas with techniques to clean their trees, deter pests, and package the fruit. Rather than carry bunches across a plantation by hand, the farmers now have a cable-line system that sends them faster, with less effort and fewer bruises. Those bananas are now appearing in markets not only across Paraguay, but also in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Working in other parts of Paraguay may have been easier, Hendrix said, but the program sought places where they could have the most impact. “If we want democracy to succeed in this hemisphere, we need to be engaged in places where it’s vulnerable,” he said.
The IZN is still a work in progress. Area residents’ expectations for the IZN are very high, especially given past failures. The government still must tackle corruption, increase trust in its institutions, and demonstrate results quickly. Making sure these projects are sustainable will require more private investment as well as strong cooperation between government and local groups. Still, it offers hope that this landlocked nation of nearly 7 million can prosper and stand as a bulkhead for democracy in the region.
Bob Coburn with special forces police in the Kyrgyz Republic.
As a member of the Civilian Response Corps from the Department of Justice’s International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), Bob Coburn is focused on training law enforcement officials overseas. He serves in the Kyrgyz Republic as a special assistant to the police reform program at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), making him among the first Corps members to work within an international organization.
In a 30-year career in domestic law enforcement, Coburn worked as an investigator and police academy commander. He ran his own training company for 10 years in Ohio that offered instruction in everything from cultural diversity to SWAT tactics.
Coburn began his international career in 2004. His first job was training police in Iraq. He has now worked on police training in more than a half-dozen countries, ranging from Moldova to Malawi. His efforts to build or rebuild trust between the police and their communities have given him a new appreciation for the importance that the rule of law plays in a society.
“We look for sustainable programs that improve the rule of law within a developing or emerging democracy,” he said. “We look for hands-on law enforcement training that is institutionalized and passed on once we leave.”
In the Kyrgyz Republic, Coburn serves as the primary law enforcement coordinator between the OSCE and the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek in their efforts to increase the capacity of the Kyrgyz police.
“We’re trying to integrate law enforcement and the judicial and prosecutorial components, and make sure that they’re all consistent with what’s being trained,” he said.
He said his fellow police officers at the OSCE have provided fascinating insights into police work in their countries, but at the end of the day, they all share a view of the importance of the rule of law and international standards that help them achieve their police reform goals.
By Jessie Evans and Jenny Marron, best practice and lessons learned officers in the Doctrine office of the State Department's Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS)
Conflict and stabilization operations are complex, fast-changing and unpredictable. The frequency of new missions means that there is rarely time to glean insights from one operation before the next one begins. But it has become clear that the State Department’s ability to succeed in these situations requires it to understand and apply lessons from past and ongoing deployments.
Though this type of learning may sound easy, recent history suggests that too often lessons from peace and conflict response operations are not effectively captured and applied. In many organizations, the feedback process is ad hoc. Recommendations from “best practices” documents may or may not be implemented. Frequently, they end up on a shelf, rarely consulted the next time a similar task arises.
In addition, it often takes significant time, effort, and resources to develop a learning process and acclimate people to using it. The UN, for instance, is still working to implement the recommendations of the Brahimi Report, a comprehensive review of its peace operations issued in 2000 that proposed increasing its capacity and criticized the field for its inability to learn from the past.
At S/CRS, we plan to use systematic, organization-wide learning to identify what works, change what does not, and build a body of knowledge on effective conflict prevention and stabilization efforts. The resulting improvements will allow us to better support U.S. missions and operate more efficiently.
At S/CRS, engagements are by their nature unique; no two are likely to present the same challenges. Nonetheless, we seek to discover some broad lessons that can apply to future engagements. Over the past year, our Doctrine team has built a more systematic way to capture innovative ideas from S/CRS and our Civilian Response Corps country engagements and share them with the U.S. and international peacebuilding partners. We collect data through several methods during and after deployments of the Corps. Typically, individuals fill out an after-action survey, participate in individual or group interviews to communicate what they’ve learned, and often present informal briefings to colleagues. Recently, returning Corps members provided practical feedback on issues such as logistics, team composition, communication, and coordination of deployed agencies. Returning members also create tailored products based on their experiences, such as “How to Build a Team in the Field.”
In addition to post-engagement learning, our team also reviews ongoing engagements to identify issues that require immediate attention and to encourage creative and flexible problem solving by engagement teams. Lessons identified during these reviews help deployed Corps members adapt and provide useful knowledge for members deploying in the future. For example, through Corps members in Sudan, we learned how to improve rapid planning for and execution of consistent contracting and logistics. Experience in several engagements pointed to the need to better prepare our Corps members to analyze and report on political dynamics and situational developments, often at very local levels. This led S/CRS to design and deliver a short course on how to write diplomatic cables. Similarly, difficulties experienced by Corps members in facilitating whole-of government-planning led S/CRS to partner with two private sector companies to offer facilitation training.
Our near-term goal is to increase the ways in which the information we learn enhances our operations, doctrine, and training. Then, we can share insights with interagency and international partners. The knowledge also feeds into our yearly force review as well as periodic adjustments to hiring, planning, and deployments. Additionally, through an interagency working group, S/CRS helps to identify best practices for conflict prevention and stabilization writ large. As the State Department seeks to assemble an applied learning center for conflict prevention and stabilization, our work can lay a foundation and contribute ways for other government organizations to improve.
By John P. Patten, Planning Officer in the State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization
It was a dark and stormy night. I was lying on the floor at 3 a.m. in a Special Forces terminal at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, trying to squeeze in some shuteye while a freezing mist floated in through the open hangar door. Most of our team had been in and out of makeshift bunks every few hours for three days, trying to get flights to various Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan’s South and East. I was there as the interagency trainer to help the PRT commanders navigate issues in working with their civilian counterparts. This trip was their Pre-Deployment Site Survey, or PDSS, as part of the commanders’ training in-country.
Someone burst into the room at 3:30 and said there was a possible lift out. We grabbed our gear and went on the quarter-mile hike to the flightline for “Showtime.” We sat on the runway in a C-130 transport plane in the dark and the sleet, waiting for the winter weather in Kabul to cooperate. But finally, at 6 a.m., the flight was called off.
Later, one of the commanders told me that my sleeping on the cold floor was “varsity.” As a civilian trying to be part of a military team, it was probably the best compliment I could have asked for. Slogging through the mud side by side with the soldiers increased my credibility in their eyes, and it went a long way toward building an important team relationship.
In conflict-affected areas like Afghanistan, civilians offer PRT military commanders a valuable perspective that can help the two sides work together more effectively. Recently, the 4th Cavalry Division and 189th Training Brigades, based at Camp Atterbury, Ind., requested that civilians accompany a group of PRT Commanders to Afghanistan to train them on how to improve these partnerships. With its extensive collaboration with other federal agencies and long history of support to the PRTs, S/CRS answered the call, deploying a civilian trainer to Afghanistan. That was me. It was the first time a civilian had participated in a PRT PDSS.
All levels of military command in Afghanistan, including PRTs, have senior civilian personnel matched with military commanders in equal roles. The two sides share a collaborative and integrated mission, working as a team toward the same goals despite different organizational cultures. Identifying and discussing friction points in this relationship with incoming commanders helps them get a jump on how to operate effectively under this framework. The civ-mil interaction on the PDSS kept the unity-of-effort message in the forefront.
It is incumbent on the civilians to educate the military on what our roles are and how we can most effectively use the resources of each. The benefit of having civilians involved in pre-deployment training and site surveys such as this is that we can answer questions immediately on our view of the issues at hand. Civilian-military training in the field is also an opportunity for civilians to help shape the mission.
We had a team of 32, including 14 new PRT commanders-in-training, trainers and support staff, all of which split up to get flights to their respective PRTs. I accompanied the team to Khost Province in the east. The PDSS gave the incoming PRT commander the lay of the land and the current context from the teams already there. It was also invaluable for me as a trainer to check my facts and start thinking about how I can update the civ-mil training we conduct back home.
Over the past three years, training has evolved so that it can bring to fruition a unified effort in planning and operations between civilians and military. We’ve seen the results most clearly at the strategic level in the new U.S. Integrated Civilian-Military Campaign Plan, recently signed by Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and General David Petraeus. The plan is implemented at the operational and tactical levels through the kind of civ-mil teamwork I saw during the PDSS.
The ground work we have laid for civilian-military cooperation in Afghanistan will almost certainly carry over to future situations where civilians and the military will occupy the same space and work together toward a shared goal. This is a huge advance in just a few years in how we as civilian and military personnel view the mission. Discussion of these issues and how we approach operations is codified in training, in integrated planning, and in our whole of government operations. It has in fact become an accepted norm. Moreover, civilian capabilities are becoming essential elements of how the United States exerts its influence abroad in conjunction with local and international partners. This is particularly true in conflict prevention and response missions. It is becoming an increasingly accepted approach to how we operate.
When we finally hit the return flight out of Bagram to the Manas Transit Center in the Kyrgyz Republic for the trip home, there was a mix of emotions. The team felt relief and satisfaction for meeting the objectives of the trip, and headed home with much increased situational awareness of the current environment in Afghanistan. The team members who will return soon to take their commands for a year accept the harm they may face willingly and with dedication. I felt privileged to be in such good company and confident that my training will help them achieve their goals.