Haitian officers join international training for UN police peacekeepers in Croatia
Representatives from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the US Embassy in Zagreb, and the Croatian Ministry of Interior gathered in Valbandon on 23 September 2013 to open the annual United Nations Police Officer Course (UNPOC) in Croatia. UNPOC is a two-week training course designed to prepare police officers from around the world for UN peacekeeping missions. 2013 marks the eighth time the course has been held in Croatia, and the fourth time UNDP has helped to support the training. Since its founding, UNPOC Croatia has trained 140 officers from Israel, Iraq, Malawi, Norway, Sweden, Slovakia, Slovenia, Uganda, Yemen, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This year’s 24 participants add to the growing list of global partners in the program, hailing from the Croatia, the Czech Republic, Haiti, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey.
The presence of two Haitian police officers in UNPOC this year reflects the Croatian Ministry of Interior’s aspirations of establishing Croatia as a truly international center for the training of police peacekeepers. For the first time since the course was launched, participants come from both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. While Croatia and Haiti are very different places, they share a common thread of history in that both have been recipients of UN peacekeeping efforts. “We hope this experience will serve in a modest way as an inspiration for Haiti, like Croatia before it, to see itself as a potential provider, as well as a recipient of peacekeeping support,” said Louisa Vinton, UNDP Resident Representative in Croatia.
Haitian participation in this year’s UNPOC was organized at the initiative of a veteran Croatian peacekeeper and former UNPOC head who currently who serves as the Croatian Contingent Commander in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The travel costs for the Haitian police officers were covered by the UNDP office in Haiti, and the local costs by the Ministry of Interior and UNDP. This is the first time Haitian officers have qualified to train as UN police peacekeepers.
Vinton stressed the importance of the program, stating that “UN peacekeeping operations are viewed as one of the most efficient forms of international intervention,” and that being trained as a peacekeeper is “one of the most noble and rewarding occupations imaginable.” Opening remarks for the ceremony were also given by Croatian Assistant Minister of Interior Nebojša Kirigin and US Ambassador to Croatia Kenneth Merten. All three speakers emphasized that the success of UNPOC in Croatia over the past several years is a tribute to how far Croatia has come since the war that ravaged former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. “This course and training center are active demonstrations of how far Croatia has come in a short period of time, as a reliable partner and ally,” said Ambassador Merten.
The opening remarks were followed by a short question-and-answer session. The police officers participating in the course asked the Ambassador, who served previously in Haiti, about his experiences with peacekeeping. Merten stressed that police peacekeepers needed to work closely with host authorities, not only to ensure good coordination but also to work towards the goal of rebuilding capable national institutions.
The UNPOC continues in Valbandon until 3 October, at which point successful graduates of the course will be certified to participate in UN peacekeeping missions.