Story and photos by William R. Goodwin, APCSS Public Affairs

Note: Due to non-attribution format of the workshop and APCSS policy, participant names are not used in this story 

An Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) team led by Director retired Army Lt. Gen. Ed Smith completed a workshop entitled “Vietnam and United Nations Peace Operations” at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam (DAV) in Hanoi last week. 

The focus of the five-day workshop was to examine the issues and challenges that countries face in conducting peacekeeping operations (PKO). Co-hosted by the DAV, nearly 50 mid-level and senior policy leaders from the Vietnamese Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Public Safety and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who are involved in peace operations actively participated in the workshop. 

“This workshop has helped me explore different aspects of UN peace operations, and gain in-depth knowledge of their challenges and opportunities,” said one Vietnamese workshop participant. “The practical experiences shared by the speakers have reminded me to adopt a more objective view of the effectiveness of UN PKO.” 

President of the DAV retired AMB Duong Van Quang delivered opening remarks and AMB Michael Michalak, U.S. Embassy Hanoi, also spoke at the opening ceremony. 

Retired Maj. Gen. Patrick Cammaert, a former Dutch military commander, United Nations Force Commander and military advisor to the UN Security Council, was a workshop speaker and subject matter expert (SME) who shared many real-life experiences with the participants. He discussed some of the challenges a new country faces when beginning to work in the field and how to coordinate with UN Headquarters.

The practical experiences shared by the speakers have reminded me to adopt a more objective view of the effectiveness of UN PKO.– workshop participant

Other SMEs on hand were Stein Ellingsen, who discussed legal and training issues and Army Col. William Keyes, who discussed financial and logistics issues, and the UN’s requirements for support to troops out in the field.

“Our subject matter experts General Cammert, Stein Ellingnsen and Colonel Keyes’s added a great deal to what APCSS had to offer,” said  APCSS State Department advisor retired Ambassador Charles Salmon.

The academic lead for the conference was APCSS associate professor Tom Peterman, who also assisted Dr. Alexander Vuving, Ph.D. in facilitating one of two groups during breakout sessions. AMB Salmon, conference co-chair, and Lt. Col. Matthew Schwab,  facilitated the second breakout group.

“The workshop was a valuable learning experience for everyone involved” said Schwab. “The Vietnamese participants were enthusiastic and eager to learn more about UN Peacekeeping Operations and discuss their views. Just as important, by sharing their perspectives, the workshop participants provided the APCSS faculty with valuable insights and deeper appreciation for Vietnamese culture and national priorities.

“I was very impressed with the quality of the workshop subject matter experts as well as the caliber of the all the participants,” Schwab continued. “We were especially impressed that the use of English throughout the workshop did not inhibit open discussion and sharing of different perspectives.  ”

A final goal of the workshop was to formulate how working with the UN will affect Vietnamese participation in peace operations. Near the end of the workshop, the two subgroups nominated representatives to deliver their presentations. The intent of the reports were to be recommended next steps for Vietnam’s participation in UN peacekeeping operations may be presented in due course to the Government of Vietnam. 

“Attendees of this workshop come from different ministries, which will have a role in the preparation process and the participating of Vietnam in PKO,” another participant further explained. “They will brief their bosses on the insights of PKO, the available expertise and knowhow Vietnam can make use of… I’m positive that Vietnam is in a better position now to prepare for participation in PKO.” 

Laying the groundwork for the workshop also played a vital role in it’s success, according to Salmon.

“The work APCSS and the Diplomatic Academy had done together in December 2007 on the UN Security Council was clearly helpful,” explained Salmon. “Support from Ambassador Michalak and his country team was outstanding. All in all a very successful event on the critically important subject of international  peacekeeping about which Vietnam is thinking very carefully.”

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Workshop Objectives:

  • Describe the UN peace operations concepts and develop understanding of the opportunities and challenges Vietnam faces in participation in the context of Vietnam’s interests.
  • Review possible scenarios that Vietnam may encounter in conducting various peace operations – military observer, UN police, peacekeeping, or peace enforcement missions.
  • Describe and discuss the basic requirements for Vietnamese participation in international peace operations management system: general organization, broad policies and procedures, logistics, legal issues, and planning.
  • Identification of the desired relationship between Vietnam and both UN headquarters and field operations.
  • Discuss GPOI requirements and come to understanding of the help available from US and other state and IO partners in developing a PKO capability.
  • Development of “way-ahead,” and plan on next steps required to implement peace operations at their desired levels.

About APCSS

The Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) is a U.S. Department of Defense academic institute that officially opened Sept. 4, 1995, in Honolulu, Hawaii. The APCSS addresses regional and global security issues, inviting military and civilian representatives of the United States and Asia-Pacific nations to its comprehensive program of executive education and conferences, both in Hawaii and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

The Center supports the U.S. Pacific Command’s objective of developing professional and personal ties among national security establishments throughout the region. With a non-warfighting mission, the Center focuses on a multilateral and multi-dimensional approach to defining and addressing regional security issues and concerns. The most beneficial result is building relationships of trust and confidence among future leaders and decision-makers within the region.

APCSS provides a focal point where national officials, decision makers and policy makers can gather to exchange ideas, explore pressing issues and achieve a greater understanding of the challenges that shape the security environment of the Asia-Pacific region. As well, the Center gives attention to the increasingly complex interrelationships of military, economic, political and diplomatic policies relevant to regional security issues through its three academic components: executive education, conferences and research and publications efforts.

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