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ICM Course: Training Comprehensive Crisis Management Experts in Finland

National Defence University
Publication date 6.9.2019 9.39 | Published in English on 10.9.2019 at 9.00

The Finnish Defence Forces International Centre (FINCENT) organises an Integrated Crisis Management Course (ICM) in cooperation with the Crisis Management Centre Finland (CMC Finland). The objective of the course is to increase knowledge and understanding of the approaches of comprehensive crisis management and enhance cooperation between different actors. During September, we will publish three writings about the course.

Jouni Vainio has served as the senior member of the Teaching Group of FINCENT’s comprehensive crisis management courses. He is an officer, and during his career, he has served in a number of international tasks. Currently, he is serving as an advisor to the Civilian Component of the East Africa Standby Force in Nairobi deployed by and under the supervision of the CMC.

There are differences between the Civilian and Military Components

As for organisational support, Vainio says that a person serving in a military crisis management task receives stronger support from his organisation than a person serving in a civilian crisis management task. On the civilian side, employees take care of their personal administrative business on their own and have greater responsibility for themselves; for example, for moving around in their area of activity, they have to be capable of assessing security factors. Checking the availability of health services is also up to them. In some cases, they have to arrange their own transportation, and make their own arrangements for accommodation. In fact, however, the sending organisation covers the expenses arising from such matters without a problem.

- You usually get deployed on a military crisis management operation in a large group, in which case the support provided by your organisation is extensive. Everything has been well thought out: accommodation, meals, how to get around, equipment, protection against threats etc. Actually, I would say that selecting the right persons for individual civilian crisis management tasks plays an increasingly important role.

Vainio compares the Military and Civilian Components of the Eastern Africa Standby Force both of which he has personal experience. He says that the Military Component focuses in particular on training headquarters personnel, and that the procedures are precise.

- the Headquarters is not only required to generate situational picture of the area, but also to make alternative plans on how to respond to certain crisis situations and what course of action to take. You have to be competent to produce orders and follow troop movements and operations in the field, Vainio says.

The Civilian Component, in turn, comprises experts of various fields. In terms of numbers, the Civilian Component is not as strong and the Military Component, but the impact of their work is both extensive and deep. These experts represent different fields of competency, specialised, among other things, in the protection of civilians and children, in human rights and equality matters, principles of the rule of law and good governance. For example, by providing instructions, orders, meetings, guidelines, advice etc., civilian experts working for the Mission Headquarters contribute to the work of the entire operation and every last individual actor in the field. Vainio emphasises the importance of a common vision and close cooperation between the Components.

- integration and coordination are extremely important: civilians, police officers and soldiers alike work together for common goals.

International dimension and expertise contribute to a common vision

In addition to FINCENT’s ICM Course, Vainio has also taught a number of international courses, including, among other things, the UN Protection of Civilians Course. He states that on strategic-level courses, the students who are senior-level undergo a selection. The international dimension and expertise contribute to a common vision and understanding. You rarely come across individuals with a political or some other national agenda. He concludes, however, that differences of opinion that may arise between students do not seem to have anything to do with nationalities, but rather stem from individual observations.

- I think the students on the courses I teach have a very international take on things on average. In fact, things being seen differently due to cultural differences is relatively rare. My doctrine is that a human being is a human being, and that the basic things about being a human being are basically pretty much the same no matter what your nationality, culture, or religion is or what part of the world you come from.

Effectiveness of crisis management has to be monitored

UN mandates keep becoming more extensive and more comprehensive, so training has to be kept up-to-date. Vainio stresses the importance of measuring effectiveness.

- I have always emphasised that success in crisis management is the sum total of its effect on different things. We tend to record and write reports listing what has been done; for example, how many patrols we have been able to conduct in a given week. Instead, what should be looked at is the effect of our activities on the people who need protection in our area of activity, or the impact of our activities on the provision of services to the local population. They need our support for building and developing those services, Vainio concludes.

On the military side, explicit procedures for assessing operations are used for example by NATO. These procedures measure performance against effects produced. To put it in simple terms, the objective is to assess whether we are doing the right things and whether we are doing the right things right.

In Finland, FINCENT and the CMC conduct research and development work involving crisis management and crisis management training. Data is collected in the field on operations, and on courses taught by these Centres. For example, the aim is to always have the students take a test before and after a course, so we can measure how much they have learnt. Fact-finding missions are conducted to operations to examine the most central and challenging issues and how things are conducted in practice in different operations. Vainio also stresses the importance of teachers being active about keeping their know-how up-to-date even if it may be cumbersome and require a great deal of effort and energy.

- No two operations are the same. However, nothing keeps you from drawing from your prior experiences and learn for the future. Training requirements must be modified to the requirements in the field, so that you will be able conduct your task successfully, Vainio specifies.

Community of experts with great team spirit geared toward improving competence

Ever since FINCENT became a part of the National Defence University, the resources allocated for the Centre for developing its training process have been increased. According to Vainio, for the sake of keeping training up-to-date, it would be extremely important to collect reliable amounts of fresh feedback from the operating personnel during operations to find out whether the training has been considered relevant and useful.

- As far as I’m concerned, any bad experiences involving operations or insufficient training have soon been forgotten; when you have made it through a difficult situation, it is the fine memories that stick to your mind. I think it is healthy and natural for the human mind not to keep going back to negative things over and over again. However, you should remember that constructive criticism is a prerequisite for improving your skills, Vainio says.

Vainio praises FINCENT and the CMC for being versatile working environments. Working assignments range from playing role games in the heaths of Niinisalo to delivering lectures in Santahamina. To keep up your professional competence you should you keep an eye on the world’s crisis hot spots and ongoing operations. Course activities keep you in touch with teaching, and in an international environment your language skills stay fresh.

- The Finnish Defence Forces International Centre is a magnificent working community with great team spirit. For me, what counts is great human relations, but as an extra bonus, working here is a great way of keeping informed with what is taking place in the Defence Forces, where I have made a long career myself. I am a curious person - I can be a pain in the neck; I want to have a clear picture of what is going on, Vainio concludes with a laugh.

FINCENT 50 years

Fincent celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2019. The anniversary seminar takes place in October. Read more about the seminar and how to follow it online.