A. Understanding the situation
Everything outlined below is subject to rules and regulations that have been set by receiving organisations with respect to policies and concepts guiding missions and operations in the field. Consequently, this chapter can only serve as a general overview of issues to be taken into account.
The challenges you might face while on mission range from dealing with unknown cultures, eating unusual food or living in difficult conditions to performing first aid on an injured colleague or negotiating your way out of an ambush. Personal preparation prior to a mission will boost your readiness to perform professionally and to deal with most of the challenges you encounter.
The most basic questions you need to ask yourself before deployment are the following: where are you going and why?
1. Where are you going?
As a crisis manager, you have probably been told to ‘expect the unexpected’ when leaving on a mission. You might also have been told to be flexible and open enough to face all kinds of surprises. However, the fact that you are bound to encounter unexpected challenges along the way does not mean that you should refrain from reading about the country of deployment and preparing yourself for challenges. Understanding the mission background and familiarising yourself with the country of your future (temporary) home is very important.
Therefore, before you leave, try to get a good grasp of the environment, history, culture and living conditions of the location you will be deployed to. Make sure you conduct the necessary research and find out more about the region’s:
- climate and terrain
- living conditions
- cultural traditions & faux pas
- political landscape
- security infrastructure
- internal influences (religion, militias, revolutionary movements, etc.)
- external or geopolitical influences
- economy, inflation rates, currency, exchange rates
- history of diseases, viruses, potential health concerns
- disputes (e.g. history, developments, past involvement of peacekeepers, mandates).
The following is a sample list of possible sources you can draw on for general as well as insider information on the country of deployment:
- contacts you may already have in the country of deployment
- your employer's induction pack (if available)
- websites of think tanks, UN, EU, ReliefWeb, Reuters, etc.
- situation reports, conflict analysis and briefing papers
- university publications
- weather forecasts
- WHO websites on vaccations and potential diseases
- mapping services (have an updated map at hand upon arrival, if available).
2. Why are you going there?
Take time to become familiar with your future employer’s mandate, purpose and background. It is your responsibility to understand your future mission duties and tasks before deployment. Study the employment contract and terms of reference (ToR) for your position. If anything is unclear in your contract, then ensure that clarity is gained from the entity that is hiring you. Look into the available documents that form the basis of the mission you will be deployed to: mandates, UN Security Council resolutions or, in the case of a CSDP mission, look into the concept of operation (CONOPS) or the operation plan (OPLAN); you will receive these documents during your induction session.