Chapter 4 How to cope with everyday reality in the field

Working in a crisis management mission can be one of the most rewarding professional and personal learning experiences of your life.

The moment you decide to go on a crisis management mission, you are automatically signing up for a number of responsibilities, ethical tasks and the challenge of working in an international team, all of which will guide your every action in the field and form the basis of your every decision. Therefore, when you sign your contract, you are not just committing to accomplishing the tasks in your ToR and abiding by the job description. The implications of that contract are many and most of them are often very subtle.

First and foremost, embarking on a mission means that you are agreeing to respect your organisation’s code of conduct and to maintain its reputation at all times. Most importantly, however, being involved in civilian crisis management is a commitment to build local capacity.

Although you were recruited to work in a specific mission because of your professional experience and skills and you might be called an ‘expert’, you will benefit from a personal attitude that involves a willingness to listen and learn. This applies to your relationship with national and international colleagues as well as with national partners.

There are some basic differences between your regular work at home and working in a mission. You will find yourself in a foreign environment exhibiting a vivid blend of social and cultural differences, working with colleagues from different countries as well as from the host nation. Crisis management missions often engage in rebuilding and reforming dysfunctional public institutions in a host country, which is a highly sensitive political process because it might affect the powers and privileges that certain social groups or sectors of the host country enjoy and are keen to maintain. You might therefore feel welcome among some national counterparts, but not among others.

You will probably face challenges inherent to a post-conflict setting, such as a fragile security situation, partially or completely dysfunctional public institutions, including the security forces, an inadequate legal framework, a population that might be traumatised by political violence and massive human rights violations, impunity of violent political actors, a rapidly changing environment and heightened public and media attention.

This chapter will focus on different aspects of your everyday work in the field and elaborate on the regulations you will have to follow in your mission.