E. Dress codes and uniforms
Dress codes exist to help you ensure a level of decency and decorum and to present your image in a respectful way at all times. Your organisation might have its own specific dress codes, but what is appropriate depends on many factors, such as the country you are working in and its cultural and religious context, and it can very much depend on whether you are a man or a woman.
Depending on the cultural and religious context, women are required to pay specific attention to modest and appropriate clothing, not only to show respect for local customs and culture, but also to avoid harassment.
Even if you do not agree with certain dress codes, always remember that you are a guest and you express respect or disrespect for your national partners and hosts through the way you dress.
This also applies to remote field locations. If you meet local authorities or security forces, make sure you visit them wearing discreet and formal clothing.
If you have to decide what clothes to wear, there are some general guidelines that you should follow:
- Dress down, not up. This doesn’t mean that you have to fake a scruffy and dirty look. But you also don’t want to wear flashy sunglasses, Gucci scarves and cashmere sweaters among locals who might be struggling to make ends meet. Parading your wealth around will not make you more popular, nor will it win the locals’ admiration. If anything, it might make you a suitable target for theft.
- Keep it simple. A plastic watch, a plain sweater or shirt, some slacks and strong shoes are all that you require. Leave the rest for your return to Geneva, London or wherever. They will be more appreciated there.
Recognising different uniforms
There will be mission-specific policies on the usage of clothing and uniforms. In some missions, your national uniform (in case you have one) may be accepted as it is, or in coordination with a mission uniform. This may vary with the type of position you hold. Some common mission uniforms and accessories that you can easily identify while in the field include:
- The UN sky blue beret/helmet: UN peacekeepers usually retain the right to wear their own country’s national uniforms, but can be distinguished from other peacekeeping forces by their light blue berets, helmets and UN insignia.
- The EU royal blue beret and gilet: EU troops also wear their respective countries’ military and police uniforms. They often complement their outfits with EU royal blue uniform clothing items (gilet and beret/cap) when on patrol. This is part of developing a common identity and contributes to the safety of staff.
- The AU light green beret: even though AU troops are generally known for wearing the light green beret and AU insignia while on peacekeeping missions, this might not always be the case. Keep in mind that they might sometimes choose to replace their green berets with the blue UN berets/helmets (or that of any other international organisation in the field) as they did in Darfur in 2008. So make sure you keep yourself updated on such changes and decisions.
A list of military rank insignia used by European states can be found in the Annex.