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POCseminar thumbnailSTAVANGER, Norway – The Joint Warfare Centre (JWC), in cooperation with NATO Allied Command Transformation (ACT), Norwegian Defence International Centre (NODEFIC) and the Finnish Defence Forces International Centre (FINCENT), co-organised a seminar on “Protection of Civilians” for the Centre’s military and civilian staff from September 2 to 4, 2019. 

The opening seminar was attended by German Navy Rear Admiral Jan C. Kaack, Commander JWC, and U.S. Navy Rear Admiral James A. Kirk, Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff. 

During the seminar, two subject matter experts from ACT, supported by representatives from NODEFIC and FINCENT, shared their knowledge of the NATO Military Concept for the Protection of Civilians and discussed the development of plans to integrate the new concept into future NATO exercises.

The NATO Policy on Protection of Civilians was endorsed by the Nations at the 2016 Warsaw Summit. Following the approval of an Action Plan, the NATO Military Concept for the Protection of Civilians was also approved at the 2018 Brussels Summit. 

The primary aim of the seminar at the JWC was to create a baseline understanding of the policy and the military concept throughout the organization with a particular focus on the concept’s manageable implementation into the upcoming JWC-directed exercises. 

“The North Atlantic Council (NAC)-approved concept has a great importance for NATO,” said Norwegian Army Lieutenant Colonel Joern Meringdal, JWC’s Officer of Primary responsibility for the event. “Some may argue that this is nothing new compared to what we have already been doing in our exercises at the operational level. But the fact is, we are now formalizing and operationalizing it.”

He added: “For me, the biggest change is that NATO can now influence perpetrators of violence through lethal and non-lethal military actions. For the JWC, on the other hand, our support is reflected through exercises that we plan and execute, by supporting various Training Audiences in their understanding of the concept in all phases of an exercise, including the planning phase.”

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“The Joint Warfare Centre is a key stakeholder in the ongoing integration of NATO's Military Concept into the planning and execution of exercises. Our focus is primarily on Exercise STEADFAST JUPITER-JACKAL 2020, because this will be the first major NATO exercise where Protection of Civilians will be an Exercise Objective.”

The briefing sessions of the seminar kicked off on September 3, with opening remarks from Ms Tracy Cheasley, ACT’s Strategic Plans and Policies Project Lead, and Mr Anthony Icayan, one of the concept developers representing ACT’s Operational Experimentation (OPEX) mission. Other speakers were Colonel Petter Lindqvist, Staff Officer at NODEFIC, and Lieutenant Colonel Harri Paldanius, the Department Head at FINCENT. 

During the first part of the seminar, the speakers discussed the development of the policy as well as the military concept and presented their views on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC).

The next portion of the seminar revolved around different approaches, strategies, capabilities and tactics used by the perpetrators of violence before, during, and after an armed conflict.

Understanding the human environment, complexities of modern warfare and NATO framework regarding the lines of effort for the conduct of operations to prevent, stop and/or deter actions that cause direct or indirect harm to civilians were also amongst the discussion topics. 

Reflecting on the importance of NATO’s new Military Concept and its principles, Icayan said that “protecting civilians has moral, legal, and ethical considerations that we should always take into account as a military force.”

Icayan added: “We have also seen from past experience that if you fail to protect the civilians, that’s going to have huge strategic implications for the mission, where we will not only lose legitimacy in the eyes of the population that we failed to protect, but also in the eyes of our own populations back home.”

He emphasized the added value of exercises and training events at the operational level.

“The Joint Warfare Centre is a key stakeholder in the ongoing integration of NATO's Military Concept into the planning and execution of exercises,” Icayan said, adding: “Our focus is primarily on Exercise STEADFAST JUPITER-JACKAL 2020, because this will be the first major NATO exercise where Protection of Civilians will be an Exercise Objective.”

Icayan spoke about various training courses on the topic for NATO and the United Nations and the first full course which was conducted last April in Finland.

He underlined that future work on the integration of the policy would be conducted by the two Strategic Commands, ACT and Allied Command Operations (ACO), in collaboration with NATO Headquarters. 

“The Protection of Civilians is a cross-cutting topic that involves the entire staff in a NATO headquarters, from J1 through J9. If you don’t engage the entire staff, you can’t succeed,” Icayan said. “The JWC staff has been extremely receptive. They have been participating with us since the concept development, so we are very happy to be here and look forward to carrying this important topic into the exercises in the future.”

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During the seminar, an additional focus area was “Children and Armed Conflict” (CAAC), where open conversations were held during the internal meetings. Additionally, ACT representatives showcased their virtual reality CAAC training module by inviting the JWC staff to learn via the innovative tool.

CAAC is a collaborative project that encompasses close cooperation with the NATO Command Structure and the international community, including non-governmental organizations. NATO recognises that protecting children from the effects of armed conflict is both a moral imperative and an essential element to break the cycle of violence, according to an official fact sheet.

In the first resolution on CAAC (UNSCR 1261), adopted in 1999, the United Nations (UN) identified six grave violations most affecting children in times of war: killing and maiming of children, recruitment or use of children as soldiers, sexual violence, abduction, attacks against schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access for children. 

Currently, work is underway in the development of a “Protection of Civilians Handbook” to support the integration of the military concept into NATO operational planning. 

The JWC will continue to collaborate with all stakeholders in this effort, Lieutenant Colonel Meringdal said, “we are working very closely with ACT as well as with our Norwegian and Finnish partner organizations to ensure a coherent approach.”

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Lieutenant Colonel Harri Paldanius, the Department Head at FINCENT, before an office call with Rear Admiral Jan C. Kaack, Commander JWC

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