Colm Downes describes an Anglo-Indonesian collaborative project with global reach
In Indonesia the British Council’s Peacekeeping English Project has just entered its third year. Funded by the UK Ministry of Defence, the reach and scope of the project is expanding, moving from specific English language support for the Indonesian Peacekeeping Training Centre to a range of English language initiatives across the Indonesian security and defence sector.
Working in cooperation with the Indonesian Ministry of Defence Education and Training Agency, we have planned a range of joint initiatives to increase English language learning and teaching across the Indonesian armed forces in 2015. In addition to developing specific English language training material for UN Military and UN Police Peacekeepers, the project is focused on teacher training initiatives and developing specific courses for military personnel preparing for postgraduate studies overseas.
Last June the British Council launched the pilot edition of English for UN Military Peacekeepers at IAPTC 20 – a global conference of peacekeeping training centres attended by the UN as well as military, police and civilian peacekeeping training centres from around the world. This is a practical training resource aimed at teaching UN military peacekeepers the English needed to improve interoperability and build relations with civilians on UN peacekeeping missions overseas.
In addition to units dedicated to traditional peacekeeping tasks, such as patrolling, monitoring ceasefires and escorting humanitarian convoys, a key part of the book is the integration of learning on preventing sexual and gender-based violence, human rights and international humanitarian law.
There is growing international recognition of the importance of language skills for personnel serving on UN peacekeeping missions. A recent global peacekeeping training needs assessment conducted by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UN DPKO) has identified ‘English for all peacekeepers’ as a priority training need for military, police and civilian staff. UN Security Council resolutions establishing new peacekeeping missions now include specific reference to recruiting qualified staff with appropriate language skills.
English for UN Military Peacekeepers is a practical resource developed to address this training need. Incorporating feedback received on the pilot edition launched in 2014, the British Council in Indonesia is working with military and language experts to produce a revised version for publication later this year. This new edition will include chapters specifically for UN Police, as well as a stand-alone set of resources for low-level language learners. English for UN Military Peacekeepers is being developed in such a way that it can be picked up and used by any UN military peacekeeper regardless of their mother tongue.
The materials developed by the Indonesia team are also finding favour across the east Asia region. In Thailand the British Council has been working with the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 2011 to train both Thai police and military personnel for UN peacekeeping duties. As Thailand bids for a non-permanent seat on the UN security council in 2017, its role on the global stage and in UN peacekeeping is a key to winning important votes. After piloting the materials in Bangkok, Brian Stott, head of English programmes, said, ‘These are exactly the kind of materials that our partners are looking for: relevant and focused on the UN peacekeeping situations that our trainees will meet on mission, but also rooted in current ELT best practice. We are sure that better-trained personnel will lead to increased opportunities for Thailand to be a regional leader in UN peacekeeping.’
In addition to specific language learning materials for UN peacekeepers, the British Council in Indonesia has also started developing tailored materials for ‘English for disaster management professionals’ in partnership with the Asean Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management.
At the British Council through projects and partnerships such as these we aim to play a key role in developing the linguistic skills of military, police and civilian experts serving at home and abroad. Improving language skills helps save lives, build stronger relations and enhance peace and security efforts around the world.
Colm Downes is the British Council’s English for peacekeeping project manager. For further information about English for UN Military Peacekeepers he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
DEDICATED UNIT Indonesian UN military observers with their English teacher Lieutenant Dahlan at a training centre in Jakarta (Courtesy Colm Downes)