Review: Peacekeeping and Public Information: Caught in the Crossfire

4 Star, Civil Affairs, Diplomacy, Information Operations, United Nations & NGOs

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4.0 out of 5 stars Seminal work, focused on message out, not information in,

December 12, 2004
Ingrid Lehmann
Edit of 20 Dec 07 to add links.

This book is a first class piece of work, a seminal work with ideas not readily available elsewhere. Building on her earlier monograph about the UN experience in Haiti with respect to public information–a monograph that is included in this book as a chapter–the author has gone on to look at several other UN operations.

The author’s conclusions are consistent with but expand upon her findings from the Haiti mission.

1) Information Operations must be in the mandate and must be a major focus of effort from day one. Although the author has a limited focus, on information as public affairs or public diplomacy, her points are all relevant to the larger appreciation of Information Operations as inclusive of decision-support and tactical-operational Peacekeeping Intelligence, as well as the larger concept of Information Peacekeeping.

2) Secretary General’s Special Representative (SGSR), the military force commander, and the police force commander must agree on unified public information operations and an integrated staff with a single coherent message.

3) Standing staffs and normal tour lengths are essential to success. The somewhat common practice of Member states rotating people in and out in 30-90 day cycles is simply not professional and ultimately undermines the mission.

4) Considerable numbers of language-qualified translators and interpreters are required.

5) In illiterate societies (such as Haiti), radio and music rule. Strong radio programs can be extremely helpful, but only if hundreds of thousands of portable radios, and the batteries to power them, are given out. When confronting violence on the street, or seeking to break up gathering mobs, music has extraordinary power to diffuse anger.

While the author is most diplomatic in addressing the facts, it is clear from this book that the Department of Public Information (DPI) at the UN has still not matured, and is still a major obstacle to the implementation of the Brahimi Report recommendations on creating strategic, operational, and tactical decision support or intelligence capabilities for all UN operations. In my personal view, the next head of the DPI needs to be given one simple order: “turn DPI into a global grid for information collection and information sharing, or find a new job.” DPI today is 77 one-way streets, and generally immature one-way streets with potholes. DPI has no understanding of peacekeeping intelligence, information peacekeeping, information metrics, or information as a substitute for money and guns. In the context of what the Brahimi Report seeks to accomplish–all of it good and urgently needed–DPI appears to be a huge cancer within the UN, one that must be operated on before the larger UN information environment can become effective.

The author adds to the literature in articulating six principles for outward communications of message in a peacekeeping operation; in brief, 1) public perceptions are a strategic factor; 2) international and local public opinion impact on the political influence that impacts on tactical effectiveness; 3) external information campaign must be a strategic focus from day one; 4) education campaigns, e.g. on the rule of law, are vital aspects of peacekeeping campaigns; 5) culturally-sensitive messaging is a must; and 6) transparency of policy and objectives is a pre-condition for message success.

The notes and references in this book are quite professional. One wonders if the Brazilians and the Americans are reading the DPKO Mid and Post Mission Assessment Reports from Haiti in 1996, or simply making the same mistakes anew.

See also:
Peacekeeping Intelligence: Emerging Concepts for the Future
Information Operations: All Information, All Languages, All the Time
The New Craft of Intelligence: Personal, Public, & Political–Citizen’s Action Handbook for Fighting Terrorism, Genocide, Disease, Toxic Bombs, & Corruption
THE SMART NATION ACT: Public Intelligence in the Public Interest

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