Review: Public Information Campaigns in Peacekeeping : The UN Experience in Haiti

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

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4.0 out of 5 stars Best available overview, narrow focus,

December 12, 2004
Ingrid Lehmann
This is a fine monograph, the best available overview in this area that I could find, and well worth the price. It is also included, in a different form, in the author’s book, “Peacekeeping and Public Information,” itself a seminal work, and therefore if you buy the latter, you need not buy this one. If you are focused largely on Haiti, this is priceless.

The author’s primary focus is on what some would call “public diplomacy” or “public affairs” information, that is, the message that goes out from the United Nations force (civil, military, police) to all concerned–the world at large, the participating governments, the Member governments not participating, all other NGOs and organizational participants, the host government, and the indigenous belligerents and bystanders (many of them refugees).

The author’s two core points are that information operations must be in the UN mandate or it will be unlikely to be addressed as a coherent unified program by the leaders on the ground; and that the information program *must* be unified–there cannot be separate SGSR, force commander, and police commander messages and programs.

Although the author makes passing reference to intelligence and the value of information collected overtly by elements of the total force, both this work and the book specifically avoid any discussion of intelligence in the form of decision support, as the Brahimi Report has stated so forcefully is needed by the UN at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.

The author makes very good points with respect to the need for continuity of operations (too many personnel on short tours make it impossible to succeed), for substantial numbers of language-qualified interpreters and translators, and for an educational program to teach all concerned within the force, the message, and their role in getting the message out.

The author touches very lightly on the fact that no amount of message is going to save a completely screwed up mission with the wrong mandate, insufficient forces, insufficient aid, and lousy tactical leadership.

In my view, in the age of information, the concepts of peacekeeping intelligence and information peacekeeping, two different concepts, are going to comprise the heart of stabilization operations world-wide. Emerging technologies including application oriented intelligence networks, semantic web and synthetic information architecture, super-sized federated data systems, and fully funded commercial information support operations, will dramatically alter what we do, when we do it, and how we do it, as we all seek to avoid war and foster prosperity within the lesser developed regions of the world.

The author is, in my view, one of the intellectual pioneers whose voice must be heard, and it is my hope that we will see more from her on this topic in the very near future.

See also:
Peacekeeping Intelligence: Emerging Concepts for the Future

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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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