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UN military experts on mission and staff officers

Swiss military personnel in South Sudan

Swiss military observers in Lebanon

This link leads you directly to the dates of our next training course for UN military experts of mission (SUNMOC). 

In 1989, the Federal Council decided to contribute to UN peace support missions with military observers as well and deployed the first Swiss military observers (also known as blue berets) in 1990. Because of the growing complexity of conflicts and thus of UN missions too, not only military observers are deployed but also liaison officers and military advisers as well as military staff officers. The designation ‘UN military expert on mission’ summarises the three functions of military observers, liaison officers and military advisers. Today, 24 Swiss nationals are serving in peace support operations as military observers and staff officers in the following countries: 13 Swiss officers in the Middle East, 1 in South Sudan, 6 in Mali, 3 in Kashmir and 1 in the Western Sahara.  

UN military experts on mission are unarmed, must be strictly impartial and serve in international teams. They are without exception especially trained officers in the uniforms of the states that have sent them.  

In UN missions the staff officers serve as military specialists at headquarters of international military staffs or in integrated civilian, military or police structures and are also unarmed.  

Because the older UN missions such as UNTSO (Middle East), UNMOGIP (Kashmir) and MINURSO (Western Sahara) have a classical military observer mandate, the Swiss Armed Forces support them exclusively with military observers. A classical military observer mandate involves mainly monitoring an armistice, implementing peace agreements, negotiating between the parties involved and preventing a dangerous escalation of conflicts. Military observers patrol, observe, talk to protagonists on both sides of the cease-fire line and report to UN headquarters in New York. They act as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the UN Security Council in New York. 

As conflicts grow increasingly complex, the mandates of the various UN missions are also becoming more and more extensive and complex. The UN no longer merely monitors an armistice, but cooperates with civilian relief organisations to rebuild national structures and promote democracy. For these tasks not only military observers are required but other military personnel as well. Therefore, the Swiss Armed Forces support the missions of UNMISS (South Sudan) and MINUSMA (Mali) with staff officers too.  

The Swiss officers are particularly appreciated in all missions by the various parties because Switzerland is neutral, has no colonial past and no national interests to safeguard abroad. 

In 1988, the UN peace-keeping forces were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In the same year, the Federal Council decided to increase Swiss involvement in UN peace-keeping and peace support operations. Previously, Switzerland had provided only financial support to individual UN missions.