Working smarter together to keep the peace, UNFICYP military, police and civilian peacekeepers lead the way with integrated operations

14 Jun 2023

Working smarter together to keep the peace, UNFICYP military, police and civilian peacekeepers lead the way with integrated operations

United Nations Peacekeeping missions around the world help countries navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace. They have unique strengths, including legitimacy, burden sharing, and an ability to deploy troops and police from around the world, integrating them with civilian peacekeepers to address a range of mandates set by the UN Security Council and the General Assembly.

In Cyprus, “working so closely with my UNPOL and military colleagues in an integrated manner plays a key role in ensuring the smooth facilitation of daily civilian activities in the buffer zone.  Integration enables UNFICYP to respond quickly to actual and emerging sources of tension”, highlights Laura Gava, Civil Affairs Officer at UNFICYP.

UNFICYP's Civil Affairs Section was established in 1998 to reflect the increasingly civilian nature of the issues confronting the Mission in Cyprus. With a military status quo, a longstanding ceasefire, and the establishment of a buffer zone between the opposing forces, normal civilian activities resumed throughout the island and have been increasing in the buffer zone in recent years.

Laura explains that the concept of integration comes to life daily with her work on the ground, “whether it is about solving farmers’ disputes or following through on unauthorized activities. Whether it is about liaising with authorities to agree on maintenance of our patrol tracks and camps or providing escorts to municipal officials and utilities companies. Or whether it is about facilitating all sorts of possible events, from religious pilgrimages to more mundane rally competitions, integration ensures that all components operate in a coherent and mutually supportive manner.” 

Civil Affairs Section is an integrated component, headed by a civilian Chief and comprising of 13 civilians, assisted by 5 UNPOL members and 2 military officers. In addition, 6 UNPOL, 6 Military and 3 civilians are based in different offices across the island to maintain close relations with civil society and local community leaders.

“Integrated Civil Affairs is unique, since it is the only three cross-components section under civilian leadership,” adds Marijana Bulatovic, who is one of Civil Affairs Police Liaison Officers. She notes that “by embedding uniformed and non-uniformed staff together, the work of the section becomes very productive and streamlines the United Nations peace support processes on the island.”

Furthermore, Civil Affairs Military Liaison Officer, Carlos Javier Aghem, acknowledges that “the fact that the three-components work in an integrated way helps us to carry out our tasks more effectively and efficiently. It also increases the cooperation between the components, narrowing the differences among various approaches to solving problems.”

“The fact that the three components work in an integrated way help us to fulfil the mandate more effectively,” he concludes.

The roots of the civil affairs function of UNFICYP can be traced back to the original mandate with the condition that the Mission should contribute to a return to normal conditions on the island. After the events of 1974 and the resulting displacement of large numbers of the population, UNFICYP was mandated to provide humanitarian assistance to the population across the island. In Cyprus, Civil Affairs Section is responsible for facilitating activities that promote harmony and trust-building between the communities.