Cultural Awareness and Public Perceptions in NATO Operations
A seminar „Assessing the Impact and Role of Cultural Awareness and Public Perceptions in NATO Operations” took place on October 24, 2013 in NATO Headquarters in Brussels. The seminar was organized by the Czech Republic together with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and in co-operation with NATO Political Affairs and Security Policy Division.
This unique and path-breaking event was linked to the activities of the Czech Republic as the NATO Contact Point Embassy in Amman, Jordan which the Czech Republic has been performing since January 2013. Open and fruitful discussion amongst more than 70 participants from 34 allied and partner countries taking part in the seminar clearly demonstrated that NATO’s partnership policy is a two-way street whereby partners have a lot to bring to the table.
Deep theoretical knowledge and extensive practical experience with coping with the challenge of overcoming cultural differences in NATO operations and missions (especially in Kosovo and Afghanistan) were shared across participants. Serious or tragic consequences of the lack of cultural awareness in exalted situations that could have disproportionately negative impact on NATO operation results, or even an overall stabilisation and reconstruction of the host country were widely recognized. Recent experience from NATO-led operations have also demonstrated the existence of a gap in the field of cultural awareness and public perceptions and related training on the part of the Alliance.
The seminar was opened by H.E. J. Šedivý, the Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to NATO and the Assistant Secretary General T. Stamatopulos. The keynote speech delivered by the guest of honour, His Royal Highness Prince Feisal of Jordan, set the overall context for the ensuing presentations and discussions. A wide range of cultural awareness-related lessons learned and best practices from operations were addressed and specific capabilities that individual Allies and Partners have at their disposal were identified. Representatives of the Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF) informed the audience about the specialised courses provided by their Peace Operation Training Center that are available for both NATO and partner countries. The gender aspects of cultural awareness in operations was introduced by a representative of the JAF Directorate for Women´s Affairs. In the concluding debate the participants supported the seminar organizers´ ambition to initiate a further discussion in the Alliance that would lead to a systematic lessons learned collecting and the development of a standardised cultural awareness pre-deployment training module.