Launch of the UN Deployment Review mobile app: lessons learned about peacekeeping at the touch of a button
By: Hana Smith
A new tool called the Deployment Review mobile application was recently launched to enhance effective organizational learning in the context of United Nations peacekeeping missions. At its core is the understanding that knowledge management is the responsibility of everyone, including civilian, military and police leadership and personnel at all levels within the UN headquarters and field missions. Together, they must adapt and react proactively to evolving operational contexts.
The development of the application is in line with the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative and its implementation strategy for the next two years, called A4P+; it contributes to efforts to enhance missions’ impact by improving strategic and operational integration, capabilities and mindsets, as well as accountability to peacekeepers.
The app is also a reflection of how digital technologies present new opportunities to improve the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations, and supports the implementation of the Strategy for the Digital Transformation of UN Peacekeeping.
At the outset of creating the tool, the focus was on several essential questions. What are the most effective ways to identify best practices from UN peacekeeping uniformed personnel? How can these be most effectively captured — and shared more widely? What system could help ensure the most dynamic and engaging process for this?
For a lesson learned to have impact, it must be applied into daily operations of the mandate and contribute to organizational change. Only in this way can the exercise help to improve performance on the ground. Part of this process is the incorporation of lessons learned into United Nations guidance development, training curricula, and planning processes. These should include good practices, challenging events, and innovations carried out by everyone working in peace operations.
As an example, in the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), the United Nations Police (UNPOL) reported a surge of organized crime as of 2014. In response, the Integrated Operational Strategy for the Fight Against Insecurity (SOLI) was put into effect between 2016 and 2018. SOLI offered a community policing approach which included the training and transfer of technical knowledge from UNPOL experts to the national police. It helped increase trust between civilians and the national police force. After SOLI was implemented, UNPOL observed a decrease in crime within the region and an increase in citizen engagement. This was made possible through the use of community-based information channels and effective police interventions. These actions also increased the safety and security of civilians.
Consequently, SOLI was implemented across seven other duty stations within MONUSCO. This decision was taken in consultation with various stakeholders including local community leaders and Mission leadership. The aggregate impact of SOLI was an observable decrease in organized crime which helped to protect the local population. Lessons learned from the implementation of SOLI made it clear that this strategy should be expanded across other areas of the Mission where crime rates remain high.
Through examples like this, which feed the new application, learning from past experiences provides an opportunity for continuous improvements to be made in United Nations peacekeeping through collective efforts made by all involved.
A call for “lessons learning” support — how the app came to life
“Lessons learning” in the context of pre-deployment falls under the umbrella of capacity building. These are areas in which Member States are supported by the Secretariat — and each other — to better prepare for deployment, enhance operational readiness and have the logistical and financial support, infrastructure, and equipment required to support mandate implementation on the ground.
In 2019, a survey was conducted by the Light Coordination Mechanism (LCM), which coordinates capacity building support within the Department of Peace Operations (DPO); the survey was created to better understand the needs of Member States, and asked questions regarding the provision of financial, logistical, equipment, and infrastructure support.
The results highlighted the need for better access to best practices and lessons learned collected from both good and poor experiences from the field. It also underscored that the process of collecting and developing lessons from Member States’ experiences needed to be clarified and improved.
Later that year, the LCM met for the first time with troop- and police-contributing countries (T/PCCs) and capacity building providers at the United Nations Regional Service Centre in Entebbe, Uganda, to discuss capacity building assistance including the need to learn from past experiences. Discussions provided the UN Secretariat with a better understanding of what was lacking, and how to best address this critical gap.
In 2020, the LCM worked with 16 Member States to develop a “lessons learning” methodology to help T/PCCs, as well as training centres and national institutions, to establish and develop their own lessons learning processes. The COVID-19 pandemic provided the opportunity to transform the methodology into a more flexible and user-friendly mobile application; as a result, the Deployment Review mobile application was launched. The app, now available on Android and iOS, provides this lessons learning methodology and practical templates via a more flexible platform, whenever and wherever needed.
By facilitating knowledge sharing among uniformed deployed personnel, the app helps to improve the training, preparation, and support phases of deployment; enhance performance and mandate delivery by T/PCCs; and increase the safety and security of peacekeepers.
The Deployment Review app serves as another step towards the efforts of the Secretariat to assist Member States in fulfilling their needs to exchange what was learned in previous deployment experiences to ensure future missions are prepared and best equipped to help countries achieve lasting peace.
Hana Smith is the Associate Programme Management Officer at the United Nations Light Coordination Mechanism (DPO/DPET).
 Source: After-Action Review on the Integrated Operational Strategy for the Fight Against Insecurity (SOLI), 2019.