During one of the very first sessions that opened the Romanian Peace Forum, a subject was brought up that is not widely discussed in the press or among everyday citizens. We were delighted to find out that, “Yes, Romania does have peacekeeping missions abroad.”
The Jandarmerie, a public institution aimed at maintaining order in communities inside Romania, has deployed a significant number of their forces to other countries for peacekeeping missions. In collaboration with international organizations such as the United Nations, NATO, and the European Union, Jandarmerie troops have been sent into various wars all across the globe. The first ever mission was in 2008, in Kosovo, in the context of Kosovo’s aim at gaining independence from Serbia, by right of self-determination. Soon after, other peacekeeping missions followed in other hot conflict zones, such as Ukraine, Afghanistan, The Republic of Congo, Haiti, and East Timor.
In the audience, we had the privilege to sit in the company of some of the forces who have been sent on previous peacekeeping missions abroad. A first question was addressed regarding the difference between what those deployed learned during their training and what they had to confront in the conflict zone. The difference between theory and reality was largely discussed. Those deployed abroad recalled a “re-humanization” of what a conflict implies. According to one of the individuals deployed in South Sudan, ‘the moment you arrive in a conflict zone and see the brutal poverty and locals killing other locals for a loaf of bread, all those statistics learned in training suddenly disappear and are replaced with a nihilistic reality.’ Suddenly, the locals learned about in classrooms had a face, a personality. Also, those labelled ‘the bad guy’ by the media suddenly do not seem as ‘bad’. When faced with difficulties regarding how to put food on the table today, human instincts can often take over one’s judgement. A state of confusion hits you, and all you want to do is try to bring back some of that humanity where there is a lack of it.
Also in the audience, we had members of NGOs focused on human rights, members of the civil society, and entrepreneurs with democracy-oriented initiatives. This was an opportune moment to open up a dialogue between the public institutions aimed at providing us with a secure environment and those who directly benefit from their effort. All of us concluded that there is a communication barrier between the public and private sector. We all recognized the fact that there are things we can learn from one another, and consequently that we should renounce past prejudices and learn to engage in peacebuilding and peacekeeping initiatives together.