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Creativity and resourcefulness: what it takes to be a successful Political Advisor (POLAD)

From 4-8 May 2015, the GCSP welcomed fifteen participants from thirteen European members states for the module on skills enhancement of the 4th ESDC Advanced Course for Political Advisors in EU Missions and Operations.

Sponsored by the European Security and Defence College (ESDC) in partnership with the Austrian National Defence Academy and the Egmont Institute in Brussels, the course caters to current and future political advisors working in national capitals, EU institutions, EU agencies, as well as in EU missions and operations.

The overall course provides participants an understanding of the tasks and challenges they will face as political advisors in an EU mission or operation at both the operational and strategic levels. It details the core principles of the EU’s External Action as well as the framework, skills and working techniques for political advisors both in capitals and in the field. The course also creates the space for participants to form networks in their field – especially valuable for a growing profession.

The second module of the 4th ESDC Advanced Course for Political Advisors in EU Missions and Operations communicates knowledge and skill enhancement cognitively and experientially, relying on the experience and perspectives of participants and trainers to contribute to an engaging learning environment adapted to adult learning. This is what is coined “The GCSP Way”. The course focused on enhancing the skills set required to effectively serve in political advisory roles. This included conflict-analysis, negotiation, intelligence analysis, mediation, effective writing and communication. All sessions were highly interactive and employed a variety of case studies for maximum application of skills.

Speakers and trainers hailed from various international institutions, agencies, and governments. The module started off with Mr Heino Van Houwelingen of the Conflict Prevention, Peacebuilding and Mediation Division of the European External Action Service (EEAS) leading the group through a political and conflict analysis on the Northern Nigeria case study. The course also included workshops spearheaded by two GCSP Associate Fellows: Matthias Siegfried, who heads the Mediation Support Unit at swisspeace, guided the group through a day on peace negotiation, peace mediation and mediation support, and Jean-Paul Rouiller, director of the Geneva Centre for Training and Analysis of Terrorism (GCTAT), guided the group through an analysis of the intelligence around the Paris attacks in January 2015.

The participants received personalised feedback from seasoned journalists on how communicate effectively through the media during practical television and radio workshops. Finally, the module culminated in a discussion on challenges in advising along with a case study with GCSP’s own Dr Carl Ungerer, Head of the Leadership, Crisis and Conflict Management Programme. With over 20 years of experience as both a practitioner and academic in international security affairs, Carl also worked as a Political Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of his home country.

The participants will head to Vienna this June to complete the third and final module of the course at the Austrian National Defence Academy.