Civil-military cooperation practiced in worldwide role-play

With more than 2,000 participants at nine game sites around the world, Viking 18 resembles a gigantic DataHack. In one of the world’s largest multifunctional exercises civilian actors, police and military from different countries gather to practice their different roles and tasks in a fictive international peace operation. The scenario builds on several difficult conflicts of today.

During the ten-day training the participants are exposed to all sorts of challenges that they have to handle together. Viking 18 is a so called computer-assisted training carried out in an office environment, with morning meetings and report writing. It unfolds in front of computer screens and through realistic role-plays. The latest guidelines and knowledge from headquarters as well as from the field are used in order to make the training as relevant as possible for the participants.

Anna-Linn Persson at FBA is responsible for the development of the civilian part of the game in Viking 18, namely the part of the game that is targeting staff within the UN, EU, government agencies and non-governmental organizations. They will practice tasks such as protecting civilians, securing respect for human rights, supporting peace- and dialogue processes on a national and local level, creating a stable and secure environment, assisting security sector reform and promoting rule of law. The content of the training is developed in close collaboration with the Swedish Armed Forces, the Swedish Police and intergovernmental organizations like the UN and EU.

– We have had a close dialogue with the UN and EU to check what kind of training needs they have in relation to the challenges in planning and performance of today’s peace operations and future trends. It has resulted in three prioritized areas, Anna-Linn Persson says.

Protection of civilians is of interest to all organizations that participate in Viking 18. It is about identifying threats against the population in the country where an international peace operation is deployed, and about assessing how the mission can reduce the communities at risk. Civilians suffer hard from the intractable conflicts of today and cannot always rely on their own government to protect them. Therefore, this is an important mandated task for about ten of the largest ongoing international UN missions.

Leadership is also a prevailing issue internationally, and current initiatives to improve leadership skills in the UN and EU peace operations are linked to the Viking exercise. Moreover, gender mainstreaming capacity is enhanced through gender advisers placed in strategic positions in the operations, which offers a training opportunity for the participants in Viking. These topics will be integrated in all documents that are produced for the role-play in Viking 18.

Anna-Linn Persson writes everything from peace agreements and Security Council resolutions to strategic policies and action plans for the Viking 18 scenario. In cooperation with UN’s department of peace keeping operations she also works on a handbook on protection of civilians that will be tested before and during the training. The handbook primarily targets the management of peace operations, but is also relevant for key personnel working with protection of civilians.

It is not a coincidence that the scenario reminds of the situation in some of the most difficult conflicts in Africa at the moment – Mali, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo –where today’s largest international peace operations are deployed.

– We also include elements of asymmetric warfare, cyber threats, organized crime and violent extremism since conflicts nowadays often consist of numerous groups with different incentives for their actions, says Anna-Linn Persson.

The game is developed during a number of workshops where thematic experts from civilian organizations, police, military, UN and EU contribute. The storyline is based on the major components in the training.

It is important for the training to operate properly. The 300-piece game management orchestrates various events to lead the training forward. The game is adjusted according to the participants’ reactions and actions.

All of a sudden something occurs and forces the participants to interact. There is an attack on the civilian population. Now the actors on the ground have to gather more information in order to do a situation analysis, come up with a common position and decide on the most appropriate measure. Sometimes civilian actors, military and police meet to coordinate their work. The meetings might also involve governmental and non-governmental representatives from the host country at national and local level.

– We want to practice coordination of events that are common in peace operations. For example by role-playing the steering committee on protection of civilians in a country, led by the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the country, that also includes the Head of Operations from the police and the military, Anna-Linn Persson explains.

Read more about Viking 18

Read more about the recruitment of participants

Read more about the training methods in the exercise

Frequently asked questions

Important information for participants in Viking 18


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Saba Nowzari

Saba Nowzari is expert on women, peace and security, Mali and the Middle East

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