Partnering for Peace: The United States and Italy Promote Peacekeeping

Since 2005, the United States and Italy have worked hand in hand to increase international peace and security through their partnership at the Centre of Excellence for Stability Police Units (COESPU).  Located in Vicenza, Italy, COESPU is an international training center that focuses on increasing the global capacity of formed police units for United Nations and regional organizations’ peace operations.  The United States works in close coordination with Italy in implementing COESPU training, including through the provision of significant funding and programmatic support via the Department of State’s Global Peace Operations Initiative.  To date, COESPU has graduated more than 5,000 foreign police unit (FPU) leaders and trainers from more than 40 partner countries, strengthening the effectiveness of units in UN and regional organizations’peace operations and building the capacity of partner countries to train their own FPUs.

FPUs consist of 120 to 140 police officers, who train and deploy to peace operations as a unit.  These units help fill the security gap between military troops and civilian police in peace operations and perform tasks such as crowd control, high risk arrests, high-visibility patrols, riot control, critical infrastructure security, VIP security, election security, and prison security.  They secure borders and protect civilians, especially women and children.  These tasks are essential in post-conflict countries recovering from war, where oftentimes host nation police forces are not yet able to effectively manage public order.

As the traditional peacekeeping observer missions of the past have given way to more robust peace enforcement missions, the key role FPUs play in promoting stability has become even more vital.  The first FPUs were deployed to the United Nations Mission in Kosovo and in United Nationals Transition Administration in East Timor in 1999.  Since that time, the use of FPUs in UN and regional organizations’ missions has grown exponentially.  As of December 2014, FPUs comprise almost 10 percent of peacekeepers deployed globally in UN peace operations.  They are currently deployed in significant numbers in nine UN and regional organizations’ peace operations in:  Somalia, the Central African Republic, Mali, Haiti, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur, Liberia, South Sudan, and Cote d’Ivoire. 

Officers from the Italian Carabinieri, a national force with dual military and policing responsibilities, train formed police units at COESPU.  The Carabinieri have significant experience conducting stability policing operations and providing training support to nascent police forces. In recent years, the Carabinieri have deployed in support of peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo, Lebanon, Haiti, Iraq, and Afghanistan, providing them with key insights regarding international stability policing and stability police training.  In addition to Carabinieri trainers, subject matter experts and guest trainers from partner countries, non-governmental organizations, academia, the UN, and the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense also assist in providing instruction at COESPU. This comprehensive approach to training ensures that trainees receive instruction that encompasses FPU best practices.  Importantly, all coursework at COESPU is based on UN training curricula to ensure the interoperability of FPUs in UN/regional peace operations. 

The principal objective of training at COESPU is two-fold:  (1) the deployment of highly trained FPUs to UN or regional organizations’ peace operations and (2) the development of national partner country trainer cadres with the capability to independently and effectively train FPUs.  Courses conducted at COESPU encompass the following subjects:  Formed Police Unit Commanders/Senior Staff, High Risk Operations, Civilian-Police-Military Relations, Protection of Civilians/Sexual and Gender Based Violence, Training Building, and Gender Protection. In addition to these courses, COESPU deploys teams of instructors to assist national and regional training centers in developing and implementing plans for FPU training.  Furthermore, COESPU conducts FPU training courses, wherein the training cadre (20 to 25 personnel) from an individual partner country attends four weeks of training at COESPU focused on planning, organizing, and conducting FPU training.  Next, the training cadre returns to the partner country to conduct an additional four weeks of pre-deployment training for an entire FPU.  Carabinieri trainers, oftentimes accompanied by instructors from the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, travel to the partner country to serve as mentors during this second phase of training.   All instruction at COESPU utilizes a train-the-trainer methodology to promote partner country self-sufficiency by ensuring that trainees not only learn FPU concepts, but are able to teach these concepts upon return to their home country.

Since its inception, COESPU has worked in close concert with the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UNDPKO) in order to strengthen the quality of FPU training and to standardize FPU training worldwide.  In June 2010, COESPU and UNDPKO signed a formal memorandum of understanding cementing the partnership between the two organizations.  COESPU and UNDPKO cooperation now includes, but is not limited to, cooperation in the development of official UN FPU doctrine, lecturer exchanges, and coordination on training candidate selection.  The two organizations coordinate frequently to ensure that training at COESPU aligns with UN best practices and is as effective as possible.

As the breadth and scope of peace operations become more complex, FPUs are becoming increasingly important in promoting peace and stability in post-conflict environments.  FPUs assist in fostering the rule of law and therefore lay the groundwork for stability and recovery in countries ravaged by war.  The U.S.-Italian partnership at COESPU ensures that partner country FPUs deploying to these operations are equipped with the skills necessary to succeed while at the same time building partner capacity to train their own FPUs. By supporting COESPU, the United States and Italy are assisting in promoting a more peaceful world.

About the Author: Andrew Viscardo serves in the Global Peace Operations Initiative Division of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.



sam w.
Alabama, USA
March 2, 2015
love the content
Carabinieri mentor instructs students during High Risk Operations Course at the Centre of Excellence for Stability Police Units
Posted by Andrew Viscardo
February 20, 2015


Latest Stories

January 19, 2017

What We Got Right

With a new administration taking office this week, it is natural to assess the inheritance it will receive from the… more