15ICOAF meeting in Vienna
The 15th International Conference of Ombuds Institutions for the Armed Forces (15ICOAF) was held in Vienna (Austria) on 18-20 June 2023. The meeting was co-hosted by the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF) and the Austrian Parliamentary Commission for the Federal Armed Forces.
EUROMIL’s President, Mr Emmanuel Jacob and Policy Officer, Ms Dimitra Koutouzi participated at the conference.
This year’s 15ICOAF explored the role of ombuds institutions in governing the impacts of climate change on the Armed Forces. The first session explored the nexus between climate change and security that impact the Armed Forces. During the discussion it became clear that climate change acts as a threat multiplier and it affects the troops in multiple ways; need for necessary training, equipment and weapon systems. Thus, it is necessary for the troops to be prepared, increase cooperation between the different actors, both political and the industry.
During the second session, the role of the ombuds institutions in acclimatising the Armed Forces was discussed. This session focused on the actions that the European Union is taking in this regard and how can the ombuds institutions contribute. National initiatives were also presented, as the “Green Barracks” projects in Germany or the Philippines’ strategy on climate change. Moreover, during the third session a debate took place between the participants on how to make the ombuds institutions more environmental sustainable.
The second day started with a session dedicated on the Armed Forces and mental health. EUROMIL’s President, Emmanuel Jacob, presented his organisation’s work on the issue by underlining the importance of including military personnel in European regulations concerning mental health and suicide prevention, as well as cooperate with partners and work on di-stigmatisation of the victims. Overall, the participants discussed the challenges that soldiers face on this issue and stressed that a tailor made approach is essential.
The last session explored the shifts in defence policy and the consequences for the Ombuds institutions. The discussion evolved around the war in Ukraine that has led to a new geopolitical environment, the rise of cyber and hybrid threats. Climate change also represents a new kind of threat that troops have to respond and adapt to. Hence, new capabilities building should be included in the national strategies focusing on equipping the Armed Forces with green technologies, adequate training and equipment. Consequently, the Armed Forces can effectively deal with climate related risks, and hybrid threats.
Lastly, the participants adopted the 15th ICOAF statement and agreed on the next meeting, which will take place in Berlin (Germany) in autumn 2023.