Iceland Crisis Response Unit (ICRU)
Since the 1950s, the Icelandic government has contributed personnel to various peacekeeping missions. Contributions to peace building and peacekeeping became an increasingly important part of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs' international activities in the nineties, leading to the founding of the Iceland Crisis Response Unit as a separate entity within the Ministry in 2001.
The activities of the ICRU consists mainly of contributions to multilateral organisations and secondments of civilian experts to the field. Since Iceland has no military forces, only civilian personnel are seconded. Civilian participation is seen as a vital bridge between conventional peacekeeping and economic development and is therefore very important in building and maintaining peace through a comprehensive approach.
Iceland's National Action Plan on the implementation of UNSCR 1325 on women, peace and security plays an important role in ICRU's work. Before deployment, all seconded personnel receive education on gender equality and the implementation of UNSCR 1325 on women, peace and security. In recent years, ICRU has been striving for gender balance among seconded personnel. For the first time, in 2011, an equal number of men and women were seconded to the field, and were recruited for a similar length of time. The ICRU intends to maintain that balance.
The ICRU deploys roughly 10-20 Icelandic experts at any given time, for missions which range anywhere from a few weeks to two years. Deployments are primarily civilian experts who are seconded to international organisations such as UN agencies, NATO, or the OSCE.
The ICRU has deployed more experts to Afghanistan than any other country. The work of the ICRU in Afghanistan began with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission and continues now under the Resolute Support Mission (RSM). Icelandic personnel have been engaged in development projects, gender equality efforts, policy formation and the administration of the camp at Kabul International Airport (KAIA). Additionally, a handful of experts have worked with UN agencies in Afghanistan.
The first Icelandic peacekeepers in the 1950s were police officers deployed to the Middle East. Since then, Palestinians have been supported both in the Occupied Territories as well as in neighbouring countries with Palestinian refugees. Icelandic secondees have provided expertise in various fields, such as humanitarian and social assistance, administration, policy formation and information management. The main partners have been UNRWA, UNICEF, UNHCR and OCHA.
Icelandic civilian experts have undertaken many missions in conflict and post-conflict areas in Africa. Operations include development and support of police forces in Liberia, short-term deployments to aid in humanitarian crises via the Stand-By Partnership, and emergency coordination with the World Food Programme. Experts have also been sent to work with UNIFEM (now UN Women), UNICEF, UNHCR in various African countries.
The hostilities in the Balkans in the nineties were a catalyst in Icelandic participation in peacekeeping. Initially, the participants were medical professionals serving in Norwegian and British field hospitals. Later, police officers took part in UNMIK police operations in Kosovo and EUPM in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the ICRU has enjoyed a long and fruitful cooperation with UNIFEM (now UN WOMEN) in the region.
Icelandic authorities have provided a number of participants to both short-term and long-term election observation missions from international organizations, particularly for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The observation missions are intended to support free and democratic elections in OSCE member states. Great measures are taken to ensure equal representation of both men and women in the employment of observers.