Text by Anders Fjellestad • Photo by Torbjørn Kjosvold • Video by Torgeir Haugaard
is such a fantastic city with so much history. Seeing it from here, you really can understand
the importance of the city."
General Kristin Lund is standing on the balcony of the magnificent Government
House – the headquarters of UNTSO, the UN mission in the Middle East. From here she can
see right at the Temple Mount with its famous Western Wall and Dome of the
But the beautiful hillside across the valley is a symbol of the long-lasting
conflict between Israelis and Arabs. In the past century alone, the religious
hotspot has been ruled by the Ottoman Empire, the United Kingdom and
Jordan – until Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967.
different perspectives when standing here. You come very close to the situation", says Lund, pointing to her own
staff at the headquarters. Everyone is represented here: Israelis, Druze, and
Palestinians – Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
The UN veteran
2017, Lund took over as commander for the oldest UN mission in the world. The main
purpose of UNTSO is observing and maintaining the armistice agreements between
Israel and its neighbours. It is no easy task, a fact the gentle Major
General is well aware of. But then again, Lund is one of Norway’s most experienced officers. She started her UN career back in 1986 – in the Middle East as a soldier in Lebanon.
immediately got hooked, and since then I have tried to get as much international service as
possible. My experience from international missions has shaped me as a leader, in both good and bad ways."
I spend much of my time travelling between the five countries we operate in: Israel, Egypt, Jordan,
Lebanon, and Syria
she took over as military leader of the UN mission in Cyprus, becoming the
organisation’s first ever female force commander. Three years later, she took another
step and became the very first female commander for UNTSO.
But for someone who started her military career back in
the 1970s, Lund has gotten used to being the "first woman" in various roles and
departments. She is also very relaxed about the fact that she heads a UN
mission in the "middle of the storm".
is very interesting but also challenging. I spend much of my time
travelling between the five countries we operate in: Israel, Egypt, Jordan,
Lebanon, and Syria."
not exaggerating. Travelling is indeed an essential part of her job. In the
highly complex Arab–Israeli conflict, regular meetings and dialogue with
the parties is a must. UNTSO has observer groups in South Lebanon and on the Golan,
in addition to offices in all the five countries. Lund spends on average 24
hours in a car every week.
"I meet our
observers regularly and I have regular talks with the foreign and defence
departments in our five countries. In addition, I also meet with embassies,
contributors, and non-governmental organisations", she says.
that her office in Government House normally is empty. But in February, she managed
a whooping fourteen consecutive office days in Jerusalem – a new personal best.
incredible. I was able to walk around in the building and spend a lot of time talking to
all my employees", she laughs.
The art of
As the UN
chief in the Middle East, Lund needs to balance between all the actors and
parties in the region. Even an innocent statement or a photo on social media
can be misinterpreted and create commotion.
biggest challenge is acting correctly and being perceived as impartial. I try
to use common sense, but you constantly need think about what you say
– especially on social media", she says.
media is powerful, indeed. Earlier this year, US President Donald Trump
recognised the Golan as Israeli territory. Last year, the President also declared that the
USA recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Both declarations were made
on Twitter, resulting in strong protests throughout the Middle East. That did not
exactly make Lund’s job any easier, but the Major General is still convinced
that the UN mission can make a difference.
important because the parties must relate to us. Our people have regular talks
with governors and local authorities. They ask critical questions, they monitor
what local authorities do and report back to us", Lund points out.
that the UN Security Council is the only international mechanism that can
decide how nations must relate to each other in order to end conflicts.
everyone is happy about the UN. That’s just how it is. I have heard comments
like: ‘The UN has no function’, Lund says.
Her answer to
that is quite simple:
“I tell them
that if they are unhappy, they must address it through their national representation
at the UN headquarters in New York City. I’m just doing my job.”
Les mer om
|en_241_kristinlunduntso||en_242_theunwantsmorewoment||/en/newsroom/the-un-wants-more-women-to-serve||/media/PubImages/kvinner-fn-tobb.jpg||The UN wants more women to serve||Just 4 per cent of the personnel in UN missions are women and more than 30 countries do not have a single woman in UN service. The UN now takes steps to increase the number of women in its organisation. ||en_241_kristinlunduntso||http://forsvaret.no/en/Lists/RelatedPages/DispForm.aspx?ID=136|
The Return to
A solution for lasting peace in the Middle East seems far away – however, the Norwegian
general remains optimistic.
to believe in the things you do, if not you need to find something else to do.
Although the situation has not gotten any easier in the past year, we are also
seeing some progress”, she says.
especially applies to Syria, where the brutal conflict now is centred to some
smaller areas. Last autumn, UNTSO returned to Syria after five years of
absence. Now they are rebuilding observation posts and camps on the Syrian side
of the Golan.
“We are slowly
returning and we can once again talk to the people in the area. These things
are the bright spots in the situation, and we see that it matters to the locals
that we are back."
more challenging than NATO
The UN might
have a reputation of seeming slow and bureaucratic, but Lund underlines the
importance of the organisation.
UN mission is a lot more challenging than a NATO operation, I would say.
UN setting you need to take many more aspects into account. For example,
you must be diplomatic and have a lot of patience, and you need to
listen to the involved parties”, she says, adding:
that if something were to happen in Norway, we are fully dependent on support
from other countries. Indeed, we do have NATO, but we know that NATO
operations depend on other countries outside the Alliance after some time.
That's what makes the UN so important.”
|en_241_kristinlunduntso||en_166_middleeast||/en/exercise-and-operations/operations/middle-east||/media/PubImages/HMKG_UNTSO_Brendefur_051115_03.jpg||Middle East||Personnel from the Norwegian Armed Forces participate in several international operations in the Middle East.||en_241_kristinlunduntso||http://forsvaret.no/en/Lists/RelatedPages/DispForm.aspx?ID=128|