Monitoring the Ceasefire
Sylvia Rognvik, Monitoring Officer in Luhansk City, Luhansk Monitoring Team
Patrolling the Area of Opertations, Sylvia Rognvik (photo: private)
What is the main focus of your work? What is your typical day at work like?
As a Monitoring Officer for the OSCE SMM, I monitor the ceasefire agreement and the withdrawal of weapons from the contact line. I also report on human rights violations and humanitarian need, and facilitate dialogue between the opposing sides of the conflict. A typical day starts with a joint morning meeting, which includes a security brief. On patrol we talk to civilians, local administration, military commanders and soldiers on checkpoints about the general situation. If there has been shelling, we report on the incident and conduct crater analysis. We always try to verify and triangulate the information provided. Other days we monitor the withdrawal of tanks and heavy weapons, inspect storage sites or patrol military positions. Back in base we write a report and make preparations for tomorrows’ patrol. If we have been informed about any human rights violations or humanitarian needs, we follow up accordingly. Finally, there is a joint debrief for the senior management. However, every day is unique and completely unpredictable. You might think you have a regular day ahead, but you are usually wrong.
What do you find most challenging in your assignment?
It is a job that requires you to think on your feet, make decisions under pressure and adapt to a continuously changing environment. For me, one of the most challenging aspects of the job is to manage the expectations of the people you meet on the ground and to ensure that they understand what the SMM can and cannot do. Sometimes you also have to manage your own expectations, when you would like to do more for people you meet while having to accept the mandate you are operating within.
Which achievements are you most satisfied with?
The ability of the SMM, and my team in particular, to gain access to most areas, to establish good working relationships with key actors on the ground and to respond quickly to ceasefire violations. We do our utmost to report impartially and accurately from an area, and on a situation, that no one else has access to. In addition, most days include some minor achievement – be it that our report has led to humanitarian aid being delivered, or that we have facilitated infrastructure repair work so thousands of people are able to receive water, gas and electricity, or that we have facilitated dialogue between military commanders so an area becomes more peaceful.
What has made the strongest impression on you during your work?
The “every day heroes” who live along the contact line and are enduring the conflict: the miners that continue to work in the coal mines to keep them running even though they have not been paid for a year; the neighbours helping each other with building material and window glass when someone’s house has been shelled; the generosity of people who have lost everything and the ability of humans to remain hopeful and positive during the darkest of times.