Message from the Ombudsman (September 24, 2012)

Ombudsman Co-Hosts Fourth International Conference of Ombudsman Institutions for the Armed Forces

I am honoured and pleased to be co-hosting the Fourth International Conference of Ombudsman Institutions for the Armed Forces (ICOAF) – the first time this prestigious conference will be held in North America. The aim of this conference is to reach out to other states in the near future, in particular post-conflict and transition states, with a view to sharing best practices and lessons learned with respect to the protection of human rights of military personnel. The ICOAF initiative also looks to establish ties with states that do not have an ombudsman institution for the military but have expressed an interest in learning from the experiences of established ombudsman organizations.
 

When the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces - one of the world's leading institutions in the areas of security sector reform and governance - approached me to co-host this event, I knew it would be a significant undertaking but one that would be tremendously worthwhile.
 

To date, three conferences have taken place: the first at the German Bundestag in Berlin in May 2009; the second in the National Assembly of Austria in Vienna in April 2010; and the third at the Palace of Belgrade in Serbia in April 2011.
 

This year’s conference includes sessions on capacity development and understanding, developing, and instituting outreach plans. Capacity development will focus on building a firm foundation with the help of well-established institutions who will assist emerging institutions seeking to function at their full potential.
 

Effective outreach leads to a better understanding of constituents needs and provides constituents with a better understanding of ombudsman institutions and how to receive help for their issues and concerns.
 

Every international conference ends with a declaration for moving forward so lessons learned can be put into practice. In previous years, conference participants have helped increase awareness of post-traumatic stress-disorder, the support of military families, the need for respectful handling of diversity in armed forces, and the importance of openness and transparency.
 

ICOAF is taking place at the Government Conference Centre on Sussex Drive in Ottawa, Ontario from September 23 to September 25. The conference includes representatives of ombudsman institutions from over twenty-five different nations. I look forward to facilitating the exchange amongst military ombudsman institutions around the world as we work towards improving our organizations and the lives of those we serve.
 

You can find more information on this initiative at http://icoaf.org/.
 

Pierre Daigle
Ombudsman

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