The Cultural Backpack : Training soldiers to operate in unfamiliar environments : A research to the effects of the current cultural training programmes in the Dutch military and recommendations for the future

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Since the start of a significant participation by the Dutch armed forces in peace operations, the Dutch more or less assumed that they possess an almost natural sense of cultural sensitivity. This ‘natural ability’ supposedly manifested itself in the so called ‘Dutch Approach’. The believed natural ability was thought to be rooted in a combination of a colonial past and the current multicultural society in the Netherlands. However, recent developments in Dutch society and in mission areas showed the fallacy of the assumption of a ‘natural ability’ in cultural sensitivity. Recent research has shown that in Dutch society in general (and therefore also in the military) many people have developed a more negative attitude to people from a different culture. Furthermore, today’s missions take place in areas where a positive attitude no longer suffices to gain the ‘hearts and minds’ of the local population. Consequently, soldiers need to have adequate knowledge of local cultures and customs to successfully communicate with the people in their areas of operations. The development of this knowledge should exceed the educational programmes in the current mission preparation phase. The existing cultural training programmes designed for Uruzgan, involve one day of training, consisting of combination of lectures and role-play with Afghans. Besides this day of training, troops also visit a mosque where they are provided with general information about Islamic practices. The main objective of these training activities is the transfer of knowledge and learning correct behaviour. This training is called ‘Cultural Awareness Training’ (CAT programme). It is questionable whether this particular cultural training programme has the desired effect. Do the current cultural training programmes generate the required effects? Therefore the main questions of this thesis are: •What are the desired effects that the armed forces want to achieve in their cultural training programmes? •What are the culture training methods that need to be used to generate the desired effects in soldiers during their mission? •Do the current cultural training programmes of the Dutch military comply with these training methods? •Are the current Dutch cultural training programmes effective in generating the desired effects?
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen