International secondments for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

International secondment opportunities with the FCO, for serving and retired police, and civilian experts.

The UK supports international efforts to prevent violent conflict, resolve existing conflicts, and build peace in post-conflict situations.

In support of this, the FCO seconds civilian experts and police (serving and retired officers) to international missions run by the European Union (EU), United Nations (UN) and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

These missions include:

  • Various UN missions around the world, in conflict and post-conflict settings
  • European Police Mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL Afghanistan)
  • EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM Georgia)
  • EU Integrated Rule of Law Mission for Iraq, (EU JUSTLEX)
  • European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX Kosovo)
  • European Union Police Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUPM)
  • several OSCE missions in the Balkans and Caucasus

Policing roles in international missions fall into 5 main categories:

  • executive policing: the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) is the only mission where executive policing is carried out
  • training: general police duties, counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism, firearms and human rights
  • monitoring and reporting: for example, security and protection, control room operators and finance
  • mentoring and advising: for example, organised crime, criminal intelligence, community policing
  • programme and project management: for example, strategic intelligence, strategic police training

Civilian roles fall into the following categories:

  • border monitoring
  • running field offices and missions
  • human rights
  • rule of law
  • media
  • programme management
  • police training
  • political affairs
  • good governance
  • promoting democracy

Opportunities for police officers

British police officers are deployed to Peace Support Operations to reform domestic police forces and help them build the respect and confidence of the local community. Less frequently, they may carry out executive policing duties. International policing missions also have an important role in the fight against organised, cross-border crime.

Recruitment and selection

The International Secondments Team (IST) writes to Chief Constables and Police Forces HR departments once a year with an application pack detailing the missions the FCO is expecting to make contributions to over the following year. Interested officers are asked to apply through their Home Force, and not directly to IST.

When vacancies become available, officers are offered a place through their Force and then complete training before being deployed to a Mission.

Pre-deployment training and administration

Medical examinations are conducted immediately prior to pre-deployment training. Pre-deployment training covers a wide range of areas including life in mission, mine awareness, firearms, first aid, training with language assistants, political and legal briefings, and scenario based training for the roles officers will carry out in specific missions. In addition, those selected for a position in Iraq also undertake a 2-week firearms course.

The Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) holds a stock of kit which officers can try on during their pre-deployment course.

Secondment agreement

Once the secondment agreement is signed, a letter of approval for overseas service is issued by the Home Office, the Northern Ireland Office or Scottish Executive under the relevant Police Act. Secondments are for a period of 12 months. Extensions can be requested through the mission locally, apart from those who have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan where extensions cannot be requested (unless there is a strong operational case).


IST also appoints a Contingent Commander to each Mission. The Contingent Commander undertakes this role in addition to the job they are assigned by the mission. The Contingent Commander is the UK officers’ first point of contact for welfare, personnel and other support issues. They are also responsible for ensuring that appraisals are completed on time, managing leave and channelling extension requests to IST.

Performance and Development Review and Appraisal System (PDR)

The PDR process helps officers set objectives and to record the performance and development of new skills whilst abroad. This is also a very helpful tool to the FCO in assessing officers’ experiences in the field and their contribution to the peacekeeping mission in which they serve. The appraisal form is similar to the Police Performance Development Review and its compatibility with the existing police appraisal system should help integrate international experience with the officer’s domestic career.

Return and reintegration

Under ACPO guidelines, Chief Officers are encouraged to give officers a period of leave when they return to the UK at the end of their deployment. Officers will be invited to a re-integration course at MDP Wethersfield at which they are able to discuss any issues they had at post, e.g. with equipment, and make suggestions for future missions. This is very useful to officers and allows the FCO to look at areas for improvement for future deployments.

Opportunities for civilians

The UK government supports promoting effective rule of law, governance, stabilisation, confidence-building and normalisation in conflict-affected and fragile states.

Currently, the FCO, through the Stabilisation Unit and on behalf of the government, supports the secondment of UK civilian experts to multinational Common Security and Defence Policy missions and EU Special Representative Offices.

CSDP Missions

Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions provide international expertise, advice and support to countries at risk of instability; that are currently unstable, or recovering from conflict.

Despite the fact that CSDP was conceived largely as a military project, the majority of the 27 missions deployed since 2003 have been civilian. They work on a wide variety of conflict prevention and peace-building tasks.

There are currently 12 civilian CSDP missions, 7 of which have UK civilian experts seconded to them:

  • the EU Police Mission in Afghanistan (EUPol Afghanistan)
  • the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM Georgia)
  • the EU Integrated Rule of Law Mission for Iraq, (EUJUST LEX Iraq)
  • the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX Kosovo)
  • the EU Police Co-ordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (EUPol COPPS)
  • the EU Regional Maritime Capacity Building for the Horn of Africa and the Western Indian Ocean (EUCAP NESTOR)
  • the EU Aviation Security Mission in South Sudan (EUAVSEC South Sudan)

EU Special Representative Offices

  • the Office of the EU Special Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUSR Bosnia)
  • the Office of the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and Crisis in Georgia
  • the Office of the EU Special Representative in Kosovo (EUSR Kosovo)

Recruitment and selection

Each multilateral mission advertises its vacancies to member states. Member states, through their international authority (which for the UK is the FCO), decide which roles they wish to support based on their strategic priorities for that mission. The Stabilisation Unit (SU) is responsible for managing the recruitment and deployment process for those roles.

Adverts are published by the Civilian Stabilisation Group, and by other relevant organisations. Only UK nationals are eligible to apply for these roles. Interested applicants are asked to complete an application form (which is attached to the advert) and submit their CV. The FCO and SU review applications and decide which candidate to nominate to the respective multilateral organisation. That multilateral institution will interview and decide which member state’s candidate is suitable for the vacancy. For further information, you can contact SU Recruitment.

Pre-deployment training

Successful candidates are required to undertake pre-deployment training prior to deployment. The Stabilisation Unit will arrange for individuals to undertake a medical assessment, a hostile environment training course, briefings, and any other relevant training.

For secondees deploying to missions that require kit and equipment, the SU holds a stock of kit and equipment which will be provided to secondees prior to deployment.

Tour length

Secondments are on a fixed term 1-year contract with the FCO. An extension may be requested, but must come from the respective mission authority.

Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe

Secondments to the OSCE

The FCO seconds civilian experts to OSCE field missions, as well as to the OSCE Secretariat and its Institutions in Vienna, Copenhagen and Warsaw. OSCE vacancies are advertised on the OSCE website.

To apply, complete the OSCE’s online application form. Applications from UK nationals for seconded positions will automatically be routed to IST but they must then be supported by the FCO to proceed further.

Please do not send your applications for contracted positions to the FCO, as they are processed centrally by the OSCE Secretariat. Please note that we are only able to support a small number of applications and we will only contact those who apply for positions that we, the FCO, are interested in supporting.

Important information

  • UK secondees to OSCE positions will not receive a salary.
  • The OSCE provides a board and lodging allowance (BLA) for positions in their field missions, but not for positions at the Secretariat or the Institutions. Please check their website for further details.
  • The UK does not fund Junior Professional Officer (JPO) positions, and the OSCE does not provide BLA for these positions. The OSCE provides some remuneration for JPOs recruited in the October round.
  • The OSCE is committed to achieving a better balance of women and men within the organisation, and encourages the nomination of female candidates.
Published 12 December 2012
Last updated 12 December 2016 + show all updates
  1. Information updated.

  2. First published.