The question "but what are you supposed to do down there?" has come up many times - from family, friends and others. It seems that very few people understands what an United Nations Military Observer actually is supposed to do, seeing as an UNMO has no weapons, no power to make people play nice and no authority to impose sanctions on the parties in the conflict.
Off course, thinking that an UNMO is powerless because of the lack of means of enforcement ties into the general lack of knowledge of an UNMOs role.
An UNMO is to primarily observe and report what s/he observe. They are, as was pointed out in our training, the eyes and ears of the security council. That means in short that an UNMO is to observe if all sides in a conflict are abiding by any agreements on cease-fires, withdrawals and demilitarization. In Sudan, that means the CPA. The means to do that is many and varies, but for the most part it's about feet on the ground.
The UNMOs are also tasked with helping to resolve local difficulties by liaison with all sides of the conflict, as well as investigate allegations of aggression or cease-fire violations. In addition, UNMIS, and by extension the UNMOs working there, shall assist in promoting the rule of law, human rights and contributing to long-term peace and stability.
Small wonder UNMOs have to work long days...