The most challenging circumstances that a CIOR Summer Congress ever faced were overcome with a successful week’s outcomes in Tallinn, Estonia. Delegates from a reduced number of countries attended in person due to the Covid-19 crisis but meetings continued online via apps like Zoom to ensure that exchanges of ideas took place. The success of this was evident on the last day when 53 people logged in as the round-up reports were being given.
By: Sqn Ldr (R) Michael Cairns, Royal Air Force/ CIOR Public Affairs
On site at the Estonian conference base were the Executive Committee, Young Reserve Officer Workshop (YROW) and Reserve Officer Workshop (ROW) participants and those taking part in the Cyber workshop. The Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC), Defence and Security (DefSec), Legal, Seminar, Symposium and YROW committees largely met online. CIMIC reported that 34 members took part in the CIMIC exercise (CIMEX) that dealt with an imaginary widespread flooding incident. Members of the Strategic Communication committee provided Public Affairs support at the congress centre along with host nation photographers.
Both CIOMR, the medical sister body of CIOR, and the non-commissioned officer body CISOR also had small, but valuable presences in Tallinn.
A younger feel
The good turnout by YROW participants gave the Congress a younger feel as they made up a sizeable proportion of those on the ground. And indeed a former YROW and young Lieutenant, Sarah Alexandra George was the face of CIOR at a significant defence conference held in Tallinn during the week, the Annual Baltic Conference on Defence (ABCD).
CIOR partnered with the International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS) in Tallinn and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Bonn, Germany to host the conference, which in part focused on reserve policies and experiences across the NATO Alliance.
Praise to Estonia
As the UK Presidency transitions to the German Presidency, outgoing President, Colonel (R) Chris Argent, UK Army, paid tribute to the support he and his team has had from Estonia in hosting so many events in the past two years. Several members of the joint UK-Estonian Presidency team received the CIOR Medal of Merit for their efforts in a simple ceremony in the Council meeting room.
Estonian major (R) André Lilleleth was one of the CIOR Medal of Merit awardees due to his extraordinary efforts during the last two years’ UK-Estonian presidential period. Outgoing CIOR President Chris Argent left. Photo: Roy Thorvaldsen.
Argent said his aim was to encourage refocusing and problem solving in relation to CIOR’s position and relevance to NATO and national governments, and believed progress had been made.
As to the future of physical meetings, Argent said the Covid crisis had shown how compromises were possible and how elements of online working could contribute to cost savings where appropriate –whilst never replacing the need for face-to-face engagement.
Estonian major (R) Ülo Isberg listening to special guest UK Deputy Commander Field Army, Major General Celia Harvey speaking to Council – as the LSC 2020 draws to a close.
Resilience and visibility
Incoming president, German Navy Captain (R) Jan Hörmann said the German Presidency’s focus would be on “Resilience and Visibility of Reserves.” The incoming President said the theme had been chosen prior to the COVID crisis but was now even more relevant to highlight to communities how important reserve citizen soldiers are at times of crisis.
“We want to make our reserves more visible to our communities and to our countries, especially in times like these when we all have to stand up for democracy and freedom.”
While next year’s congress is planned for Athens, Greece, the extent of who will be able to attend will remain unclear for some time to come. But as the Tallinn congress ended, there was no doubt what all of CIOR wanted, and that was to look forward to the time when relationships and exchanges can once again be built face to face. Keep safe!