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Conference: NATO’s New Strategic Concept – An Alliance for the 21st Century

On November 22, 2011, the NCC hosted its annual fall conference at DFAIT in Ottawa. Entitled NATO’s New Strategic Concept: An Alliance for the 21st Century, this year’s conference brought forth a range of NATO officials, policy makers, academics and distinguished scholars to discuss and confront NATO’s core priorities and the incoming challenges we face for the foreseeable future.

Promoting greater wisdom and foresight was an essential theme to many of the panelists who advocated for greater intelligence sharing and interagency cooperation. Though the problems of measuring definitive progress and safeguarding against future threats were at the forefront of each panel discussion, far reaching policy changes were discussed to prepare NATO for the future. While discussing the diverse challenges confronting the Alliance’s new strategic outlook, a central theme of the conference was how to move forward amidst a time of severe economic crisis in an era of evolving security challenges. In light of these challenges, MP Chris Alexander was clear in stating that this is a time of “renewal and change.”

Many panelists discussed NATO’s strategy of cooperating with non-member states to confront common security needs. By discussing the participation of states like Qatar in the Libyan operation as well as New Zealand and Australia’s roles in Afghanistan, NATO officials explained how critical the need for robust multilateralism is in the 21st century. With their unique understanding of particular challenges and issues inside their own region, cooperating with non-member states allows a multilateral effort to run more smoothly by soliciting better information, greater cooperation and more informed strategic planning.

With ample discussion dedicated to ongoing crises in Syria, Libya and Afghanistan, DFAIT representatives highlighted some of the evident barriers we must work against to cooperate with international forces on the ground. Challenges focused on included language barriers, number imbalance and the importance of creativity and proper communication.

Despite the logistical, bureaucratic and financial challenges facing NATO’s operations, many panelists spoke of the need for growth and development in order to refine the Alliance’s strategic outlook and operational strategy. Discussed in great length was the role Canada can play in post-conflict nations and how Canada’s contribution to NATO has highlighted our ability to be a stabilizing force in war-torn states.

This thought provoking conference allowed a sobering and in-depth analysis of what challenges NATO will have to face in the 21st century. With multiple approaches discussed in great detail, this conference has not only provided participants with valuable information, but acted as a forum for lively debate and discussion till the very end.

The Conference was video-recorded and a DVD will be available in the new year.

NATO Association of Canada
The NATO Association of Canada (NAOC) strives to educate and engage Canadians about NATO and its goals of peace, prosperity and security. The NAOC ensures Canada has an informed citizenry able to participate in discussions about its role on the world stage.