On the 7th of August 2009 took place the last day of the 14th Portuguese Youth Atlantic Treaty Association. This final day resulted in the most important day of debate, since the participants had the chance to listen the NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, Mr. Jean François Bureau, who gave an interesting lecture about the challenges NATO is facing and how is it being planned to cope with these new problematic. The panel of speakers was also composed by H.E. Ambassador Manuel Tomás Fernandes Pereira, Portuguese Permanent Representative at NATO and by Professor Carlos Gaspar, Director of the Portuguese International Relations Institute.
Both speakers tried to focus on different perspectives allowing a better comprehension about the topic in discussion: The Lisbon Summit, the Lisbon Young Atlanticist Summit and the New Strategic Concept. This conference must be seen as extremely important, once it was the first step, the first debate in the long run to the definition of the New Strategic Concept. As the speakers agreed, “The eyes of the World are in Lisbon today, and this Seminar is fundamental for the brainstorming and debate”.
Accordingly with the topic in debate, Mr. Jean François Bureau raised some key questions, from the most importance to the future of NATO: How is it possible to manage the difference between Defence and Security (regarding the article 5 commitments); the new emerging threats, such as Energy, Terrorism, Ciberterrorism, augment of Arms of Massive Destruction; the relationship between NATO countries and the world.
As such, Mr. Jean François Bureau believes that the discussion of this New Strategic Concept must be as wide as possible. NATO is trying to involve people, showing that everyone will be heard and their thoughts will be taken into account in the decision making. As so, Mr. Bureau presented an Organization with new objectives, open to the public debate, enrolled in the “battle of the new technologies”, searching for comprehension and legitimacy to ensure the evolving process of NATO.
Following this remarks, the Portuguese Ambassador stated that the future of the Organization and the future of the world was being discussed in this conference, by participants from different nationalities, whose different points of view are extremely important to better adapt NATO to the new challenges above mentioned. The Portuguese Ambassador focused on more practical speech, reinforcing the importance of a clearer and open debate. As so, the Lisbon Summit is going to be a huge event, with a large participation. Portugal is really important in all this process, because of its old History, which allows it to play an important role in creating and stimulating the proximity and the debate, not only between NATO member countries but also non-member countries and international organizations.
As so, the main topics in the Lisbon Summit of 2010 are going to be: Security and Defence; the acceptance of the roadmap designed by the 12 international experts (in this roadmap the public opinion will have the chance to attend several other events, debates, conferences, seminars, where the discussion will take place, contributing to the wider debate that is suppose to achieve); the importance of the definition of a shorter strategic concept, different from the one in 1999, with 65 paragraphs. To sum up stated that “people that are interested in this issue will give good ideas to be reflected by the decision makers”.
Professor Carlos Gaspar gave a more academic speech, referring some polemic issues around this topic. The first note regarded the fact that since 1991 this is going to be the 3rd Strategic Concept. Secondly, stated that for the first time, the public debate is at NATO’s concerns. Bearing this in mind, the Professor reminded a paradox, emerging from the fact NATO needs to change but, at the same time, some people believe that NATO is a well succeeded organization, the one that won the Cold War. As such, it is quite complicate to combine both. Consequently, the debate around the New Strategic Concept is going to take place in a period of deep divisions, mainly related with the “nature of NATO”, as regional defence alliance or a global defence alliance; relation between NATO and other international actors, such as European Union and the role of the United States of America inside the Organization.
Regarding the division between regional and global, affirmed that the first one can kill NATO due to its lack of ambition; the second one can kill NATO due to its excess of ambition. As so, a third way is emerging, related with deterrence, aiming to conciliate not only the interests of the member countries but also of the other international actors.
To sum up, it can be said that the main objective of the New Strategic Concept circulates around the need of legitimacy and recognition by the international public opinion, in order to better understand the role NATO in the world as a stabiliser, fundamental to the security of nations and their citizens.
Jorge Piteira Martins