Relations with partners across the globe

  • Last updated: 07 Sep. 2015 13:54

NATO cooperates on an individual basis with a number of countries which are not actually part of its formal partnership frameworks¹. Referred to as “partners across the globe” or simply “global partners”, they include Afghanistan, Australia, Iraq, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and Pakistan.

These countries develop cooperation with NATO in areas of mutual interest and actively contribute to NATO operations. Individual global partners choose the areas where they wish to engage in and cooperate with NATO in a spirit of mutual benefit and reciprocity.

Over recent years, NATO has developed bilateral relations with each of these countries. Global partners now have the same access to partnership activities as those in formal partnership frameworks. Activities range from joint exercises and operations, to strategic-level training on issues of intelligence, information and technology. The importance of reaching out to countries and organisations across the globe was underlined in the Strategic Concept adopted at the November 2010 Lisbon Summit. At Lisbon, Allied leaders declared their intention, as part of a focused effort to reform NATO’s partnerships policy, to better engage with global partners, contributing significantly to international security. Following up on the Lisbon decisions, Allied foreign ministers approved a new partnerships policy at their meeting in Berlin in April 2011.

In line with the new policy, all partners will be treated in the same way, offering them the same basis of cooperation and dialogue. Moreover, there are now more opportunities for meetings in flexible formats, bringing together NATO members and partners with other countries, which NATO may have no bilateral programme of cooperation. These include China, India, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Colombia. Such meetings have taken place to consult partners on different issues, such as counter piracy and countering narcotics in Afghanistan.

1. The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, Partnership for Peace, the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.


  • Partners across the globe, or global partners, work with NATO on an individual basis, outside of the Alliance’s traditional partnership frameworks.
  • Global partners have the same access to all of NATO’s partnership activities.
  • Currently, NATO’s global partners include Afghanistan, Australia, Iraq, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and Pakistan.

  • Support for NATO-led operations

    The contributions from global partners and other countries to NATO-led operations have a direct, advantageous impact for international peace and security.

    In the Balkans, Argentinean and Chilean forces have worked alongside NATO Allies to ensure security in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Kosovo, Argentina has helped NATO personnel provide medical and social assistance to the local population and cooperated on peace agreement implementation since 1999.

    In Afghanistan, a number of global partners such as Australia, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand, work alongside the Allies as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Other countries, such as Japan, support ISAF efforts of stabilisation in Afghanistan without being involved in combat, by funding a large number of development projects and dispatching liaison officers.

    Pakistan’s support for the efforts of NATO and the international community in Afghanistan remains crucial to the success of the Alliance’s mission, despite past differences. NATO remains committed to engaging with Pakistan in an effort to enlist support to stabilise Afghanistan.

    The participation of partners in NATO-led peace-support operations is guided by the Political-Military Framework (PMF), which was developed for NATO-led operations. This framework provides for the involvement of contributing states in the planning and force generation processes through the International Coordination Centre at SHAPE. Building on lessons learned and reinforcing the habit of cooperation established through KFOR and ISAF, NATO Allies decided at the 2010 Lisbon Summit to review the PMF in order to update how NATO shapes decisions and works with partner countries on the operations and missions to which they contribute.

    Typically, partner military forces are incorporated into operations on the same basis as are forces from NATO member countries. This implies that they are involved in the decision-making process through their association to the work of NATO committees, and through the posting of liaison officers in the operational headquarters or to SHAPE. They operate under the direct command of the Operational Commander through multinational divisional headquarters. Regular meetings of the North Atlantic Council, the Alliance’s principal political decision-making body, with ambassadors, ministers and heads of state and government are held to discuss and review the operations.

  • Evolution of relations

    NATO has maintained a dialogue with countries that are not part of its partnership frameworks, on an ad-hoc basis, since the 1990s. However, NATO’s involvement in areas outside of its immediate region – including Afghanistan and Libya – has increased the need and opportunities for enhanced global interaction. Clearly, the emergence of global threats requires the cooperation of a wider range of countries to successfully tackle challenges such as terrorism, proliferation, piracy or cyber attacks. Dialogue with these countries can also help NATO avert crises and, when needed, manage an operation throughout all phases.

    Since 1998, NATO has invited countries across the globe to participate in its activities, workshops, exercises, and conferences. This decision marked a policy shift for the Alliance, allowing these countries to have access, through the case-by-case approval of the North Atlantic Council, to activities offered under NATO’s structured partnerships. These countries were known as “Contact Countries”.

    Significant steps were taken at the 2006 Riga Summit to increase the operational relevance of NATO’s cooperation with countries that are part of its structured partnership frameworks as well as other countries around the world. These steps, reinforced by decisions at the 2008 Bucharest Summit, defined a set of objectives for these relationships and created avenues for enhanced political dialogue, including meetings of the North Atlantic Council with ministers of the countries concerned, high-level talks, and meetings with ambassadors. In addition, annual work programmes (then referred to as Individual Tailored Cooperation Packages of Activities) were further developed.

    At the 2010 Lisbon Summit, Allies agreed to develop a more efficient and flexible partnership policy, in time for the meeting of Allied foreign ministers in Berlin in April 2011. To this end, they decided to:

    • streamline NATO’s partnership tools in order to open all cooperative activities and exercises to partners and to harmonise partnership programmes;
    • better engage with partners across the globe who contribute significantly to security and reach out to relevant partners to build trust, increase transparency and develop practical cooperation;
    • develop flexible formats to discuss security challenges with partners and enhance existing fora for political dialogue; and
    • build on improvements in NATO’s training mechanisms and consider methods to enhance individual partners’ ability to build capacity.