Partnership tools

  • Last updated: 13 Nov. 2014 12:28

NATO has developed a number of partnership tools and mechanisms to support cooperation with partner countries through a mix of policies, programmes, action plans and other arrangements. Many tools are focused on the important priorities of interoperability and building capabilities, and supporting defence and security-related reform.


  • A Partnership Cooperation Menu comprising approximately 1,400 activities is accessible to all NATO partners.
  • Several initiatives exist that are open to all partners, allowing them to cooperate bilaterally with NATO beyond existing regional partnership frameworks.
  • The cooperative initiatives focus mainly on interoperability and building capabilities, and supporting defence and security-related reform.
  • The partnership tools comprise, for instance, the PfP Planning and Review Process, the Operational Capabilities Concept and the Individual Partnership Action Plans.
  • The areas in which partners cooperate with NATO include defence reform, demobilisation and reintegration, cyber defence, education and training, logistics and disarmament.

Most of these partnership tools were originally developed in the framework of NATO’s cooperation with Euro-Atlantic partners through the Partnership for Peace (PfP). However, with the reform of NATO’s partnerships policy in April 2011, steps were taken to open the “toolbox” to all partners, across and beyond existing regional partnership frameworks.

From 2012 onwards, all partners have access to a new Partnership Cooperation Menu, which comprises some 1,400 activities. An Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme (IPCP) is jointly developed and agreed between NATO and each partner country that requests one. These two-year programmes are drawn upon, among other things, the activities in the extensive Partnership Cooperation Menu, according to each country’s specific interests and needs. IPCPs form the basis of a partner’s cooperation with NATO. In addition, a number of other tools are available to partners, according to the specific areas of cooperation they wish to develop with the Alliance.

  • Wales Summit initiatives

    At the Wales Summit in September 2014, NATO leaders endorsed two important initiatives to reinforce the Alliance’s commitment to the core task of cooperative security: the Partnership Interoperability Initiative and the Defence and Related Security Capacity Building Initiative.

    The Partnership Interoperability Initiative (PII) sets in place measures designed to ensure the deep connections built up between partner forces over years of operations will be maintained and deepened so that they can contribute to future NATO and NATO-led operations and, where applicable, to the NATO Response Force.

    Through this initiative, an Interoperability Platform format has been set up, bringing together Allies with partners that have demonstrated their commitment to reinforce their interoperability with NATO (24 partners so far). Meeting in the Interoperability Platform format, Allies and partners will discuss and develop common actions to deepen their interoperability

    The Defence and Related Security Capacity Building Initiative builds on NATO’s extensive track record and expertise in supporting, advising, assisting, training and mentoring countries that require capacity-building support.  It is aimed at reinforcing NATO’s commitment to partner countries and helping the Alliance project stability without deploying large combat forces, as part of the Alliance’s overall contribution to international security, stability and conflict prevention.  NATO pursues these efforts in complementarity and close cooperation with other international organisations, in particular the United Nations, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, as appropriate. NATO, upon request, can provide strategic-level advice on defence and related security reform and institution building, and assist in developing defence capabilities and local forces, in particular through education and training. Support can also be provided in several specialised areas such as logistics, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, civil emergency planning and cyber defence.  At the Wales Summit, following their requests, Allies agreed to extend this initiative to Georgia, Jordan and the Republic of Moldova, while expressing readiness to consider other requests from interested partners, non-partners as well to engage with international and regional organisations.

  • Building capabilities and interoperability

    Partner countries have made and continue to make significant contributions to the Alliance’s operations and missions, whether it be supporting peace in the Western Balkans and Afghanistan, training national security forces in Iraq, monitoring maritime activity in the Mediterranean Sea, or helping protect civilians in Libya.

    A number of tools have been developed to assist partners in developing their own defence capabilities and defence institutions, ensuring that partner forces are interoperable with Allies’ forces and capable of participating in NATO-led operations. They include the following:

    The PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP) helps develop the interoperability and capabilities of forces which might be made available for NATO training, exercises and operations. Under PARP, Allies and partners, together, negotiate and set planning targets with a partner country. Regular reviews measure progress.  In addition, PARP also provides a framework to assist partners to develop effective, affordable and sustainable armed forces as well as to promote wider defence and security-sector transformation and reform efforts.  It is the main instrument used to assess the implementation of defence-related objectives and targets defined under Individual Partnership Action Plans (IPAPs). PARP is open to Euro-Atlantic partners on a voluntary basis and is open to other partner countries on a case-by-case basis, upon approval of the North Atlantic Council.

    The Operational Capabilities Concept (OCC) Evaluation and Feedback Programme is used to develop and train partner land, maritime, air or special operations forces that seek to meet NATO standards. This rigorous process can often take a few years, but it ensures that partner forces are ready to work with Allied forces once deployed. Some partners use the OCC as a strategic tool to transform their defence forces. The OCC has contributed significantly to the increasing number of partner forces participating in NATO-led operations and the NATO Response Force.

    Exercising is key for maintaining, testing and evaluating readiness and interoperability, also for partners. NATO offers partners a chance to participate in the Military Training and Exercise Programme (MTEP) to promote their interoperability. Through the MTEP, a five-year planning horizon provides a starting point for exercise planning and the allocation of resources. The Bi-Strategic Command Military Cooperation Division, which is principally located at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Mons, Belgium, is responsible for supporting partner involvement in exercises.

    In addition, and on a case-by-case basis, Allies may invite partners to take part in North Atlantic Council-level crisis-management exercises that engage ministries in participating capitals, and national political and military representation at NATO Headquarters, in consultations on the strategic management of crises during an exercise.

    Once a partner wishes to join a NATO-led operation, the Political-Military Framework (PMF) sets out principles and guidelines for the involvement of all partner countries in political consultations and decision-shaping, in operational planning and in command arrangements for operations to which they contribute.

    The Partnership Action Plan against Terrorism (PAP-T) is a framework through which Allies and partner countries work to improve cooperation in the fight against terrorism, through political consultation and a range of practical measures. It facilitates consultation and cooperation in areas such as intelligence-sharing, terrorism-related training and exercises, and the development of capabilities for defence against terrorist attack or for dealing with the consequences of such an attack. Other areas of cooperation include border management and security, air defence and air-traffic management. Defence against terrorism is also the first of three key priorities of the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme, which over time has initiated a broad range of activities in topical areas related to the defence against terrorism. PAP-T was launched at the Prague Summit in 2002 and continues to evolve in line with the joint aims and efforts of Allies and partners.

    Opportunities for cooperation between NATO and partners in the areas of armaments, air defence, and airspace and air traffic management are provided through the Conference of National Armaments Directors (CNAD), the Air Defence Committee (ADC) and the Air Traffic Management Committee (ATMC).

  • Supporting transformation

    Several tools have been developed to provide assistance to partner countries in their own efforts to transform defence and security-related structures and policies, and to manage the economic and social consequences of reforms. An important priority is to promote the development of effective defence institutions that are under civil and democratic control.

    Some of the main tools supporting transformation include the following:

    Individual Partnership Action Plans (IPAPs) offer partners the opportunity to deepen their cooperation with NATO and sharpen the focus on domestic reform efforts. Developed on a two-year basis, these plans include a wide range of objectives and targets for reforms on political issues as well as security and defence issues. They are designed to bring together all the various cooperation mechanisms through which a partner country interacts with the Alliance. The development of IPAPs is open to all partners, on a case-by-case basis, upon approval of the North Atlantic Council. The Partnership Action Plan on Defence Institution Building (PAP-DIB) aims to reinforce efforts by partner countries to reform and restructure their defence institutions to meet domestic needs as well as international commitments. Launched in 2004, the PAP-DIB defines common objectives, encourages exchange of relevant experience and helps tailor and focus bilateral defence and security assistance programmes for partner countries to support them in conducting these reforms. The objectives of the Action Plan include, for instance, effective and transparent arrangements for the democratic control of defence activities, civilian participation in developing defence and security policy, compliance with international norms and practices in the defence sector and effective management of defence spending. The PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP) mechanism serves as a key instrument for implementing the Action Plan’s objectives.

    Education and training in a number of areas is offered to decision-makers, military forces, civil servants and representatives of civil society through institutions such as the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany; the NATO Defense College in Rome, Italy; and some 20 national Partnership Training and Education Centres. Moreover, the Education and Training for Defence Reform (EfR) initiative supports the education of civilian and military personnel in efficient and effective management of national defence institutions under civil and democratic control.

    As an implementation tool for EfR, the Defence Education Enhancement Programmes (DEEPs) are tailored programmes through which the Alliance advises partners on how to build, develop and reform educational institutions in the security, defence and military domain. DEEPs focus on faculty or so-called “educate the educators” programmes and curriculum development. With regard to faculty development (“how to teach”) they can cover areas such as how to teach leadership and critical thinking. DEEPs are open to all NATO partners. In the context of DEEPs, NATO and the PfP Consortium developed three curricula (“what to teach”), namely the Defence Institution Building reference curriculum; Generic Officers’ Professional Military Education reference curriculum; as well as a Non-Commissioned Officers’ Professional Military Education reference curriculum.

    In addition, a Professional Development Programme can be launched for the civilian personnel of defence and security establishments to strengthen the capacity for democratic management and oversight. Training provided under such a programme is closely aligned to the partner country's overall defence and security-sector reform objectives and harmonised and de-conflicted with the bilateral efforts of individual Allies and other programmes.

    Through the Partnership Trust Fund policy, individual Allies and partners support practical demilitarization projects and defence transformation projects in partner countries through individual Trust Funds.

    The Building Integrity Initiative is aimed at promoting good practice, strengthening transparency, accountability and integrity to reduce the risk of corruption in the defence establishments of Allies and partners alike. This includes developing a tailored programme to support the Afghan National Security Forces as well as supporting good practice in contracting and implementation of the NATO Afghan First Policy.

  • Wider cooperation

    The NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme promotes joint cooperative projects between Allies and partners in the field of security-related civil science and technology. Funding applications should address SPS key priorities -- these are linked to NATO’s strategic objectives and focus on projects in direct support to NATO’s operations, as well as projects that enhance defence against terrorism and address other security threats.

    Disaster response and preparedness is also an important area of cooperation with partners. The Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) is a 24/7 focal point for coordinating disaster-relief efforts among NATO and partner countries. The Centre has guided consequence-management efforts in more than 45 emergencies, including fighting floods and forest fires, and dealing with the aftermath of earthquakes. Partners are represented on many of the Alliance’s civil emergency planning groups and are also involved in education and training in this area.

    Women, peace and security and the United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 1325 have been the subject of a policy developed and approved by Allies and partners in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC).  This UN resolution reaffirms the role of women in conflict and post-conflict situations and encourages greater participation of women and the incorporation of gender perspectives in peace and security efforts. The “NATO/EAPC policy for the implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and related issues” was first issued in December 2007 and has since been reviewed. It is supported by an Action Plan, which mainstreams related issues into NATO’s operations and policies. Many partner countries have been associating themselves with this policy including all 22 Partnership for Peace (PfP) countries, as well as partners Afghanistan, Australia, Japan, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.