Closing remarks

of Jean François Bureau, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy at the Seminar on “NATO’s Role for Stability and Peace”

  • Mis à jour le: 11 Feb. 2009 13:23

Ambassador Al-Rumaihi, Excellencies, Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be in Qatar for my first official visit to a member country of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, in my capacity as the NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy.

Qatar is a very active member of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) and this was particularly evident as well through the organisation of this important seminar.

I want to extend my sincere appreciation to the State of Qatar for its efforts and for its generous hospitality.

And I am also particularly grateful to the Center for Military Strategic Studies and to Brigadier Al-Mahmoud and to Amb. Al-Rumaihi, for having decided to co-organise with the NATO Public Diplomacy Division such an important event.

I do indeed believe that it is crucial for the success of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative to provide a clear understanding of its aims and content among opinion leaders, officials and the media and, through them, to the public opinion of Qatar and of Gulf states, via a joint public diplomacy effort.

I would like to preface these closing remarks to this extremely useful and interesting seminar by saying that I believe that the common denominator of our joint Public Diplomacy effort is:

To Build Mutual Trust and Understanding Through Dialogue.

Public Diplomacy for an Organisation such as NATO involves initiating, sustaining and maintaining over time a process of mutual understanding. This requires a dialogue where NATO and its target audiences seek to listen to and understand each other. Public Diplomacy is therefore much more than public information. It is less about winning arguments and more about engagement.

Public Diplomacy is, indeed, not merely about communicating messages but it is also about building relationships: understanding the specific needs of other countries, cultures and people; while at the same time communicating NATO messages, realigning misperceptions and identifying common goals.

Public opinion exists in a specific environment and it is not possible to understand its trends unless there is a clear appreciation of the political, social and cultural issues affecting the lives of the people involved.

That is why we have decided to come here in Qatar, to explain NATO’s policies but also to learn from you the specific perceptions and issues affecting your country and the Gulf region : from that point of view, I have been impressed by the fact that NATO is sometimes  feared, but also very much expected and applauded.

The Deputy Secretary General and other colleagues from NATO have been explaining the content of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. I on my part would like to stress why the security of the Gulf region matters to NATO and why the member countries of the Alliance have an interest in working together and to enhance our cooperation, to better serve the cause of peace together.

This seminar discussing “NATO’s Role for Stability and Peace” is indeed very much part of the increased political dialogue which the Secretary General of NATO advocates within the Alliance, the transatlantic forum for strategic security issues, and between Allies and their partners, like those in Mediterranean and in Gulf countries.

Our political dialogue derives from the role of a transformed and still transforming NATO, which since the end of the Cold war is projecting stability through its operations and missions, its broad range of partnerships and through its transforming military capabilities, with the overall objective to maintain stability and peace.

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Why should NATO and the Gulf countries engage in discussion and practical cooperation on security issues?

1. The first reason why we are doing this, is the changing nature of today’s security environment.

The threats we face today are transnational, they are common across the globe and therefore none of our countries is immune to them.

With the end of the Cold War more security challenges have taken on a global dimension: international terrorism, failing and failed states, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the trafficking in human beings, arms and drugs.

These threats cannot be contained by any one state alone.

They must be tackled when and where they arise, even if far away from us, otherwise they will end up on our doorstep.

That is why our cooperative approach to security, through the development of partnership relations with different countries of the world, is so important.

From our point of view, there is no doubt that it is together that we can more successfully deal with new security challenges and threats.

2. The second reason why the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative is so important, is dictated by the changing nature of NATO itself. Throughout the Cold War, we focussed on deterring a major war in Europe. Today, however, you see a very different NATO.

Our membership has increased to 26 nations and we are engaged in a wide variety of missions – ranging from peacekeeping in the Balkans and Afghanistan to humanitarian relief efforts in Pakistan, to supporting the African Union in Darfur, all the way to conducting maritime anti-terrorist operations in the Mediterranean Sea, through for example Operation Active Endeavour (where nations from the MD and ICI programmes can participate), or our training mission in Iraq.

Many of our partners contribute to most of those missions, responding to NATO's determination to deal with security challenges together with other countries. Our partners in this effort to promote peace and stability range from Caucasus and Central Asia, to countries in Northern Africa and the Middle East in its Mediterranean Dialogue, to the newest partners in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.

Why? Because to be more secure, to promote peace, cooperating through NATO, we are able to generate the strongest political momentum and the best military effectiveness.

NATO is an Organization that has been engaged in multi-national security cooperation for more than half a century, with lots of experience and expertise to share with non-NATO countries to work together for stability and peace.

Over the past decade, NATO has developed the necessary political and military links with non-NATO countries to make our cooperation very effective. And that is why the new NATO is now in a far better position to make a tangible contribution to international security, including to Gulf security.

From that point of view, it is useful to know that the Bucharest NATO Summit, next April, will be the largest in the history of the Alliance.

3. But there is also a third reason why NATO is reaching out to interested countries in the Gulf region: the new dynamic in your region.

In foreign policy terms, the Gulf states individually and collectively through the GCC, have emerged as important international players.

In domestic terms, Gulf States have demonstrated their willingness to meet the challenge of change, to combine their proud Muslim and Arabic heritage with the challenges and opportunities posed by today’s globalisation. Qatar is a perfect example of this determination and vision.

At the same time, it is clear that this region is confronted with a number of security challenges of great importance for the region but also, with no doubt, for all the world.

That is the purpose of ICI. ICI is an offer for cooperation extended to countries in this region to help promote regional stability, security and peace through bilateral cooperation with NATO in areas where the Alliance has particular added value.

Four countries have responded immediately to NATO’s offer for cooperation: Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. With each of these four countries, we have made very good progress in developing individual work programmes. In 2007 the offer of cooperation to ICI countries increased by 100 per cent and 160 activities were offered in the 2007 Menu of Practical Activities of cooperation. And there have been expressions of interest in the ICI on the part of Saudi Arabia and Oman as well. With Saudi Arabia we co-organised a public diplomacy conference in January of 2007, to begin a dialogue while respecting the total freedom of any country to choose whether or not to answer positively to our offer of cooperation.

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That is why public diplomacy is so crucial. NATO and ICI states themselves need to explain to the public opinion of their countries that cooperation in the security field is in our mutual interest – and, to be sure, mutual interest is not a hidden agenda -, and in the interest of stability and peace for our peoples. If we want our cooperative efforts to produce the best results, we need to correct misperceptions, overcome prejudices, share experience and build mutual trust. You will always find me ready to do more in this perspective.

Through the member nations and on the basis of its own history, this Alliance knows maybe more than any other institution that at some point, a peace settlement will finally have to be concluded.

At that point in time, much will depend on leaders and on those responsible addressing the challenge in such a way as to ensure that the whole process is conducive to peace. But much will also depend on our people, on their ability to accept the challenge and the burden of peace building. We and our people must be ready for such an opportunity when it comes, and, I would say, to help it to come. That is also one of the purposes of Public Diplomacy, which must be able to involve the successor generation in our societies, the one born without the memory of the Cold War and which will be occupying positions of leadership fairly soon.

The further development of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative represents a unique opportunity for multilateral cooperation in the security field, one that can bring different countries together with the common objective of making the world safer.

Let us do what is needed in this regard for our future and for the future of our peoples. I believe our Conference here today in Doha has been an important step towards achieving these objectives.

I thank you very much for your attention, your interest and I look forward to developing this trustful dialogue with all of you.