Five years of strengthened cooperation with the United Nations

  • 23 Sep. 2013 -
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  • Last updated: 09 Oct. 2013 18:31

This week the focus is on New York as world leaders, including NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, gather for the annual plenary session of the United Nations General Assembly. It also marks five years since the signing, on 23 September 2008, of the Joint Declaration on UN/NATO Secretariat Cooperation, which has taken staff cooperation between the two organisations to a new level.

Substantial cooperation already existed for many years prior to the signing of the declaration, particularly in the context of UN-mandated missions and in areas such as disaster relief. However, over the past five years, NATO and UN staffs have broadened their dialogue and cooperation into new areas, particularly training, assessment, and other key issues. They have also deepened existing practical cooperation in disaster relief, counter-terrorism and military standards, and further expanded dialogue and coordination on operations and areas where NATO and the UN are both involved.

“Guided by the UN Charter, the Joint Declaration has allowed for improved coordination to address the threats and challenges to which the international community is called to respond, from Kosovo to Afghanistan or the fight against piracy off the coast of the Horn of Africa,” says Jeffrey Feltman, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.

This approach is very much in line with NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept, which makes specific mention of the United Nations and calls for enhanced practical cooperation in managing crises where both organisations are engaged and for more regular political consultation. It demonstrates the value of developing a comprehensive approach to crisis management and stabilisation operations among actors in the international community.

“The cooperation with the NATO Secretariat is an asset for the UN Secretariat: we share the principles and purposes of the UN Charter as our foundation. At the same time, our strength also lies in our difference - our respective mandates define our partnership,” adds Mr Feltman.

Reinforcing our trust and confidence

There is optimism for the future as we reinforce the trust and confidence that we have built over many years of cooperation in the field,” says Ambassador Terry Stamatopoulos, NATO's Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy. “Both sides can only benefit from stronger cooperation,” he continues.

“NATO and the UN are caught in a similar dilemma: do more with less and manage more complex crises in times of austerity. This is a challenge for both of us – but it is also an opportunity to think about how best to develop cooperation based on the organisations’ respective strengths. We want to emphasise pragmatic cooperation that delivers concrete results on the ground. We also strive towards better educating ourselves and raising awareness. To this end, we maintain a wide-ranging political dialogue,” Ambassador Stamatopoulos further adds.

Yet, the challenges in fostering more effective cooperation between established international organisations should not be underestimated. Different organisational histories, cultures, structures and procedures, and constituencies are not always easily understood, and this can sometimes feed misperceptions. NATO and the UN are tackling these challenges head-on by emphasising training and education for their staffs.

Priorities for cooperation

Cooperation in theatres of operations, such as Afghanistan and Kosovo, remains a priority. "Peacekeeping today, more than ever, takes place in a context that demands enhanced cooperation amongst all partners, taking advantage of different capacities and comparative advantages,” says Hervé Ladsous, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.

Since the signing of the Joint Declaration on UN/NATO Secretariat Cooperation, we have continued to find in NATO a reliable partner in the critical peacekeeping contexts where we are both engaged,” he adds. “As we address new peace and security challenges before us and look to 2014 and beyond, we know that we can build on these strong foundations and pursue new opportunities for closer UN/NATO cooperation in peacekeeping."

Other key areas for cooperation include training and education, sharing lessons learned, promoting the role of women in peace and security and protecting children affected by armed conflict.

Reinforcing liaison

As part of strengthening cooperation with the UN, NATO decided in 2010 to appoint a Civilian Liaison Officer to the UN Headquarters in New York. Eirini Lemos-Maniati is the first NATO Civilian Liaison to hold this post.

An important part of the job is to provide regular and timely analysis, assessment and advice to NATO Headquarters on developments at the UN. At the same time, the Civilian Liaison Officer is the political point of contact for all New York-based UN institutions and agencies to further reinforce liaison, support practical cooperation and support the development and strengthening of this partnership. The Civilian Liaison Officer facilitates dialogue and builds on working relationships with key policy makers in the UN Secretariat and other agencies, funds and programmes.

Cooperation in the field

UN Security Council resolutions have provided the mandate for NATO’s operations in the Western Balkans and in Afghanistan, the framework for NATO’s training mission in Iraq and, more recently, NATO’s operation to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack in Libya in 2011.

NATO has also supported UN-sponsored operations, including logistical assistance to the African Union’s UN-endorsed peacekeeping operations in Darfur, Sudan, and in Somalia. UN disaster-relief operations in Pakistan following the massive earthquake in 2005 received support from NATO. Moreover, NATO ships have escorted merchant ships carrying World Food Programme humanitarian supplies off the coast of Somalia.