What is NATO’s role in the fight against COVID-19?

  • 11 May. 2021 -
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  • Last updated: 11 May. 2021 10:30

John Manza, Assistant Secretary General for Operations, outlines NATO’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

NATO Experts | What is NATO’s role in the fight against COVID-19?

From the beginning, NATO has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic: we have flown medical personnel, transported medical supplies and equipment, helped build field hospitals, engaged our scientific community, created a stockpile of supplies and established a trust fund. All the while, our operations and missions have continued and our ability to deter and defend remains intact.

Questions and Answers with John Manza, Assistant Secretary General for Operations

1. Why did NATO get involved in the wider response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Managing the effects of pandemics is fundamentally the job of national governments. But Allies look out for each other and were able to respond when help was requested. It's important to note that pandemics can have consequences for the security of the Alliance, so we want to remain fully engaged to support Allies and partners within our means and capabilities. Allies and partners need to know that NATO stands with them in solidarity and that we are ready to support when they are faced with such emergencies.

2. Throughout the pandemic, how was NATO able to ensure its missions and operations could continue?

Throughout the first wave of the pandemic, NATO's operational readiness and preparedness to deal with a wide range of security threats was never compromised. NATO drew on its experience in crisis management and disaster relief to both adapt to the crisis and to sustain our operations. We were in constant contact with our commanders, who were already taking steps to protect the force and to ensure that operations continued uninterrupted. We operate in many places, from Afghanistan to Kosovo to Iraq and in the Mediterranean. Given the challenges of that geography and the wide variety of operating environments, we were pleased with our agility overall and we were proud of our commanders and forces for adapting so quickly and so well.

3. What is NATO doing to prepare for the possibility of similar crises in the future?

In June 2020, NATO Defence Ministers decided on a new Operations Plan to ensure that the Alliance is ready to help Allies and partners. This plan can be activated at any time during this crisis, for future pandemics or other large-scale medical emergencies. NATO also established the Pandemic Response Trust Fund that maintains a stockpile of medical equipment and supplies to be able to provide immediate relief to Allies or partners in need. The trust fund is very active and is performing well.

Establishing this trust fund has already enhanced our preparedness for similar pandemics in the future. The modalities have been established and best practices have been adopted accordingly. As part of a coordinated approach, NATO continues to work closely with other international organisations, including the European Union, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Health Organization and the United Nations World Food Programme. These established connections have matured significantly over the past year and we are all in a better position to address similar crises in the future.

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