NATO-Private Sector Dialogues focus on NATO 2030 initiative

  • 02 Jun. 2021 -
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  • Last updated: 02 Jun. 2021 16:57

In June 2020, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg launched NATO 2030, an initiative to strengthen the Alliance militarily, make it stronger politically and adopt a more global approach. NATO has reached out to civil society, youth and the private sector for their input on NATO 2030, including through a series of six NATO-Private Sector Dialogues held in cooperation with GLOBSEC. These dialogues looked at how NATO-private sector relations should evolve as conflicts are increasingly defined by bytes and big data as much as by bullets and battleships.

In the course of six webinars, leading private sector stakeholders discussed the future of warfare, potential private sector contributions to Alliance security, sustainable defence innovation and climate change, geopolitical competition in the information landscape, the ethical deployment and governance of new technologies, and the security of critical infrastructure and supply chains.

(1) The future of warfare and the role of new and emerging technologies

The first webinar took place on 25 November 2020. As the inaugural event in the series, it gave a preview of upcoming topics and focused on the future of warfare and the role of new and emerging technologies.

Major topics of discussion included artificial intelligence (AI) and big data, AI in warfare, bridging the knowledge and capability gap around AI-automated systems between the public and private sectors, differences in regulatory frameworks across the Alliance and opportunities for defence investment in AI tools, among others. In addition to AI, emerging technologies like hypersonic weapons, quantum and nanotechnologies and autonomous systems were also on the agenda. 

Participants also discussed the vital importance of cooperation between NATO and the private sector to achieve NATO 2030 objectives, including public-private partnerships with large corporate actors as well as small and medium enterprises. The webinar also included a discussion on innovation ecosystems and venture capital’s role in Allied defence and security, and how NATO and Allies can work to ensure safe financing for start-ups that act as key hubs of creativity in the race to implement and adopt new technologies.

(2) Potential private sector contributions to Alliance security 

In the second webinar, on 21 January 2021, GLOBSEC facilitated a dialogue between NATO and various business leaders on ways in which the private sector could contribute to Alliance security.

Throughout the exchange, participants pointed out several potential fields for increased cooperation with NATO on Alliance security. They highlighted in particular that the private sector’s extensive pool of data and expertise could help enhance the Alliance’s situational awareness. They also stressed the role that businesses can and must play to improve the resilience of critical infrastructure, which is often at least partially privately run. 

The participating industry leaders also called on the public sector to close regulatory loopholes on private investment in order to make supply chains more transparent and emphasised the need for public support to boost innovation.

(3) Sustainable defence innovation and climate change 

On 11 February 2021, the third webinar focused on sustainable defence innovation and its contribution to the fight against climate change.

Both NATO and the private sector recognise the ways in which climate change affects security and defence. Indeed, the participating industry leaders stressed that climate change will soon impact most policy areas and concerns in one way or another. 

In this light, participants underlined the importance of climate foresight and called for greater transatlantic coordination on policy and technological innovation in order to address emerging challenges early on, including as part of efforts to mitigate climate change.

(4) Geopolitical competition in the information landscape 

The fourth webinar, held on 25 February 2021, brought together various private sector leaders to exchange views with NATO on geopolitical competition in the information landscape. 

The participating private sector representatives recognised that the information landscape is becoming ever more complex and contested, especially in the context of changing geopolitical realities. In this light, they discussed various concrete challenges to improved governance in the information space.

The participants highlighted in particular the need for a coordinated transatlantic approach to online regulation and increased public-private cooperation on threat analysis. They stressed that the private sector, including small and medium enterprises, has access to extensive data that can help inform public sector responses to threats in the information space. They also underlined the importance of wider public outreach to promote media literacy and data protection across the transatlantic space.

(5) Ethical deployment and governance of new technologies

On 25 March 2021, the fifth webinar was based around the theme of transatlantic cooperation on the ethical deployment and governance of emerging technologies.

The discussion centred on the need to improve regulation and fill regulatory gaps to ensure the ethical development of emerging technologies. Participants highlighted in particular the role that NATO could play to coordinate and advance the development of common tech norms. The private sector, they suggested, could support such efforts with its technological and industry expertise.

The dialogue explored a number of concrete ethical and legal challenges of emerging technologies in the fields of both kinetic and non-kinetic warfare. As a general theme, industry leaders called for the development of more elaborate and up-to-date legal frameworks to reduce uncertainties and tackle potential ethical issues early on.

(6) Security of critical infrastructure and supply chains

On 22 April 2021, GLOBSEC facilitated the sixth and final webinar between NATO and private sector representatives, focused on critical infrastructure and the security of supply chains.

Critical infrastructure and supply chains have become increasingly complex, global and interconnected. The participating industry leaders recognised that this makes it more complicated to address vulnerabilities and discussed a broad range of existing and emerging challenges.

Noting the private sector’s focus on cost minimisation, participants stressed in particular the need for businesses to achieve a balance between an appropriate level of security and costs. The public sector, they suggested, could facilitate this effort by further harmonising regulatory systems and facilitating exchanges between industries in the transatlantic space.

GLOBSEC is a think tank based in Bratislava, Slovakia. Among other events, it organises the annual Bratislava Forum on global security, bringing together public and private sector leaders from across Europe and around the world. NATO has worked with GLOBSEC and its predecessor organisation, the Slovak Atlantic Commission, for more than 20 years.