Keynote address

by NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy H.E. Mr. Jean Fournet at the joint public diplomacy conference 'Media in a Changing World: Perspectives from GCC and NATO'

  • 06 Jun. 2007 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 14 Dec. 2009 13:43

Mr. Jean Fournet, ASG for Public Diplomacy, delivers his speech to conference participants

Mister Minister

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be in Bahrain in the context of our joint public diplomacy conference on: “Media in a Changing World: Perspectives from GCC and NATO”, for the first ever visit of a NATO Assistant Secretary General to your country. This event takes place in the context of the NATO Public Diplomacy activities to explain the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, launched in June 2004 by NATO’s Heads of State and Government in the Turkish city.

Allow me first of all to extend a sincere word of appreciation to the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain and particularly to the Minister of Information Dr. Muhammad Abdul Ghaffar and to his staff for their hard work, in organising this conference together with NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division.  I would like also to extend  my thanks to Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Khalifa and his team from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their help and continuous support. Thank you also to all of you for taking the time to be here with us today.

Bahrain joined the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative in February 2005.

In March 2005 His Highness The Crown Prince participated as a speaker, alongside the Secretary General, in our Public Diplomacy Conference at the NATO Defense College in Rome, which brought together officials and civil society representatives from NATO and ICI countries, to discuss this new Initiative launched by the Alliance at its June 2004 Summit. 

As the NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, I attach great importance to opportunities such as this conference, to engage government and civil society representatives, the media, to provide a better public understanding of NATO and of this new Initiative we are developing with the countries of the broader Middle East region.

Although NATO has been in existence for 58 years, and although many NATO Allies have cooperative ties with many Gulf countries, the Alliance for much of its history focused on Europe.  During the Cold War, political consultations and practical cooperation between NATO and countries of the broader Middle East region would have been unthinkable. 

Therefore my presence here today in Manama is not only a symbol of the new NATO that has taken shape in recent years, but also as a symbol of a new global order: one not only allowing but also encouraging countries from very different regions to come together and to cooperate, in order to protect common security interests against common threats and challenges.

Over the past few years, during my tenure in office, I have been closely involved in the development of NATO’s cooperation with countries participating in the Mediterranean Dialogue and in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.  And I see our meeting today as a unique opportunity to discuss the rationale for that cooperation, and its enormous potential for both NATO and for the Kingdom of Bahrain.

I would argue that NATO is undoubtedly as new to Bahrain as Bahrain is new to NATO, I would like to say something about what NATO is today and how much it has been transformed since the days of the Cold War. 

In December of last year NATO Heads of State and Government met in the Latvian capital of Riga and they took a number of far-reaching decisions, spelling out how NATO’s roles and missions are changing to address twenty-first century challenges. 

Their primary focus was on NATO’s operations.  For an Alliance which never fired a bullet during the Cold War years and which was essentially a defensive Alliance, it is a fascinating achievement that today NATO’s Allies and many partner countries are deployed together in operations and missions on three continents.  In Europe, NATO is keeping the peace in the Balkans, notably in Kosovo where we are facing challenging times in the weeks to come as the United Nations takes up the issue of Kosovo’s final status.  In the Mediterranean our Operation Active Endeavour is conducting naval anti-terrorist patrols.  In Afghanistan, NATO is leading the International Security Assistance Force, a mission ranging from peacekeeping to reconstruction tasks.  In Iraq, NATO is training Iraqi security forces so that they can take care on their own of the security of its people.  In Pakistan, after the earthquake in 2005, NATO provided humanitarian relief vis-a-vis a humanitarian catastrophe there.  And in Africa, NATO is airlifting African Union troops so that they can manage the crisis in Darfur and restore peace. 

Overall, more than 50,000 soldiers are deployed today under NATO command and under UN mandate. These soldiers come not only from the 26 NATO member countries but also from 18 Partner countries.  Arab countries such as Morocco, Jordan or the UAE have been or are still part of our missions in the Balkans and countries from as far away as Australia, New Zealand and South Korea – even Japan --contribute to our mission in Afghanistan.  So NATO is increasingly an organisation which is able to bring together the international community in the broadest sense to defend common values and common security interests.

Why is NATO so much in demand?  Certainly we are not the only organisation able to carry out peace support missions.  The United Nations is still obviously the leader in this area.  And in recent times we have seen the European Union or the African Union take up the challenge of deploying forces to stabilize conflict areas – a development that NATO does not see as rivalry but as a positive form of international burden sharing. 

Indeed, NATO has unique added value.  For instance it brings together North America and Europe who always work best when they work together.  NATO has also an exceptional political consultation mechanism which ensures that everybody has a say in the way in which it is run.  NATO has also a multinational military structure that makes our forces inter-operable and gives them the experience of working together.  We have an extensive planning organisation which allows us to react to crisis situations quickly. Perhaps most importantly of all NATO has shown a willingness to adapt to change and to address the new challenges that preoccupy us so much now:  for instance the multiplication of failed states, the fight against terrorism or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. 

Another area where last year’s Riga NATO Summit has moved the Allies forward is Partnerships.  During the Cold War NATO did not need other countries to fulfil its essential security mission of self defence.  Allied political solidarity and cohesion were enough.  But as we send our forces now globally on peace support operations we know how important partnerships with other countries are to the success of these operations for the cause of peace.  Partners contribution is crucial for many reasons: they provide forces to our missions (ten per cent of all of the forces in NATO missions today are from Partner countries) and they provide us with intelligence and expertise.  But our partners benefit too.  NATO is an effective framework that they can use to make their contribution and our many NATO partnership programmes provide these countries with material help and expertise in reforming their military forces and taking care of their own security problems.  But first and foremost the enormous success of our partnership is based on the fact that in this age of globalised threats Allies and Partners realise that they face common problems which they can only solve by working more closely together. Therefore at Riga we agreed that we must build further by consulting more closely with partners that contribute to our operations, by expanding the menu of our partnership activities, especially to new partners in the Mediterranean region and in the Middle East, and in developing a serious educational and training programme with countries in this region. 

From what I have said it is obvious that the 2007 NATO has a much broader range of roles and missions than the NATO of 50 years ago.  Some have wondered whether NATO is trying to be a new global policeman, imposing its will on the rest of the world.  This is not true. 

NATO’s primary mission is still the collective defence of its own members and we do not intend to solve problems all over the world. We do have neither the means nor the political will to do so.  And we do not try to solve problems all by ourselves.  In the Balkans and in Afghanistan, we know that we cannot succeed with military forces alone, but that we have to work closely with other institutions.  Security and development are two sides of the same coin.  That is why we are constantly calling on the United Nations, the European Union, the World Bank and other institutions to contribute their expertise and resources to this common effort.  Only this comprehensive approach will allow us to achieve lasting benefit. In short we may not be able to succeed without NATO; but we cannot succeed with NATO alone.

And of course we also fully realise that local ownership over the reconstruction process remains key to success. In engaging in Afghanistan or Bosnia or Kosovo our aim is not to stay forever but to leave as soon as possible after we have managed to create a self-sustaining peace: that is to say the capacity of the countries themselves to stand on their own feet and to handle their own affairs.

This brings me to today’s theme which is our outreach to the broader Middle East region through the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.  Why is NATO interested in this region? 

There is a fundamental reason. The future of the broader Middle East region is key to the security of both Europe and North America.  We are not geographically isolated and furthermore, we share common security challenges: how to deal with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; how to counter extremism and especially highly organised and disciplined terrorist networks; how to deal with destabilising effects deriving from failed states?

When we launched this Initiative, we already had ten years of experience with the region through our Mediterranean Dialogue which established a new relationship between NATO, the countries of North Africa and the Middle East. So today the Mediterranean Dialogue has led countries like Algeria and Israel to cooperate with our Active Endeavour mission in the Mediterranean:  the North Atlantic Council – NATO’s most senior political body - has visited Morocco, and we now hold regular meetings at the level of Ministers in this framework. 

Based on this positive experience we have offered partnership to interested Gulf States. 

Last December, the NATO Public Diplomacy Division and the Government of Kuwait co-organised an international conference where the Secretary General of NATO and the whole North Atlantic Council, engaged in a discussion with government representatives, academics and the media from Gulf states.
It was the first time the political and military leadership of NATO visited the Gulf region.

In practice, the Mediterranean Dialogue and the ICI have the same objective: to enhance mutual understanding, build transparency, and engage in concrete cooperation on issues of mutual interest. 

A lot has already been achieved.  Four Gulf countries have joined the Initiative -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.  Our political contacts have increased significantly.  And we have also seen a significant increase in our practical cooperation.

Three important areas appear to me to take priority: political consultations, practical cooperation and training.  

First, at Riga we invited our partners who support NATO’s operations to consult more closely with us.  To do this we agreed to set up more flexible frameworks, whereby the North Atlantic Council can meet as the need arises with individual nations or groups of partners.  We value the views and advice of our partners and agree to consult them more closely.  This offer will give the partnership much more political substance. 

Second, our Mediterranean Dialogue and ICI partners will now be able to benefit from many of the partnership tools that we have developed with countries participating in the Partnership for Peace framework.  This will allow our partners in this region to be able to choose from a much greater menu of practical activities.  It will also lead to more self-differentiation, through which partners can choose the pace and extent of their cooperation with us. 

Thirdly, and perhaps more importantly, in Riga NATO leaders launched the so-called NATO Training Cooperation Initiative.  Through almost six decades of military cooperation among Allies, NATO has acquired a wealth of experience in education and training.  With our partners from the Mediterranean and the Gulf region, we will make another step towards the “human interoperability” that is so crucially important – for the success of future joint missions, as well as for our day to day cooperation.  We are currently looking at how we can rapidly set up this programme, beginning at the NATO Defense College in Rome and other NATO institutions, but also through making more use of Mobile Training Teams. 

In implementing this initiative, I believe that joint ownership among equal partners will remain a key principle of our cooperation. These principles have served us well – and they will continue to guide us in our efforts to enhance our cooperation with our partners in the Gulf region.

Mister Minister, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, not one of our nations is immune from the complex new threats and risks of the fast changing 21st century security environment.  To successfully address these trans-national challenges we clearly must reach out beyond geographical, cultural or religious boundaries. We must explore new approaches to security cooperation.

The Istanbul Cooperation Initiative is a new and very promising joint endeavour.  ICI has got off to a very good start.  I am convinced that it holds enormous potential for closer, mutually beneficial cooperation.  I also believe that it is in the interest of all of the NATO countries and participating countries alike, to continue to explore that potential, together with other countries in the Gulf region which have been offered by NATO this cooperation and are currently considering it.

Thank you.