Relations with the United Nations

  • Last updated: 15 Feb. 2019 16:03

NATO and the United Nations (UN) share a commitment to maintaining international peace and security. The two organisations have been cooperating in this area since the early 1990s, in support of peace-support and crisis-management operations. The complexity of today’s security challenges has required a broader dialogue between NATO and the UN. This has led to reinforced cooperation and liaison arrangements between the staff of the two organisations, as well as UN specialised agencies.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres


  • NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept commits the Alliance to preventing crises, managing conflicts and stabilising post-conflict situations, including by working more closely with NATO’s international partners, most importantly the UN and the European Union (EU).
  • UN Security Council Resolutions have provided the mandate for NATO’s operations in the Western Balkans, Afghanistan and Libya. They have also provided the framework for NATO’s training mission in Iraq.
  • NATO has also provided support to UN-sponsored operations, including logistical assistance to the African Union’s UN-endorsed peacekeeping operations in Darfur, Sudan, and in Somalia; support for UN disaster-relief operations in Pakistan, following the massive earthquake in 2005; and escorting merchant ships carrying World Food Programme humanitarian supplies off the coast of Somalia.
  • Practical cooperation between NATO and the UN  extends beyond operations to include: crisis assessment and management, civil-military cooperation, training and education, tackling corruption in the defence sector, mine action, mitigating the threat posed by improvised explosive devices, civilian capabilities, promoting the role of women in peace and security, the protection of civilians, including children, in armed conflict, combating sexual and gender-based violence, arms control and non-proliferation, and the fight against terrorism.
  • At the 2015 Leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping, held on the margins of the 70th UN General Assembly, NATO also pledged enhanced support to the UN in the area of peace operations.
  • An updated Joint Declaration setting out plans for future cooperation between NATO and the UN was signed on 26 October 2018. Building on the original Joint Declaration, signed in September 2008, it sets out priority areas for future cooperation, including support to UN peace operations, countering terrorism, the protection of civilians, and promoting the Women, Peace and Security agenda.
  • In 2010, NATO reinforced its liaison arrangements by establishing the post of NATO Civilian Liaison Officer to the United Nations, in addition to that of a Military Liaison Officer, established in 1999.
  • Enhanced cooperation with the UN – and other international actors such as the EU and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe – is an integral part of NATO’s contribution to a “Comprehensive Approach” to crisis management and operations.

More background information

  • Framework for cooperation

    In September 2008, building on the experience of over a decade of working together, the Secretaries General of the two organisations agreed to establish a framework for expanded consultation and cooperation.

    Since the signing of the 2008 framework, cooperation has continued to develop in a practical way, taking into account each organisation’s specific mandate, expertise, procedures and capabilities. Regular exchanges and dialogue at senior and working levels on political and operational issues have become a standard feature of the inter-institutional relationship. NATO’s Secretary General reports regularly to the UN Secretary-General on progress in UN-mandated NATO-led operations and on other key decisions of the North Atlantic Council, including in the area of crisis management and in the fight against terrorism. The UN is frequently invited to attend NATO ministerial meetings and summits; the NATO Secretary General participates in the UN General Assembly; and staff level meetings, covering the broad range of cooperation and dialogue, take place on an annual basis between the secretariats of NATO and the UN.

  • Key areas of cooperation

    Peace operations

    NATO’s unique capabilities and experience can be a valuable source of support to the UN, whose peacekeepers operate in increasingly challenging and dangerous environments. NATO and UN staffs have worked to build practical cooperation in this domain.

    At the 2015 Leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping, the NATO Secretary General pledged to enhance support to the UN, in particular in the areas of countering improvised explosive devices, training and preparedness, supporting the UN’s efforts to deploy more rapidly and working more closely on capacity building in countries at risk, both with the UN Nations and the EU. As the UN reforms its approach to peace operations, NATO will continue to look for where its support can make a difference.


    The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, international conventions and protocols against terrorism, together with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions provide the framework for NATO’s efforts to combat terrorism. NATO works closely at staff and committee level with the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee (UN CTC) and its Executive Directorate, as well as with the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force and many of its component organisations. The Terrorism Prevention Branch of the UN Organisation for Drugs and Crime is also an important partner for NATO.  


    NATO contributes to the work of the UN Security Council Committee established following the adoption of UNSCR 1540 (2004), which addresses the threat to international peace and security posed by the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery. In this context, since 2004 the Alliance has been organising a string of international non-proliferation conferences and  seminars with the active participation of partner countries and international organisations, latest in Ljubljana, Slovenia on 9 and 10 May 2016.

    NATO has also addressed the implementation of UNSCR 1540 at regional and sub-regional levels, including through its Science for Peace and Security Programme, and will continue to address the need for assistance of partner countries upon request.

    Women, Peace and Security

    NATO remains committed to the full implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and related Resolutions, which aim to protect and promote women’s rights, role and participation in preventing and ending conflict.  In line with the policy developed by NATO Allies together with partners in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), significant progress has been made in implementing the goals set out in these Resolutions. 

    In this regard, NATO has endorsed a Strategic Report on mainstreaming UNSCR 1325 and related Resolutions across NATO’s core activities: collective defence; crisis management and operations; and cooperative security.  An updated NATO Action Plan for the Implementation of the UNSCR 1325/EAPC Policy on Women, Peace and Security was also agreed.

    In October 2015, NATO’s Deputy Secretary General participated in the UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security, and pledged to do more in this area, including sharing best practices and lessons learned on increasing female participation at decision-making levels with Allies and partners; encouraging Allies to submit female candidates for NATO’s most senior decision-making positions; strengthening partnerships with international organisations like the UN, OSCE, the EU and the African Union on gender equality, as well as institutionalising the engagement of civil society in the development, execution and monitoring of the NATO/EAPC Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. 

    NATO also committed to financing evidence-based research aimed at understanding the role of gender in preventing and countering violent extremism, which complimented the adoption in 2015 of UNSCR 2242 at the 15th anniversary commemoration of UNSCR 1325.

    Protecting children in armed conflict

    NATO is committed to the implementation of UNSCR 1612 and related Resolutions on the protection of children affected by armed conflict.  At the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales, NATO leaders decided more could be done to ensure the Alliance is sufficiently prepared whenever and wherever the issue of Children and Armed Conflict is likely to be encountered. The result was the NATO policy document "The Protection of Children in Armed Conflict - Way forward".

    Prepared in cooperation with the UN, the policy aims to deepen the implementation of the UNSCR 1612 into NATO operations and missions. These efforts include training the Alliance's deployed troops to recognise, monitor and report violations against children and to incorporate child protection issues into NATO exercise scenarios. When it is invited to train local forces, NATO also emphasises the importance of protecting children in armed conflict. NATO also recently appointed a Children and Armed Conflict Advisor as part of the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.

    Small arms and light weapons