Partnership programmes and tools

  • Last updated: 27 Jun. 2024 18:26

NATO has developed a number of partnership tools and mechanisms to support cooperation with partner countries through a mix of policies, programmes, action plans and other arrangements. Many tools are focused on the important priorities of interoperability and building capacity, and supporting defence and security-related reform.


  • A Partnership Cooperation Menu comprising approximately 1,400 activities is accessible to all NATO partners.
  • Several initiatives are open to all partners that allow them to cooperate with NATO mainly focusing on interoperability and building capacity, and supporting defence and security-related reform.
  • Partnership tools for deeper bilateral cooperation with individual partners in specific areas include the Individually Tailored Partnership Programmes, the Planning and Review Process and the Operational Capabilities Concept.


Setting objectives for cooperation

Each partner determines the pace, scope, intensity and focus of its partnership with NATO, as well as individual objectives. Bilateral (NATO-partner) cooperation documents set out the main objectives and goals of that partner’s cooperation with NATO. Broadly speaking, the type of programme chosen reflects the different nature and emphasis of the relationship.

In March 2021, the North Atlantic Council agreed on the Partnership Reform based on the “One Partner, One Plan” concept and established a new framework for NATO’s cooperation with partner countries, known as the Individually Tailored Partnership Programme (ITPP).

The ITPP safeguards the current modalities for cooperation established through various partnership tools and programmes (Annual National Programme, Partnership Cooperation Menu, Defence and Related Security Capacity Building Initiative, Planning and Review Process, etc.) under a single overarching framework. It is individually tailored to the partner’s specific objectives for its relationship with NATO through the thoughtful consideration of strategic objectives, goals and supporting activities, all of which are linked to each other and described in a single document. The ITPP process spans a period of four years, during which strategic objectives and partnership goals are jointly developed, activities are carried out and evaluated, and objectives and goals are adjusted if necessary.

The ITPP replaces the Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme and the Individual Partnership Action Plan as the document that frames NATO’s deeper cooperation with individual partners.

The Annual National Programme (ANP) is the most demanding document, focused on comprehensive democratic, security and defence reforms, and developed annually by the partner in consultation with NATO. The ANP is open to Membership Action Plan (MAP) countries, to track their progress on the road to NATO membership. It is a nationally owned document. An annual assessment of reforms is conducted by NATO staff, agreed by the Allies and discussed with each participating partner at North Atlantic Council (NAC) level. Countries that have ANPs are also expected to agree their ITPPs with Allies. 


Building capabilities and interoperability

Partner countries have made and continue to make significant contributions to the Alliance’s operations and missions, whether it has been supporting peace in the Western Balkans, training national security forces in Iraq, participating in NATO missions in Afghanistan, monitoring maritime activity in the Mediterranean Sea, or helping protect civilians in Libya.

A number of tools have been developed to assist partners in developing their own defence capacities and defence institutions, ensuring that partner forces are able to provide for their own security, capable of participating in NATO-led operations, and interoperable with Allies’ forces.

They include the following:

The Planning and Review Process (PARP) helps develop the interoperability and capabilities of forces, which could be made available for NATO training, exercises and operations. Under the PARP, NATO and individual partners negotiate and set partnership goals together. These goals are demand-driven and tailored to each partner’s needs and priorities. Regular reviews measure progress. In addition, the PARP also provides a framework to assist individual partners to develop effective, affordable and sustainable armed forces as well as to promote wider transformation and modernisation efforts in the defence and security sector.  The PARP was initially developed for Partnership for Peace countries. The review of NATO’s partnerships policy in April 2011 opened up participation to all other partners on a voluntary and case-by-case basis, subject to North Atlantic Council approval. 

The Operational Capabilities Concept (OCC) Evaluation and Feedback Programme is used to develop and train partner land, maritime, air or Special Operations Forces that seek to meet NATO standards. This rigorous process can often take a few years, but it ensures that partner forces are ready to work with Allied forces once deployed. Some partners use the OCC as a strategic tool to transform their defence forces. The OCC has contributed significantly to the increasing number of partner forces participating in NATO-led operations and the NATO Response Force.

Exercising is key for maintaining, testing and evaluating readiness and interoperability, also for partners. NATO offers partners a chance to participate in the Military Training and Exercise Programme (MTEP) to promote their interoperability. Through the MTEP, a five-year planning horizon provides a starting point for exercise planning and the allocation of resources.

In addition, and on a case-by-case basis, Allies may invite partners to take part in crisis management exercises, which engage the NAC and ministries in participating capitals, as well as national political and military representations at NATO Headquarters, in consultations on the strategic management of crises during an exercise.

Once a partner wishes to join a NATO-led operation, the Political-Military Framework (PMF) sets out principles and guidelines for the involvement of all partner countries in political consultations and decision-shaping, in operational planning and in command arrangements for operations to which they contribute.

Several tools and programmes have been developed to provide assistance to partner countries in their own efforts to transform defence and security-related structures and policies, and to manage the economic and social consequences of reforms. An important priority is to promote the development of effective defence institutions that are under civil and democratic control.

In particular, the Defence and Related Security Capacity Building (DCB) Initiative is a request-driven NATO programme that seeks to enable the creation of viable, effective and resilient defence institutions in NATO partners. DCB packages are agreed by NATO and tailored to the specific needs of each partner; activities can range from strategic-level advice on defence and related security reform and institution-building, to practical assistance on defence capability and local forces development, as well as specific projects in support of these objectives. Moreover, DCB packages evolve with the requirements of each partner and the international environment. Since its launch in 2014, the DCB Initiative has been extended to a number of partner countries and the United Nations.

The NATO Building Integrity (BI) Initiative is designed to support NATO as an organisation, NATO Allies and partner countries in promoting good governance and integrity within the defence and related security sector. Launched in 2007 by the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the primary goal of the initiative is to establish efficient and effective institutions that uphold the principles of integrity, transparency and accountability.  The NATO BI Initiative operates on a demand-driven model, providing country-specific support through tailored advice and consultations, along with customised capacity-building efforts to strengthen national good governance.

In addition, the Professional Development Programme (PDP) assists interested partner countries in developing the professional skills of civilian personnel employed in their defence and security institutions, increasing the effectiveness of civil and democratic control of security forces.  Currently, the Programme operates in Georgia and Ukraine.

The PDP Programme works with the legislative and executive branches to:

  • increase the professional skills of key civilian specialists responsible for national security and managing reforms;
  • contribute to increasing the resilience of state institutions by focusing on the skills of personnel responsible for addressing security challenges;
  • build the capacity of professional development agencies, in this way directly contributing to establishing self-sustaining local training capacities for the defence and security sectors;
  • address sectoral requirements including effective implementation of specific reform concepts and strategies.

Through the Partnership Trust Fund policy, individual Allies and partners support practical demilitarization projects and defence transformation projects in partner countries through individual Trust Funds.


Supporting transformation through education, training and exercises 

NATO offers different means to access education, training and exercises, which can help partners to train and test personnel in the various areas relevant to their NATO partnerships.

Education and training in various areas is offered to decision-makers, military forces, civil servants and representatives of civil society through institutions such as the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany; the NATO Defense College in Rome, Italy; and some 30 national Partnership Training and Education Centres.

NATO offers partners a Partnership Cooperation Menu (PCM) – an annual catalogue that comprises, on average, some 1,400 education, training and other events for partners across 37 disciplines, held in more than 50 countries. These activities cater to the needs of around 10,000 participants from partner countries. In addition to NATO bodies, Allies and partners can offer contributions to the PCM.

The NATO Defence Education Enhancement Programme (DEEP) is a vehicle for institutional reform, through which NATO advises individual partners on how to build, develop and reform educational institutions in the security, defence and military domains.


Wider cooperation

The NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme promotes joint cooperative projects between Allies and partners in the field of security-related civil science and technology. Funding applications should address key SPS priorities -- these are linked to NATO’s strategic objectives and focus on projects in direct support of NATO’s operations, as well as projects that enhance defence capacity building and address other security threats.

Disaster response and preparedness is also an important area of cooperation with partners. The Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) is a 24/7 focal point for coordinating disaster-relief and consequence-management efforts among NATO and partner countries.

The principles of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and related Resolutions – which form the Women, Peace and Security agenda – were first developed into a NATO policy approved by Allies and partners in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) in 2007.  The Resolutions reaffirm the role of women in conflict and post-conflict situations and encourage greater participation of women and the incorporation of gender perspectives in peace and security efforts. Over the years, the policy has been updated, related action plans have been strengthened and more partner countries from across the globe have become associated with these efforts. In practice, NATO has made significant progress in embedding gender perspectives within education, training and exercises, as well as the planning and execution of missions and operations, policies and guidelines.