Communications and information programmes
With an intergovernmental organization like NATO, individual member governments are responsible for explaining their national defence and security policies as well as their role as members of the Alliance to their respective publics. Complementing these efforts are the programmes developed by NATO itself since NATO also has an obligation to inform publics in member countries and audiences worldwide about its policies and objectives.
NATO aims to promote dialogue and understanding, while contributing to the public’s knowledge of security issues and promoting public involvement in a continuous process of debate on security. To do so, it engages with the media, develops communications and information programmes for selected target groups including opinion leaders, academic and parliamentary groups, and youth and educational circles. It seeks to reach audiences worldwide, in particular, through the website, the NATO TV Channel on the Internet and social media activities. It also disseminates hardcopy materials and implements programmes and activities with external partners, while at the same time supporting the NATO Secretary General in his role as spokesperson for the Organization.
In sum, communication or public diplomacy efforts encompass all measures and means to inform, communicate and cooperate with a broad range of audiences worldwide, with the aim of raising levels of awareness and understanding about NATO, promoting its policies and activities, and thereby fostering support for, trust and confidence in the Alliance.
Communicating with the public was a concern of the Alliance from its inception. As early as May 1950, just one year after the signing of the Washington Treaty, the North Atlantic Council issued a resolution in which it committed itself to: “Promote and coordinate public information in futherance of the objectives of the Treaty while leaving responsibility for national programs to each country...” (18 May 1950).
The same ethos drives NATO’s communications and information programmes today, as reasserted by NATO Heads of State and Government in 2009: “As NATO adapts to 21st century challenges in its 60th anniversary year, it is increasingly important that the Alliance communicates in an appropriate, timely, accurate and responsive manner on its evolving roles, objectives and missions. Strategic communications are an integral part of our efforts to achieve the Alliance’s political and military objectives.” However, the substantial changes brought about with the information age, mobile media and user-generated content imply a process of constant reform and modernization: communication tools have multiplied and have the potential to hit a bigger and more diverse audience. At the same time, the need for instant communication, direct interaction and information-sharing is increasing.