Relations with partners across the globe

  • Last updated: 19 May. 2017 11:31

NATO cooperates on an individual basis with a number of countries which are not part of its regional partnership frameworks¹. Referred to as “partners across the globe” or simply “global partners”, they include Afghanistan, Australia, Colombia, Iraq, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and Pakistan.



  • The importance of reaching out to countries and organisations across the globe was underlined in the Strategic Concept adopted at the November 2010 Lisbon Summit.
  • Following the Lisbon Summit, NATO revised its partnership policy in April 2011 to better engage with partners.
  • Global partners now have access to the full range of activities NATO offers to all partners; each has developed an Individual Partnership Cooperation Programme, choosing the areas where they wish to engage with NATO in a spirit of mutual benefit and reciprocity.
  • Most global partners contribute actively to NATO-led operations and missions.
  • NATO also consults with other non-member countries which have no bilateral programme of cooperation (for example, China, India, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia) on issues such as counter piracy and countering narcotics in Afghanistan.
  1. The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council/Partnership for Peace, the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative


More background information

  • Support for NATO-led operations

    The support provided by global partners and other countries to NATO-led operations makes a significant contribution to international peace and security.

    In the Balkans, Argentinean and Chilean forces have worked alongside NATO Allies to ensure security in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Kosovo, Argentina has helped NATO personnel provide medical and social assistance to the local population and cooperated on peace agreement implementation since 1999.

    In Afghanistan, a number of global partners such as Australia, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand, made important contributions to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from 2003 to 2014. Many continue to work alongside Allies in the follow-on mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces (Resolute Support). Other countries, such as Japan, have supported stabilisation efforts in Afghanistan without being involved in combat, by funding a large number of development projects and dispatching liaison officers.

    Pakistan’s support for the efforts of NATO and the international community in Afghanistan remains crucial to the success of the Alliance’s mission, despite past differences. NATO remains committed to engaging with Pakistan in an effort to enlist support to stabilise Afghanistan.

    The participation of partners in NATO-led peace-support operations is guided by the Political-Military Framework (PMF), which was developed for NATO-led operations. This framework provides for the involvement of contributing states in the planning and force generation processes through the International Coordination Centre at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). Building on lessons learned and reinforcing the habit of cooperation established through the Kosovo Force (KFOR) and ISAF, NATO Allies decided at the 2010 Lisbon Summit to review the PMF in order to update how NATO shapes decisions and works with partner countries on the operations and missions to which they contribute.

    Typically, partner military forces are incorporated into operations on the same basis as are forces from NATO member countries. This implies that they are involved in the decision-making process through their association to the work of NATO committees, and through the posting of liaison officers in the operational headquarters or to SHAPE. They operate under the direct command of the operational commander through multinational divisional headquarters. Regular meetings of the North Atlantic Council, the Alliance’s principal political decision-making body, with ambassadors, ministers and heads of state and government are held to discuss and review the operations.

  • Evolution of relations

    NATO has maintained a dialogue with countries that are not part of its partnership frameworks, on an ad-hoc basis, since the 1990s. However, NATO’s involvement in areas outside of its immediate region – including Afghanistan and Libya – has increased the need and opportunities for enhanced global interaction. Clearly, the emergence of global threats requires the cooperation of a wider range of countries to successfully tackle challenges such as terrorism, proliferation, piracy or cyber attacks. Dialogue with these countries can also help NATO avert crises and, when needed, manage an operation throughout all phases.

    Since 1998, NATO has invited countries across the globe to participate in its activities, workshops, exercises and conferences. This decision marked a policy shift for the Alliance, allowing these countries to have access, through the case-by-case approval of the North Atlantic Council, to activities offered under NATO’s structured partnerships. These countries were known as “Contact Countries”.

    Significant steps were taken at the 2006 Riga Summit to increase the operational relevance of NATO’s cooperation with countries that are part of its structured partnership frameworks as well as other countries around the world. These steps, reinforced by decisions at the 2008 Bucharest Summit, defined a set of objectives for these relationships and created avenues for enhanced political dialogue, including meetings of the North Atlantic Council with ministers of the countries concerned, high-level talks, and meetings with ambassadors. In addition, annual work programmes (then referred to as Individual Tailored Cooperation Packages of Activities) were further developed.

    At the 2010 Lisbon Summit, Allies agreed to develop a more efficient and flexible partnership policy, in time for the meeting of Allied foreign ministers in Berlin in April 2011. To this end, they decided to:

    • streamline NATO’s partnership tools in order to open all cooperative activities and exercises to partners and to harmonise partnership programmes;
    • better engage with partners across the globe who contribute significantly to security and reach out to relevant partners to build trust, increase transparency and develop practical cooperation;
    • develop flexible formats to discuss security challenges with partners and enhance existing fora for political dialogue; and
    • build on improvements in NATO’s training mechanisms and consider methods to enhance individual partners’ ability to build capacity.