Trust Funds: supporting demilitarization and defence transformation projects

  • Last updated: 15 Feb. 2021 17:17

Individual NATO member states and partners set up Trust Funds to provide resources to help partner countries implement practical projects in the areas of demilitarization, defence transformation or capacity building. Any partner country with an individual programme of partnership and cooperation with NATO may request assistance. A specific Trust Fund can then be established to allow other countries to provide financial support on a voluntary basis or to make in-kind contributions, such as equipment or expertise.



  • Many Trust Funds assist countries with the safe destruction of surplus and obsolete landmines, weapons and munitions, and build capacity in areas such as demining and munitions stockpile management.
  • Another priority is to support wider defence transformation through projects such as easing the transition to civilian life of former military personnel, converting military bases to civilian use, and promoting transparency, accountability and gender mainstreaming.
  • The Trust Fund mechanism is also being used to support defence capacity-building packages for certain countries facing significant security challenges, with a view to strengthening their defence and security institutions and capabilities.

  • The evolving scope and use of Trust Funds

    Mines, small arms and light weapons, and munitions

    Trust Funds were first developed in the framework of NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme, which promotes bilateral cooperation with non-member countries in Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia. However, over the years, the use of the NATO/PfP Trust Fund mechanism has been opened to all NATO’s partners, including countries on the southern Mediterranean rim and in the broader Middle East region as well as partners from further across the globe. Some partners are beneficiaries of Trust Funds, others contribute as donors.

    Launched in September 2000, the original aim of NATO/PfP Trust Funds was to provide the Alliance with a practical mechanism to assist partners with the safe destruction of stockpiled anti-personnel landmines. This helped the countries meet their obligations under the Ottawa Convention on the prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines and their destruction. The first such project was launched in Ukraine, followed by others in a number of Balkan countries as well as in other countries in the European neighbourhood.

    Initial success in the safe destruction of anti-personnel landmines led to an extension of the use of Trust Funds to include projects to destroy conventional munitions, as well as small arms and light weapons (SALW). These include the largest demilitarization project of its kind in the world – a 12-year project that is still ongoing in Ukraine, with projected costs of some €25 million. The destruction of surplus stockpiles of arms and munitions reduces the threat to individual partner countries as well as the wider region. It also ensures that such materials are put beyond the reach of terrorists and criminals.

    Destruction of SALW, mines and ammunition

    • 164.4 million rounds of SALW ammunition
    • 5.65 million anti-personnel landmines
    • 2 million hand grenades
    • 642,000 unexploded ordnance
    • 626,000 small arms and light weapons
    • 46,750 tonnes of various ammunition
    • 83,000 surface-to-air missiles and rockets
    • 1,635 man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS)
    • 2,620 tonnes of mélanj
    • 4,120 hectares cleared of mines or unexploded ordnance

    (info as of February 2021)

    Wider defence transformation and capacity building

    Within a few years, the scope of the NATO/PfP Trust Funds was further expanded to support wider defence transformation initiatives. Projects for the resettlement of former military personnel have, for example, been supported in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Ukraine. By early 2015, some 12,000 former military personnel have received retraining assistance through Trust Fund projects.

    Currently, 16 countries are benefiting from a Trust Fund set up to support the implementation of the Building Integrity (BI) Programme. This capacity-building programme aims to provide practical tools and tailor-made assistance to nations – Allies and partners – to strengthen integrity, transparency and accountability and embed good governance in the defence and security sector. In this regard, it contributes to reduce the risk of corruption in defence institutions.

    Over the past decade, Afghanistan has been a major beneficiary of support channelled through Trust Funds. Allies and partners have pledged around US$450 million per year to the NATO-Afghan National Army Trust Fund until the end of 2017. Moreover – until the suspension of practical cooperation with Russia in April 2014, following its intervention in Ukraine – two Trust Funds under the NATO-Russia Council provided valuable assistance for two important initiatives in Afghanistan: one provided support for the operation and maintenance of helicopters; another helped build capacity among mid-level personnel from Afghanistan and six Central Asian countries to address the threats posed by trafficking in Afghan narcotics.

    As part of their response to the Russia-Ukraine crisis, NATO member states decided at the Wales Summit in September 2014 to launch five Trust Funds to assist Ukraine in five critical areas: command, control, communications and computers (C4); logistics and standardization; cyber defence; military career transition; and medical rehabilitation. Another Trust Fund is currently being considered to build capacity in the area of demining and countering improvised explosive devices.

    Finally, a NATO Trust Fund has been set up to help implement packages of capacity-building support in a number of countries under the new Defence and Related Security Capacity Building Initiative, which was also launched at the 2014 Summit. Currently, packages offering tailored support, advice, assistance, training and mentoring are being developed with Georgia, Iraq, Jordan and the Republic of Moldova.

  • Project development

    Trust Funds are an integral part of NATO’s policy of developing practical security cooperation with partners. Any partner country with an individual programme of partnership and cooperation with NATO may request assistance. A specific Trust Fund can then be established to allow individual NATO and partner countries to provide financial support on a voluntary basis.

    Projects may be initiated by either NATO member states or partner countries. Each project is led on a voluntary basis by a lead nation, which is responsible for gathering political and financial support for the project as well as selecting the executive agent for the project. There can be several lead nations, and a partner country can also take that role. The beneficiary host nation is expected to provide maximum support to the project within its means.

    Informal discussions with the NATO International Staff help determine the scope of the project. Project proposals set out in detail the work to be undertaken, the costs involved and the implementation schedule. The formal launch of a project is the trigger to start raising funds. Subject to completion of formal legal agreements, work can start once sufficient funds have been received.

  • Project oversight and implementation

    When it comes to implementing and overseeing projects, each project has an executive agent appointed by the lead nation(s), according to the expertise required.

    The NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) – formerly the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA) – has often served as the executive agent, playing an essential role in the development and implementation of many Trust Fund projects. In other cases, this role has been performed by divisions of NATO’s International Staff or by the NATO Communications and Information Agency -- or even by external organisations. Executive agents offer technical advice and a range of management services, such as overseeing the development of project proposals as well as the competitive bidding process to ensure transparency and value for money in the execution of projects.

    Trust Fund projects seek to ensure adherence to the highest environmental, health and safety standards, and recycling of materials is an integral part of many projects. Local facilities and resources are used to implement projects, where possible, so as to build local capacity in the partner countries concerned, ensuring sustainability. Trust Fund projects are also committed to promoting transparency and good governance. In this context, where appropriate, NATO strives to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on gender mainstreaming in its projects.  

  • Working with other organisations and actors

    NATO cooperates actively with other international organisations and other relevant actors on Trust Fund projects to ensure coherence and effective implementation, as well as to avoid duplication of efforts. In some cases, other organisations have been actively involved in implementation. For example, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was the executive agent for the retraining Trust Fund projects in the Balkans. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) implemented a NATO-initiated Trust Fund for safe destruction of anti-personnel landmines in Tajikistan. The NATO-Russia Council’s counter-narcotics project in Afghanistan was implemented in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

    Other organisations with which NATO has worked closely on Trust Fund projects include the European Union (EU) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).