Updated: 20-Oct-2006 NATO Speeches

The Plaisterers
Hall ,

19 Oct. 2006


by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
at NATO Secretary General's Successor Generation Conference

Bullet Programme of the conference
Bullet Audio file of the speech (.MP3/27016kb)

Lord Wallace, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for those kind words of introduction.  The London School of Economics and the City of London are co-sponsors of today’s conference, and I am extremely grateful for the generous assistance that both organisations have provided – we certainly could not have put together such an excellent programme without their help.  I should also like to thank the Worshipful Company of Plaisterers, who have so kindly made this sumptuous venue available to us. 

It would be remiss of me not to say a few words of appreciation to today’s guest speakers and to you, the audience, for taking the time and interest to spend the day with us.  I hope that technology means our friends on the other side of the Channel, at the Institut des Etudes Politiques in Paris, are able to participate in this session as well.   I think that a link with Paris is entirely appropriate given that on this day in 1453, the French brought the 100 years war to an end by throwing the English out of Bordeaux, leaving only a small English enclave in Calais.  And judging by the Tesco I saw before my train disappeared into the Channel Tunnel in France yesterday afternoon, this enclave has remained ever since.   However, in the interests of historical balance, and given that my video-link audience in Paris can’t actually throw things at me, I should point out that today is also the anniversary of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow. 

Of course that is all history.  Today I’d like to focus on the future.  You are what I call the “successor” generation. This morning, I should therefore like to explain why I believe NATO will remain as important for you tomorrow as it is for us today.  

During the Cold War, our values were threatened by the Soviet Union, and many people viewed NATO’s purpose at that time as keeping the Warsaw Pact at bay.  But for me, it was much more than that.  I believe NATO’s role was to defend our essential values – the freedom to speak your mind, the freedom to travel, the freedom to elect your own government, and the freedom to practise the religion of your choice.   These values cannot be taken for granted – they still need to be worked for; they still need to be nourished and, when necessary, they still need to be protected.  And this continues to be NATO’s role.

Thankfully, we no longer face massed battle tanks on our eastern border.  Today, we live in the era of globalisation.  Globalisation has brought people together, it has revolutionised business, created wealth, generated new ideas and new ways of communicating, and done much to disperse power from the state to individuals.  The City of London is at the forefront of such changes and has benefited massively from them - except for the fact that some of my favourite pubs in London are now Sushi bars.        

Indeed, Thomas Friedman, in his book “The World is Flat” notes the sheer inter-dependence of the modern world economy.  For example, parts for a simple PC are sourced from all over the world, and we heat our homes with oil and gas from far away.  Consequently, nations states that are fully integrated into the world economy cannot easily wage war against each other without hugely damaging their own interests. 

But globalisation also has a darker side.  We now face increased threats from terrorism; the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and the de-stabilising effect of failed and failing states.  Certain aspects of globalisation have made dealing with these threats more complicated - borderless money, anonymous communications, the containerisation of trade and, to use a City of London term, ‘mergers and acquisitions’ amongst criminal and terrorist groups.  All this means that one no longer needs to be a leading nation state to project threats on a global scale.   

Our increased inter-dependence also means that geography no longer serves as a buffer to chaos and instability elsewhere.  Indeed, the elements that operate in such chaos can provide a lightning rod for discontent within our own societies – nurturing it, feeding it, and equipping the discontented with the weapons to wreck havoc in our society, as evidenced last year in July, in this very city. 

So, the challenge for us today is clear.  We, the international community, need to use the driving forces of globalisation to our own advantage.  We need to tackle the darker side of globalisation without placing a deadening hand upon the process and its benefits.  To do so, we need to think and organise ourselves globally, and coordinate and cooperate accordingly.  We need better international cooperation between nations, and more effective engagement by the international institutions. 

NATO has learned this lesson, and is already playing its part.  To continue defending our values in this globalised world, NATO has developed a new approach to security.  I call this approach “projecting stability” and it is most visibly demonstrated by NATO’s current operations. 

As I stand before you this morning, over fifty thousand men and women of the armed forces are deployed on NATO-led operations, nearly all of them under United Nations’ mandate.  On land, over seventeen thousand troops continue to keep the peace in Kosovo; we have troops in Bosnia and Herzegovina; training staff in Iraq; and officers in Ethiopia supporting the African Union Mission in the Sudan.  At sea, our naval forces are busy patrolling the Mediterranean.  But by far our biggest operational commitment is Afghanistan, where over thirty thousand NATO-led troops are now deployed.  And Afghanistan, more than any other theatre, is where the challenges of globalisation are most in evidence.

I am aware that there are some people who still question why NATO is there.  Indeed, a few of you here might.  Well, let me remind you, that only five years ago, many of you would have been enjoying your last years at college – but education was something that was denied to your peers in Afghanistan - and so were many other basic rights that you and I take for granted.  Under the Taliban regime, there were no women’s rights; there were no democratic elections; there was no freedom of speech – indeed, there was no freedom at all.  Quite simply, the regime was brutal, with no respect for human life, and the Afghan people were subjected to constant terror.

And that terror was eventually also exported.  The Taliban regime gave free rein to Al-Qaida, providing it with a safe haven, with training camps, and allowing it to be used as the base for launching terrorist attacks, including against the United States on 9/11.  That is why we must not allow Afghanistan to return to those days when it produced terror both at home and abroad.  We have to treat the problem at its source and help to build a peaceful state based on democratic values.

And so, under a United Nations’ mandate, with the support of the majority of the Afghan people, and now at the request of the democratically elected government of Afghanistan, NATO is delivering security in Afghanistan.  And it will stay there as long as requested, and until the job is completed.  Our mission is clear - to spread the government’s authority across the country; and to help provide security and stability so reconstruction and redevelopment can take place.  And we must not ignore the issue of narcotics, where the Afghan Government is partnered by the UK and supported by NATO.  

In Afghanistan we now have NATO-led troops from 37 nations - all doing a superb job in difficult circumstances.  And of course, here in London today, let me say I’m extremely grateful for the substantial British contribution.  Romania, Estonia and Denmark all have troops in the south, but over the summer months, British, Canadian and Dutch troops, bore the brunt of the fighting, and, I regret to say, the British and Canadians bore the brunt of the casualties too.  But they have been successful.  We now need to support the development of the Afghan National Army’s own capacity, so that they can assume the security responsibility in these areas.

Of course, the ordinary Afghans are delighted to see peace after so many years of fighting.  But improved security alone is not enough.  They also want a job, they want to see reconstruction and redevelopment across the country - they want to see that their children will have a better future.  They understand that there can be no development without security, but equally there can be no lasting security without development.   That is why Muhammad Yunis was last week awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on development and micro-credit with the Grameen Bank.  In the end, military success alone in Afghanistan will not be enough.

Only last month I visited Afghanistan, and I was able to see for myself the tremendous progress that has been made possible by NATO’s hard work.  Today the terrorist camps are gone.  Afghanistan has a President, a National Assembly, a Senate and Provincial Councils, all democratically elected.  More than six million children today go to school, six times more than in 2001.  Per capita income has doubled.  The percentage of the population with access to medical care has gone up nearly ten-fold.  Over 4,000 kilometres of road have been rebuilt.   And Afghan women now play their role in public life, with seats in Parliament.  But more needs to be done. 

With improved security across the country, we have created a window of opportunity.  And it has to be exploited - fully, and quickly.  The International Community and the Government of Afghanistan must now urgently invest in those other critical areas that will convince the local people that their lives are better than when the Taliban were around. 

NATO itself is involved in much of this - but we cannot do it all on our own.   NATO was never designed as a relief or reconstruction organisation.  And it never will be.  That is why the wider international community – the UN, the EU, the G8, the World Bank and the NGOs – must now step up their game in order to exploit the window of opportunity our military action has created.    

In terms of cooperation, we simply must do better than we have done to date.  All NATO Allies need to be speaking with the same voice in all the organisations where they have influence.   My pleas to NATO Allies who are members of other International Organisations is ‘what use is it NATO providing security if those organisations best suited to developing livelihoods in Afghanistan – the UN, the EU, the World Bank – are not pushed hard to get involved?’  Improved coordination would allow each organisation in a given theatre to play to its strengths.  It would also help preclude situations in which, for lack of anything better, the Alliance is compelled to perform activities that are properly the responsibility of other organisations.  After all, globalisation is all about niches – no one organisation should try to do everything – and NATO is no exception.

Allow me one analogy before I close.  Global warming is a major international challenge.  Here in the City of London there is a growing trade for emissions credits because business is beginning to realise that an ounce of prevention is cheaper than a pound of cure.

In the same way, although it may feel costly at the moment, if we give up on Afghanistan now, we will pay a much higher price in the future.   NATO’s role isn’t adventurism or paternalism.  Letting Afghanistan become a failed state once more won’t just condemn another generation of Afghans to war and poverty. It will create problems that you, the successor generation, will be dealing with for years and years to come.  That is why we must stand firm and stay the course.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have dwelt at length on Afghanistan in order to highlight my wider point about the importance of NATO’s role in projecting security.  In the globalised age, there is simply no alternative to acting as and where the problems arise, otherwise those problems will come to our doorstep.  What I have described for you this morning shows how, just as it did in the past, NATO continues to successfully defend our values today.

But we cannot rest on our laurels.  That is why in five weeks time, NATO Heads of State and Government will meet in Riga, in Latvia.  The decisions they take will ensure that the Alliance can continue to promote and protect its members’ shared values not just today, but also well into the future.  And that it can continue to act as a force for good on behalf of the wider international community.    

I hope that they will take decisions on enhancing our partnerships with nations such as Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia, so that we can better cooperate in pursuing our common goals.  On continuing the modernisation of our militaries, to be better able to deal with modern threats and challenges.  On improving our funding procedures, so that we can deploy more swiftly and generate forces more easily.  And on enhancing our political dialogue, so we can discuss contentious issues like Iran and North Korea as they arise.

I am confident that in ten years time, the positive effects of globalisation will be even more marked, and the world will have shrunk further.  And you, the successor generation, will be reaping the benefits.  But the security challenges you will face will be no less demanding.

I am equally confident that NATO will still provide an important part of the answers to those challenges, and that it will be instantly recognisable from what I have outlined today.  NATO will retain the Transatlantic link at its core, and will be a key element in an international community that cooperates to defend, cultivate and promote our enduring values.  Thank you.

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