NATO-UN relations can be developed further

30 October 2018

Brussels, 30 October 2018 - While NATO-UN relations are good on the working level, there is considerable untapped potential for closer cooperation between the two organisations, including also on the political level. This was a key message the Sub-Committee on Transatlantic Relations (PCTR) received during a visit to New York and Boston from 22 to 26 October 2018.  

UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Rosemary A. DiCarlo and Lieutenant General Carlos Humberto Loitey, Military Adviser and Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, noted the good working relationship that NATO and the UN have developed since the signing of the UN-NATO declaration on cooperation in 2008. The UN officials expressed appreciation for NATO’s support to UN peacekeeping operations (PKOs) and noted that both organisations share similar security concerns in a number of regions, including the Middle East and Northern Africa and the Western Balkans.  Moreover, cooperation on the ground is generally working quite well and there are areas where NATO could provide additional added value to the UN, and UN PKOs in particular. The list includes, among others, information sharing, cyber security, and best practices.  Information sharing would help improve situational awareness for UN peacekeepers while generally making preventive diplomacy more effective, Ms DiCarlo said. Moreover, as cyber security is becoming increasingly important for international security, the UN could also benefit from NATO’s assistance in this area, she added.  

At the same time, political constraints continue to hamper the deepening of the relationship, the delegates learned during the visit. Many UN member states, including Russia and China, but also non-aligned countries, hold a sceptical, if not outright suspicious, view of the Alliance. This is unfortunate as NATO member states have the abilities, as well as the political will, to provide additional assistance to the UN. A possible way for the Allies to overcome this political gridlock could be to stress more actively the important assistance NATO provides to many partner countries, including some of those expressing reservations in the UN context.  

Another challenge to international security is a tendency among UN member nations for a “multilateralism a la carte”, as Undersecretary DiCarlo noted. She warned that the “international rules-based system as we know it is under threat”.  

The risks of a resurgence of populism in NATO member states as well as globally was a topic that surfaced in meetings with independent experts.  Professor Monica Duffy Toft at The Fletcher School, Tufts University ascribed this phenomenon to three main trends, namely modernisation and its failure to deliver, democratisation and its promise to deliver, as well as globalisation, which has a capacity to disrupt. As traditional political parties and elites are struggling to adapt without compromising core governance principles, populism appears to be here to stay for some time, she concluded. While NATO members states, and NATO as an organisation, are likely to face considerable challenges as a result of this phenomenon, the Alliance will be able to tackle this problem successfully, Dr Richard K. Betts, Adjunct Senior Fellow for National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Ambassador Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, suggested.

Briefings at Akamai Technologies, a leading content delivery network (CDN) services provider for media and software delivery, and Endeavor Robotics, a ground robot company and supplier of unmanned ground vehicles UGVs, offered the Sub-Committee the opportunity to learn about the impact of rapidly changing technology for international security.  

The latest law enforcement and counterterrorism technologies were discussed during a visit to the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative (LMSI) while briefings at the Emergency Operations Center of the New York Police Department offered valuable insights into the responsibilities and procedures of New York City's emergency management plans. 

The delegation was led by Vice-Chairperson Mike Gapes (United Kingdom) and comprised 20 members from ten NATO member states. The meetings covered a comprehensive set of issues which are also covered in the 2018 reports of the Political Committee.  

Photos of the NATO PA's visit are available on Flickr
A full mission report will be on the website soon.