Colombia announces that it will become NATO's first South American 'global partner' (despite being in the club for 12 months)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced on 25 May that the South American nation will be the latest NATO ‘partner across the globe’. “We will formalize in Brussels next week — and this is very important — Colombia's entry into NATO in the category of global partner. We will be the only country in Latin America with this privilege”, Santos said in a televised address.

However, Colombia has been listed on the NATO website as a ‘partner across the globe’ or simply ‘global partner’ since May 2017 when Colombia and NATO reached a partnership deal following the conclusion of a peace accord with FARC, now a political party. Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for ending a decades-long civil war in Colombia. The outgoing president made the latest announcement on the eve of presidential elections in which Santos cannot run (since he has already served two terms).

Moreover, the process of engagement with NATO first began in June 2013 with the signing of an Agreement on the Security of Information between the two parties, an accord that allowed NATO and Colombia to explore future cooperation and consultation in areas of common interest.

It is unclear the extent to which this latest announcement will change the NATO-Colombian relationship, if at all. According to the NATO website the objectives of the existing partnership are to “develop common approaches to global security challenges such as cyber security, maritime security, and terrorism and its links to organised crime; to support peace and security efforts including human security, with a particular focus on protecting civilians and children, and promoting the role of women in peace and security; and to build the capacities and capabilities of the Colombian armed forces”.

The announcement was also made on the same day that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said that Colombia would be officially invited to join the group. “Being part of the OECD and NATO improves the image of Colombia and allows us to have much more play on the international stage,” Santos said.

Other NATO global partners are Afghanistan, Australia, Iraq, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and Pakistan. Each country has developed an Individual Partnership Cooperation Programme with NATO and many contribute actively to alliance missions.


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