NATO reaches out to younger generation

12 November 2020

In Brussels on 9 November 2020, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hosted an all-day digital NATO 2030 Youth Summit (in cooperation with the Munich Security Conference) aimed at reaching out to 18-35 year-old citizens.

“You — tomorrow’s leaders, both in North America and Europe — have the greatest stake in our security. So NATO 2030 is the chance for you to step up and safeguard your future, your freedom, your Alliance,” Stoltenberg said in his opening remarks.

However, a new report from the US-based think tank Center for European Policy Analysis argues that NATO has not done enough to activate interest in younger European leaders putting the alliance’s future at risk. The report argues that NATO needs a new agenda “built for the next generation with the next generation”. The report suggests 10 strategic priorities that should form the basis of that agenda, including: prioritizing human security and emphasizing NATO’s political role; reinventing arms control: enhancing NATO’s crisis management capabilities; innovating and investing in new defence technologies; building a digital NATO; embracing climate security; and expanding partnerships; and making inclusion and diversity a reality.

In an interview in Defense News the author of the report, Lauren Speranza, cites the Youth Summit itself as an example of the internal challenges at alliance headquarters for inclusivity. The Summit is billed as a way to bring younger voices into NATO at a time when the alliance is undergoing a major review of its future—the NATO 2030 Reflection Group process—and it was agreed to create a Young Leaders group in parallel to the review. However, Speranza says, “in an ideal world, we would just put a few next-gen representatives on the main Reflection Group instead of running a parallel process. Oftentimes the next generation wants to be consulted but they get very few opportunities, and it’s always under this next-gen label; they don’t get to sit at the adults table or get to actually work shoulder to shoulder. By maintaining this divide, we do the alliance a disservice”.

The 14 NATO 2030 Young Leaders were later announced in a press release:

  • Alice Billon-Galland, Research Associate Chatham House, London
  • Don Ceder, Founder, Ceder Advocateur, Amsterdam
  • Martin Dimitrov, Freelance Journalist, Sofia
  • Cori Fleser, National Security Policy Analyst, Booz Allen Hamilton, Washington, DC
  • Anne-Marie Imafidon, CEO and Founder, Stemettes, London
  • Gyde Jensen, Chairwoman of the Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid, FDP Parliamentary Group, German Bundestag, Berlin
  • Katarina Kertysova, Policy Fellow, European Leadership Network, London
  • Tania Latici, Policy Analyst, European Parliamentary Research Service, Brussels
  • Jan Lukačevič, Research Assistant at the Department of Space Physics, Institute of Atmospheric Physics CAS, Prague
  • Claudia Maneggia, Security Strategy and Governance Specialist, UniCredit, Milan
  • Andrea G. Rodríguez, Research Fellow, Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, Barcelona
  • Māra Šteinberga, Diplomat, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Brussels
  • Ulrik Trolle Smed, Senior Tech Advisor, Office of the Tech Ambassador at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Copenhagen
  • Kevin Vuong, Vice President & COO, Delphic Research Group, Toronto

Between now and early 2021, the Young Leaders will be consulting with experts on a broad range of topics and developing recommendations to be presented to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. In an interview one of the Young Leaders, Kevin Vuong, suggested that NATO could set a standard for identifying and communicating about disinformation across its member countries.