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Thursday 1 March 2012
IRS 'AU-NATO Relations: Implications and Prospects'
The International Research Symposium on "African Union-NATO Relations: Implications and Prospects", jointly organized by the NATO Defense College (NDC) and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) with the support of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Ethiopia, took place today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The Symposium was attended by over 200 participants from NATO, the African Union, diplomatic missions, research institutes, think tanks and non-governmental organizations.
Among the distinguished guests at the event were H.E. Ambassador Olusegun AKINSANYA, Director of the ISS Addis Ababa Office, H.E. Ambassador Odd Inge KVALHEIM of the Royal Norwegian Embassy (the point of contact between NATO and the AU in Addis Ababa), and Cdr Abebe Muleneh BEYENE, Director of the Programme for Peace and Security at the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD).
The introductory overview provided by NDC Commandant Lieutenant General Arne Bård DALHAUG earned the unanimous appreciation of the audience, particularly when he stated that "the Alliance's new partnership policy agreed last year goes on to say that, as far as international organizations are concerned, cooperation is focused on pursuing mutually reinforcing roles in supporting international peace and security."
After the keynote addresses, the Symposium continued with the definition of the main issues relevant to AU-NATO relations. The session comprised lectures on the topics “Defining the issues from an African Perspective" and "The Challenge of Risk Management in a Global Age”, by Professor Bola AKINTERINWA and Professor Christopher COKER respectively. Both speakers then engaged in an informative discussion with the audience during a Q&A period moderated by H.E. Ambassador Renzo ROSSO.
The rest of the day was mainly devoted to three topics – “Perspectives on NATO and Africa", “Case Studies" and “Charting a Collaborative Way Ahead”, each addressed in a specific session with its own moderator and panel of three speakers, representing the academic, diplomatic, and political spheres.
After an intensive and fruitful day’s proceedings, Dr Karl-Heinz KAMP -Director of the NDC’s Research Division - delivered the final remarks. Underlining that “NATO and the AU have common interests and common concerns that have led to active cooperation in the military field since 2005”, Dr KAMP expressed his satisfaction with the enthusiastic participation of an impressively large number of delegates. Nevertheless, he also pointed out “the mutual misperceptions, suspicions and historical baggages that make the political relationship still sensitive”. Today’s Symposium represents a first but fundamental step towards overcoming this sensitivity, increasingly perceptible since the Libyan crisis, through a frank and open discussion aimed at achieving mutual understanding and trust. To do so, it is necessary to understand that “NATO is not always a unified actor looking for new tasks on a global scale. NATO can provide expertise as a successful politico-military organization and in turn it can profit from contributing to stability on the African Continent”.
In bringing together experts from civil society, eminent members of the research community and senior policy-makers from Africa and the Euro-Atlantic area to analyze and discuss AU-NATO Relations, the NDC has paved the way for related future initiatives. In the global village era, when foreshortening of physical distance favours communication, the prevalent hope is that the challenge of reducing the cultural and political distances formed by ancestral prejudices can be addressed equally well.