NATO tries to make itself more transparent

Tomorrow’s NATO Strategic Concept Review will invite the populations of member states to input their opinion to the debate in an online discussion forum.

Felix Grenfell Bozek is an intern at the Fabian Society

Tomorrow’s NATO Strategic Concept Review will invite the populations of member states to input their opinion to the debate in an online discussion forum, in an effort to make the alliance more transparent.

This has not staved off criticism the decision making process is too restricted to NATO officials.

On Tuesday the group of experts, twelve appointed group members including former defence secretary Geoff Hoon, will conduct the last seminar of the ‘Reflection Phase’ (the first phase of the three phase Concept Review) in Washington.

The seminar, which will engage officials such as NATO strategic commands and military representatives, will focus on forces, structures and capabilities and will include a discussion of the nuclear strategy in Europe.

As with the previous three seminars, an online discussion for the public to voice concerns and raise questions to NATO experts on the themes of the seminar was held a couple of weeks prior.

Such events are part of the NATO public outreach programme which has sought to consult the public on the Strategic Review through an online discussion forum.

The main points from the public are responded to on the website and are then, in the words of Secretary General Anders Foch Rasmussen:

“Fed into the decision making process here in the Alliance.”

The idea to open up the debate to the public has coincided with the appointment of Rasmussen, former prime minister of Denmark, in August 2009.

It seeks to remedy the democratic deficit inherent in NATO processes and organisations, which have limited accountability to democratic domestic institutions.

Last December, in a further sign of the opening up of NATO, Left Foot Forward took part in the alliance’s first ever bloggers’ briefing.

There have, however, been criticisms that this new NATO initiative has not fundamentally changed the nature of the review. A roundtable on nuclear weapons policies and the NATO Strategic Concept Review co-hosted by Des Browne, convener of the Top Level Group and Paolo Cotta-Ramusino, Secretary General of the Pugwash conferences in the House of Commons in January concluded that:

“The consultation process and seminars give an appearance, but not reality of open debate. In fact, the process is closed to all but a handful of officials and experts.”

Similarly Ian Davis, a human security and arms control consultant, wrote for a British American Security Information Council Commentary in August that:

“The public consultation could have been clearer, more integrated into the overall process, more independent, and conducted over a longer time-frame.

“Nonetheless, the new Secretary General has cast the door ajar. It is now up to concerned citizens to walk through it.”

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