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Published:May 16th, 2012 10:30 EST
Students Advise Recommendations on NATO Policy

Students Advise Recommendations on NATO Policy

By SOP newswire

NATO should implement a points system to track member contributions, strengthen its Mediterranean partnerships in the wake of the Arab Spring, and collaborate with Russia on defense initiatives, according to young authors from the online think tank

These recommendations come from three new policy papers that have been presented to NATO ahead of the summit in Chicago on May 20-21. Each of the policy papers was written by a transatlantic team selected from participants in the think tank`s "Your Ideas, Your NATO" policy workshop competition.

One winner from each team, as selected by an international jury of think tankers and academics, will present the memo to the US Ambassador to Germany, Philip Murphy, and the German State Secretary for Defense, Christian Schmidt, at a public event in Berlin on May 21. NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General Stefanie Babst has already responded, favorably, to the memos, and will appear at the conference via video.

The policy ideas show that the next generation increasingly expects NATO to be more open and inclusive, both to citizens of its own members and to partners. Many of the recommendations focused on increasing the transparency of NATO decision-making, and the "points system" envisions a more accountable military arm where contributions are clearly measured.

In suggesting, for instance, that NATO bring Russia in on its Smart Defense initiative (which envisions increased pooling and sharing of Allied defense materiel to both more easily integrate NATO militaries and save on procurement costs), the authors call for NATO to even consider the possibilities of working with a country with which the Alliance has recently had very public disagreements about missile defense. The idea is to start small, with manageable, limited projects that both sides can agree on, to build a positive relationship between the former adversaries.

Policy makers from a number of NATO countries have already signaled their support for some of these ideas. In particular, the idea to build "NATO Academies", where officers and enlisted personnel from throughout NATO could train together and forge personal bonds between soldiers of different Allied nations, has been received favorably, having already secured endorsements from Members of the Foreign Affairs Committees in the Parliaments of Canada and Norway. Bert van Steeg, a policy advisor from the Christian Democratic Party (CDA), one of the governing parties in the Dutch House of Representatives, said that the NATO Academies` idea to strengthen unity is one his party "endorse[s] wholeheartedly."

The "Your Ideas, Your NATO" competition challenged citizens 35 years and younger in all NATO Member and Partner countries to write an op-ed recommending policy ideas in one of three categories: Values and Community, Partnerships after the Arab Spring, and Smart Defense. Over 200 participants from 47 countries entered, with five finalists in each category being chosen to construct a policy memo. ran the competition as part of its commitment to provide a new generation of thinkers with a voice in the transatlantic debate. is a project of the Atlantic Initiative, a non-partisan Berlin-based NGO dedicated to open and democratic dialogue on the challenges facing Europe and North America.

The competition was sponsored by the NATO Public Diplomacy Division, the US Mission to Germany, and the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is is an award-winning open think tank with over 7,000 members that encourages open and democratic dialogue on the challenges facing Europe and North America. It publishes daily opinion articles and periodically publishes the Atlantic Memo, a policy paper that takes the best ideas and consensus from the articles and member comments.

What is the Atlantic Initiative?
The Atlantic Initiative is a non-partisan, independent NGO based in Berlin and the publisher of Founded in 2004, it concentrates on building and strengthening a strategic community and a culture of constructive foreign policy debate.

What are the goals of the Atlantic Initiative?
We believe that a strong partnership between North America and Europe is crucial to defending our common interests and values. Our key goal is therefore to broaden understanding and discussion of the issues affecting transatlantic relations through a variety of projects, both online and offline.

What is "Your Ideas, Your NATO"?
Your Ideas, Your NATO " is a policy workshop competition that enables young people 35 years and younger in NATO`s Member and Partner countries to connect to the transatlantic debate, and to present their policy ideas directly to influential decision makers.

Entrants were asked to submit a short article of between 600-800 words in one of three debate categories " Values and Community, Partnerships after the Arab Spring, and Smart Defense. The authors of the top 5 articles in each category were then invited to collaborate to write an Atlantic Memo on that topic.

How did the finalists write the policy memos?
The finalists used online wiki software that allowed them to all work on the text simultaneously and color-coded each of their contributions. The wiki included a chat function and time slider to see earlier versions. This was enhanced by Skype conference calls and direction from the editorial team.

Where have the articles from the competition been published?
All articles that met our criteria, including non-shortlisted articles, were published on The Atlantic Memos have been published on a wide variety of foreign policy-focused websites including openDemocracy, International Relations and Security Netwokr (ISN), The Atlantic Council of Canada, The Heptagon Post, Future Challenges, Future Foreign Policy, The Mediterranean Eye, The Pryer, and the Roosevelt Campus Network, in addition to appearing on

How were the winners chosen?
The winners were chosen from among the five finalists by an international jury of think tankers and academics.

Who sponsored the competition?
The competition was sponsored by the NATO Public Diplomacy Division, the US Mission to Germany, and the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

What awards has won? has been awarded the RIAS Berlin Commission`s New Media Prize, was recognized as a "Landmark in the Land of Ideas" by a joint German government and commerce and industry initiative, and received the prestigious "Speaker and Dialogue Award" from Initiative ProDialog in the "Best Dialogue in Civil Society" category.

Further Links

Category 1: Values and Community

Category 2: Partnerships after the Arab Spring

Category 3: Smart Defense

General Links