NATO – the Road to Madrid: Changing Today to Meet the Challenges of Tomorrow

Main takeaways:  
– The NATO Summit in Madrid will address strengthening NATO’s deterrence and defence, support to Ukraine and other partners at risk, a new NATO Strategic Concept, investment and resourcing, and Finland and Sweden’s application for membership.
– The Summit comes at a crucial time in Europe’s history, making it very relevant for everyone. Nevertheless, it is particularly important for young people, who will be the ones to inherit all the security challenges of the future. Therefore, a youth perspective and engagement are indispensable.
– While young people are one of the demographics to know the least about NATO across the Alliance, this depends on which Allied country one looks at. Different geographical location and history have a huge impact on knowledge, since for some countries the Alliance is more or less relevant and so better or worse known. Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine is of course boosting awareness about NATO immensely across all demographics.
On 9 June 2022, YPFP Brussels collaborated with the UK Joint Delegation to NATO on an informal panel discussion about the upcoming NATO Summit and youth’s perspective on and engagement with NATO. The event was hosted at the British Ambassador’s Residence. The panel consisted of David Quarrey CMG, UK Permanent Representative to NATO; and Marija Sulce, Director of Security and Defence at YPFP Brussels.

Ambassador Quarrey presented what the NATO Summit will be about and why it is such an important event in NATO’s history and for European security. Meanwhile, Ms Sulce brought in a general overview and perspective of how much young people know about NATO and the sphere of international security in general and what are some of the challenges when communicating about NATO to younger audiences. The effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were discussed in the context of the upcoming Summit as well as how this has been changing opinions and the level of knowledge about NATO throughout the world. The conversation was very interesting and interactive with many of the audience members asking questions and contributing with their points of view. The audience was considerable and consisted of young people from very varied backgrounds and with very different levels of knowledge about NATO. Therefore, it was very instructive to hear opinions about NATO and Europe’s security from people not working in the field of security and defence. The reception afterwards was also a great chance for people to mingle and continue some of the conversations from the event.

Events such as these, where senior officials interact and discuss key issues with a young audience is what will make young people more interested in the topics of security and defence and more engaged in this field.

Written by Marija Sulce, Security & Defence Director, YPFP Brussels