First #WeAreNATO Conference a Success

The first-ever #WeAreNATO Summit in partnership with Connect Model United Nations and sponsored by the NATO Public Diplomacy Division took place between 23rd and 25th of November 2018. Sixty high school students from all over the lower mainland gathered at the Pinnacle Harbourfront Hotel to simulate NATO’s decision-making processes and experience crisis resolution at the expert level to see how the NATO structure resolves security and political issues.

The opening ceremony was attended by distinguished guests with a military, policy, and academic background stressing the importance for students to attend summits like #WeAreNATO to enhance their understanding of public diplomacy and decision-making policies. Brigadier General Jay Janzen spoke to the students on NATO’s relationship with Canada and Canada’s role in the world. Students also heard from Karun Prakash, a policy advisor for the Department of National Defence, Retd Major Patrick Rechner and Dr. Alexander Moens on NATO values and contemporary challenges.

During the summit, the students debated topics of great significance for current global challenges, such as NATO’s role in Iraq and Syria, escalating tensions in the Baltic Sea, reassuring Eastern Allies, information warfare, Arctic security, and counter terrorism in either the Committee on Emerging Security Challenges or the North Atlantic Council. The delegates showed incredible skills in expressing their positions and fostering comprehensive critical thinking in a complex multilateral environment during an unfolding crisis situation.

The delegates were mentored by SFU-NATO Field School alumni who used their intensive training by military officers, diplomats, and international civil servants as well as their knowledge on international politics and security to mentor the delegates. The entire staff team as well as the field school director Dr. Moens were tremendously helpful in sharing relevant information with the delegates allowing them to generate an understanding of strategic considerations and help shape delegate opinions and decisions within their committees.

Participants were immersed in a real-world experience and given the opportunity to deepen their knowledge and understanding of political and security challenges, learn public speaking and negotiation skills, and the ability to interact with university students, academics, and high-level military and policy personnel.