NATO Must Raise Profile of its Model Summits
Born in Norway in 1985, I belong to one of the final generations with a living memory of a Cold War NATO. Our fathers participated in NATO exercises and we knew the stories of the alliance that had allowed us to live in freedom. NATO soon disappeared from our consciousness, however, and in the 1990s, our public attention shifted to the UN. Kosovo, 9/11, and Afghanistan gave NATO new centrality in Norway, but the alliance also divided my peers. What was common to those on both sides of the debate on the future of transatlantic cooperation was a very poor understanding of the alliance. In 2001, I attended my first ever model United Nations (MUN) conference. Since then I have attended dozens of conferences, but this meeting has remained vivid in my mind, down to the last detail of how the Security Council works. I have since taken part in every MUN I could, soaking up every bit of knowledge available, internalizing the values of the UN. At school we ran our own MUN Society, hosted weekly meetings on UN topics, and increased our knowledge of and enthusiasm for the organization. When I graduated high school in Norway in July 2004, there was not a Model North Atlantic Council structure of the same magnitude, even if NATO was far more central to our lives than the UN. Since then, Model NATO summits have mushroomed around the world, but still, they are not as prevalent and strong as they could be. Like no other format, simulation conferences serve to internalize values in young people, increasing their knowledge and awareness. If we want to ensure that the transatlantic relationship is retained in future generations, my advice is that we do what we can to support our youth in organizing Model North Atlantic Councils, bringing them together with their peers to keep the discussion going on what transatlantic cooperation means to them.
Håvard Sandvik, Program Officer, European Liberal Forum (ELF), is a member of GMF's Young Transatlantic Network. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Liberal Forum.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.