Global security conference opens in Halifax this weekend
When the Halifax International Security Forum gets underway Friday, it will be the first gathering of its kind in North America. There have been events like this in Europe for years, notably the Munich Security Conference, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and Brussels Forum in Belgium. Because of Halifax's historical, commercial, and strategic status in the transatlantic community, this city is the right place to hold this inaugural meeting.
The agenda includes issues ranging from Afghanistan to the Arctic, pirates to nuclear proliferation. It's a broad definition of "security," and one that reflects the challenges we face on a host of fronts, both traditional and non.
The speakers and participants will come from the ranks of defence ministers, four-star generals, politicians, policymakers, academics, and opinion leaders from all over the world. The German Marshall Fund of the United States has a mission to support co-operation between North America and Europe. As such, Canada, the United States and Europe will be well represented. But we are also shifting the usual participant paradigm by bringing in high-level officials from Brazil, Colombia, India, Japan and New Zealand. The problems our countries face are global in nature, and the conference reflects that.
GMF does not take sides on the various issues being discussed at the Forum. Rather, our goal is to get the appropriate players to the table to solve issues co-operatively and collaboratively. We feel this is best done in an environment that encourages debate and candour, and we achieve this through a format that does not rely on formal speeches but rather on discussions led by experienced moderators and with active audience participation.
Our partnerships with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Department of National Defence have been a tremendous boost to this inaugural Halifax Forum effort. That support has extended to helping us line up a truly impressive list of speakers, including the defence ministers from the United States (Robert Gates), Germany (Karl-Theodorr Freiherr zu Guttenberg), Brazil (Nelson Azevedo Jobim), Colombia (Gabriel Silva Lujan), the Netherlands (Elmert van Middelkoop), Belgium (Pieter De Crem), New Zealand (Wayne Mapp), and, of course, Canada (Peter MacKay). There will be military brass from Canada, the United States and NATO, among others. A U.S. congressional delegation lead by Senators John McCain and Mark Udall, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and Canadian Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin will add depth and breadth to the issues being discussed.
As most are aware, Halifax also has a strong history with both Europe and the United States. And its present is quite relevant, too, with both its large port and the home base for Canada's Atlantic fleet. And, as I have found when talking to speakers and participants in advance of this weekend's event, this city has a special magnetism for visitors that other cities hosting large international conferences of this type do not have.
Over the course of the last several months, as I have made a few trips to Halifax in preparation for this conference, I have felt this magnetism personally. The people I have met, the volunteers who have signed up to help us and those who have worked with us to host this conference have been some of the friendliest, most helpful, and most resourceful I have met. And I have been quite taken with the sparkle of the city and the beauty of the surrounding area. But then again, most readers probably can understand why.
We are proud to bring this conference to Nova Scotia, and we hope to hold it again each year, to get to know the community, to work with local authorities and to contribute to the local economy. Thank you for having us, and we hope to see you next year.