NATO & youth involvement in the Black Sea Region Current progress and recommendations

In the wake of the NATO 2030 Youth Summit, the Alliance’s Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, conceptualized a renewed NATO agenda designed to encourage the contribution of the ”next generation” to the future of the organization. The Secretary General also announced the establishment of the NATO 2030 Young Leaders, a group of 14 emerging leaders from across the Alliance who will provide input to inform his recommendations for NATO 2030.

This paper provides an overview on NATO’s take on the youth with a focus on two frontline member states – Romania and Bulgaria, and two NATO partner countries – Moldova and Ukraine. Countries from the Black Sea Region are exposed to the growing presence of the Russian Federation through election meddling, propaganda, and disinformation campaigns, as well as historical political and economic links. This exposure may pose a threat to democracy, the rule of law, citizens’ liberties, and to security in the region. In the long run, it may also affect the citizens’ overall perceptions of NATO and of the West, as a whole.

In order to mitigate the impact of third actors on security and democracy, NATO should not only invest in defense systems and military technology, but it should also focus more on providing formative, educational, and professional opportunities to youth in the Black Sea region as a key solution. In some NATO countries, the youth represents up to 47% of the population, therefore reaching out and embracing youth’s views on security, national contribution, and international cooperation is a sustainable solution, and it would also help make NATO more relevant to the development of the region.

NATO has yet to adopt a comprehensive youth strategy in the region, unlike other transnational organizations, such as the European Union with its EU Youth Strategy for 2019-2027.  Youth-related activities carried out by NATO in Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Ukraine are provided mainly by the organization’s Public Diplomacy Division (PDD), mediated and implemented regionally or locally through proxies such as NGOs, universities, schools or public institutions. Most NATO-related activities for the youth cover educational programmes, security studies, diplomacy, negotiation, media literacy.

We also looked at some of the best practices which NATO can adopt to enhance its presence with the next generation, we tackled potential opportunities and activities, and we designed a set of recommendations that NATO could implement for increased impact among the youth, in consideration of their views, needs and trends.

The report is available here

The project is implemented by the Romanian Centre for European Policies (CRPE) and financed by NATO Public Diplomacy Division.