NATO’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic: How youths can understand NATO efforts and help fight propaganda

September 2020 – December 2020 

In the light of the escalation of the current Covid-19 crisis, numerous regions have been left exposed to an overwhelming and continuous flow of disinformation which makes it even harder for the population to discern between reality and the fake.
 Specifically, we are faced with fake news that benefits actors such as China or Russia and is detrimental to the image of international organizations, such as NATO, which, in the long run, may affect the citizens’ perception.

While NATO has praiseworthy aid initiatives that are punctually reported in the organization’s media, Russian propaganda explores it systematically as an assumable military intervention in the region. The main anti-NATO narratives say that NATO members are dealing poorly with the crisis or that the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted NATO military exercises at the borders of the perceived influence sphere of the Russian Federation.

In order to help counter disinformation about NATO and bring information from the first sources, we launch the project: “NATO’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic: How youths can understand NATO efforts and help fight propaganda”. Overall, the project seeks to promote NATO as a responsible and cooperative actor in the Black Sea region from the security and humanitarian perspective – with regard to its efforts to bring urgent medical supplies, increase hospital capacity, mobilize the armed forces and resources to support the civilian efforts to combat the Covid-19 crisis.

The project focuses on youths in order to increase their capacity to recognize fake news and propaganda related to NATO and Covid-19 and motivate a proactive and critical approach towards the information and its sources. Precisely, we will target high school and university students from the Eastern and North-Eastern regions of Romania, as these areas represent an inviting border zone for the interference of Russian propaganda which also makes youths from these regions even more vulnerable and exposed to doubtful media content.

The concept of the project focuses on a three-step approach aimed at Informing, Engaging, and Raising Awareness among the target group about NATO performances.

Hence, we intend to implement the following activities:
i) one webinar with NATO representatives, as well as with official representatives of the Romanian institutions that can engage in discussions on security, health, and humanitarian aid in the context of the Covid-19 crisis, as an activity aimed at informing the public from trustworthy official sources about NATO work and help counter disinformation;

ii) one toolkit which will cover briefly NATO’s activities in the region. The toolkit will be distributed on social media platforms and groups for students and professionals in the security field. Additionally, the activity envisages shooting a set of informative videos with NATO officials and representatives.

iii) a quiz competition with questions based on the information in the toolkit. The quiz will be directed at high school and university students. The first participants to complete successfully the quiz will be awarded a subscription to a publication.

iv) two policy briefs that assess NATO’s management of the crisis with a particular focus on Romania, its neighbourhood, common initiatives and successes.

This project is financed by NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division.