Archive: NATO underlines IMPI idea


If recent events in the Ivory Coast did not sufficiently highlight the urgent need to implement a programme akin to the Indigenous Military Peace-building Initiative (IMPI) previously proposed in this Journal, a speech by NATO secretary general Lord George Robertson of Port Ellen certainly did.

NATO underlines IMPI idea
October 2002
If recent events in the Ivory Coast did not sufficiently highlight the urgent need to implement a programme akin to the Indigenous Military Peace-building Initiative (IMPI) previously proposed in this Journal, a speech by NATO secretary general Lord George Robertson of Port Ellen certainly did. Addressing a defence industry conference in London on October 14 on the strategic environment NATO members would face in 2015, Robertson made some telling points about parts of Africa adjacent to Europe – fears that could be allayed by an IMPI.
Africa has recently embarked upon two ambitious programmes – the launching of a new political entity, the African Union (AU) and the establishment of a market-orientated economic programme to buttress the political emancipation of the continent from authoritarian rule and post-colonial external interference. It is common cause that the major precondition for development is peace and security. The New Partnership for Africa`s Development (NEPAD) is arguably the most important socio-economic plan ever to emerge from Africa. The programme, which links aid to good governance, has been widely hailed. On the security side it focuses on improving Africa`s peacekeeping, early warning and conflict resolution means. But peace is more than the absence of war and security requires more than socio-economic aid and development. If the AU, let alone NEPAD are to be viable, let alone sustainable, the role of African militaries will have to be acknowledged and clarified.    
It was with this in mind that IMPI was drafted. Its key objectives were:
n      Professionalising and right-sizing Africa`s armed forces, paramilitaries and militias, and
n      Divorcing its military, gendarmerie and intelligence services from any unhealthy influences on national politics and the economy by ensuring appropriate civil-military relations through security sector transformation and continuous education.
It was proposed that IMPI include at least the following four programmes. Interrelated, each was expected to play a critical role in making an IMPI a success. They were:
n      Establishing a continental Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme to team African militaries regionally as well as at the continental level and allying them with outside powers committed to the African Renaissance,
n      Establishing Reserve components in every African military and gendarmerie,                
n      Establishing Reserve Officer Associations along the CIOR[i]-model to service Reserve and retired officers belonging to these components, and 
n      Establishing military universities along US- or Swedish-pattern to train professional Reserve and Regular officers. The Citadel, Norwich and the Virginia Military Institute, all august educational institutions in the US, could serve as role models.
It is therefore disappointing that to date there has been nothing more than interest in the scheme. Perhaps Lord Robertson`s speech, entitled “The World in 2015 – Predicting the Unpredictable,”[ii] will inspire someone to act, if only for reasons of self-interest. Drawing a balance sheet of good and bad news, Robertson painted what at first could be called a bleak picture. Yet a closer look shows its is ripe in IMPI possibilities.
My first prediction: more instability in the years ahead. The Caucasus, Central Asia, Northern Africa and the Middle East all offer a rich menu of instability. These regions are going through political and economic transitions of historic dimensions. Ultimately, these transitions will lead them in the right direction. But only the greatest optimist would argue that this process of change will be happening without major convulsions. The unequal distribution of wealth will remain a major source of instability in 2015. And tensions over key resources, such as water, will become a regular pattern as well,” Lord Robertson said.
“My second prediction: more spillover. The instability I just described will not remained confined to the areas where it originates. There will be spillover into Europe. Spillover by way of migration, rising numbers of people seeking asylum, a booming industry in people smuggling, and all the rest that goes it with it: violence, drugs, diseases – you name it. In the world of 2015, with a population of over 7 billion, geography will no longer act as a shield,” the NATO secretary general added.
My third prediction: more terrorism. On September 11, 2001, a threshold was crossed. Until then, most of us shared the view expressed by a well-known terrorism expert: “terrorists want a lot of people watching, not a lot of people dead”. Since “9-11”, that rule no longer applies. A special breed of terrorism has come to the fore – a breed driven not only by unachievable political aspirations, but also by the urge to kill. It is difficult to imagine how we could return this cruel genie to its pre 9/11 bottle. In short, in 2015, the major threats could be those we term “asymmetric” — threats in which adversaries avoid direct engagement with us, but exploit the vulnerabilities of our open societies,” he said.
My fourth prediction: more failed states. September 11 has reminded us that even in an age of globalisation the state remains the central organising principle of modern civilisation. This will not change, even in 2015. But not every state is sustainable. In the past decade or so, we have seen too many states collapse, sometimes fragmenting into warlordism, financed by drug smuggling and other criminal activities. As Afghanistan has demonstrated, such failed states are a safe haven for terrorists. Once again, a reminder that what goes on in a country seemingly far away can affect us very quickly — and fatally,” Lord Robertson added.
My next prediction: more proliferation. The spread of weapons of mass destruction will be a defining security challenge of this new century. It will lead to more fingers on more triggers. And not all of these fingers may be operated by rational minds. In such a situation, deterrence may not always deter. And the problem of proliferation is not confined to nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. Transfers of conventional arms are a problem, too. And as far as this kind of proliferation is concerned, we already have ample proof that it can fan the flames of regional conflict,” Robertson said.
“All this adds up to a guaranteed supply chain of instability. But there is good news as well. Because I believe that despite the challenges we may face, the opportunities ultimately outweigh the risks,” he added, before turning to the good news. 
The first piece of good news is that democracy will be the winner. The democratic model, in which each citizen participates and thus becomes a stakeholder, will continue to exert a tremendous attraction worldwide. The appeal of democracy is not just a moral one. It is also a pragmatic one: Democracies feature the best survival instincts in an increasingly globalised world: a penchant for problem solving, an ability to make compromises, and not least a built-in generosity towards less fortunate neighbours. All other systems will fall short of these requirements,” the NATO leader predicted.
“All this is not to say that every country will now suddenly turn into a textbook democracy, Westminster style. Speeds will differ, and models will differ as well, according to culture and historical experiences. And, as I alluded to earlier, some states may not make it at all. But I predict that large parts of the world without conventional democratic structures will follow the powerful trend towards more openness, and more participation by the individual. Because in the end, everyone will want his or her share of the globalisation cake,” Lord Robertson added.
The second piece of good news is technology. In some quarters of our Western societies, it may have become an ingrained habit to dismiss technological progress as inherently dangerous. Yes, technological progress does have its disadvantages, especially if it results in advanced weaponry falling into the hands of evildoers. But let’s not miss the forest for the trees. The fact remains that the integration of new technologies – information technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology and the like – will generate a dramatic increase in innovation. The effects of this innovation will be largely beneficial to us: to our economies as well as to our public health,” he foretold.
The third piece of good news is that in my view by 2015 the EU will have turned into a viable international actor, with a tangible Common Foreign and Security Policy. In 2015, the Union may well be twice its current size. Yet it will nevertheless have managed to develop a coherent foreign policy towards neighbouring regions: Russia, the Caucasus, the Middle East, Northern Africa. EU countries will also have made progress towards improving their defence capabilities, by reducing wasteful duplication, pooling key assets, and effecting modest increases in defence spending. In short, by 2015 the EU will have moved beyond the economic powerhouse that it already is. By the middle of the next decade, the Union will also be a political force to be reckoned with,” Lord Robertson prophesied.
The final piece of good news is that the transatlantic security partnership will still be alive and kicking in 2015. Because even in 2015, and despite – indeed, in part because of – a more powerful Europe, the U.S. will provide the indispensable core around which most military coalitions will be built. The centrepiece of this link, NATO, will still be around as well. In some ways, the Alliance of 2015 will bear little resemblance to the NATO of today. Like the EU, NATO’s membership will have grown to about 30 countries. Russia will not be a member yet, but a close associate. The relationship with our Partner countries will have deepened further. We’ll be cooperating with our Partners on all aspects of security sector reform, on combating terrorism, and on crisis management,” he concluded. “But in other ways, the continuities will be striking. NATO will still be a military organisation, the most powerful and effective in the world. Alliance military capabilities will be developing further towards long-range power projection. Because that will be where the military challenge will lie. Specific NATO rapid reaction units will have been created, to address terrorism and other new challenges on short notice. All this will be in line with a security environment that will no longer allow us the time to debate what’s ‘in` and ‘out-of-area.` 
In another lesson for Africa, Robertson told his audience that military capability was the crucial factor underpinning safety and security. “It directly translates into political credibility,” he said. “As Kofi Annan once said, you can do a lot with diplomacy, but you can do a lot more with diplomacy backed up by the threat of force. Indeed, in the real world, the more right military capabilities you have, the less you may need to use them,” Robertson added. “I said the ‘right` capabilities because we need capabilities for the future, not for the past. We need more wide-bodied aircraft, and fewer tanks. More precision guided weapons, deployable logistic support troops, ground surveillance systems, and protection against chemical and biological weapons. We need forces that are slimmer, tougher, and faster; forces that reach further, and can stay in the field longer,” he told industry leaders. “Where do these capabilities come from? Let us be realistic. Most Allies defence budgets are tightly constrained. Even those who have made the courageous step and increased their budgets have limited flexibility. But that does not mean that we should be idle. We can afford new commitments — through reprioritisation, through role specialisation, or through multinational cooperation. There are also gains to be made by innovative schemes for procurement and acquisition, such as leasing certain assets, for example. So I stand by my statement. The world of 2015 will offer no shortage of challenges, but none of them is insurmountable if we prepare for them now. That way, we can make sure that in the world of 2015, very much like today, the opportunities will outweigh the risks. For the better of future generations.” Ditto for Africa!

[i] CIOR: Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers. For more information, visit