Jamie Shea on NATO in Afghanistan – video clip – 8th Atlantic Youth Forumedit
Discussions included prospects for a nuclear free world, the future for Afghanistan, priorities for the Obama administration, sport as an agent for social change, the power of networks, food and water security and social innovation.
Atlantic Youth Forum
Monday 2 to Friday 6 August 2010 (WP1043)
34 bright independent thinkers from a range of countries including the UK, US, Canada, Portugal, Turkey, Germany, Russia, China and Armenia discussed some of the key challenges facing their own countries and the global community. Over the course of a week the Forum included plenary sessions, discussion groups, network exercises and visits to the FCO and the US Embassy in London. The group also made new and lasting contacts for the future.
Speakers included Philip Bobbitt, Herbert Wechsler Professor of Jurisprudence, Columbia Law School, Jamie Shea, NATO Director of Policy Planning and Caroline Wyatt, BBC Defence Correspondent.
Canadian participants wrote a live daily Blog about the Forum – Student contributes to international youth forum
British Council Canada’s Newsletter
Jamie Shea on NATO in Afghanistan
Jamie Shea: Youth Forum
August 6, 2010
Hello readers – Lily here. Alas, today was the last day of the Youth Forum; however, discussions focused on my favourite topic: resource management.
Before I comment on today’s proceedings, let me explain my feelings about the Youth Forum from before I travelled here to Wilton Park. My background in global issues is largely in climate change, therefore the broad spectrum of this year’s programme made me anxious about my abilities. I also pulled as many back issues of The Economist that I could find to try to gain a better perspective on global politics and the opinions surrounding them. I set somewhat low expectations for the quality and quantity of my participation. It was not long after beginning the forum, though, that I realized my anxiety was ill-founded. Every participant of the forum appreciated the insights of every other, and each participant was just as willing to learn as they were to share. I found that it was relatively simple to listen to my fellow delegates and feed off of their expertise. These few days have given me an incredible boost in confidence that I expect will aid me in study, in practice and, of course, at family dinners where my grandparents’ political musings have always set me to pretending to be occupied with the stringed beans on my plate.
Despite initial anxiety, today’s discussion topics made me feel at home. I study Resource Management Geography in University, and I have a particular interest in Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture. My father is a small-scale farmer on Southern Vancouver Island in Western Canada, growing varieties of heritage grain, pork, chicken and lamb. I have followed his progress with great interest, particularly his relationship with customers who are (finally) giving priority to local or organic foods and who are (finally) willing to pay more for them. I have also watched as my father and other farmers have struggled without sufficient government subsidization. It would be great if my dad could feed his pigs with his own grain, but it is not financially feasible. It is more financially sustainable to buy grain that has been shipped from the Prairie provinces.
I am also interested in the role of youth in agriculture. In British Columbia, obscene land prices drive young, innovative farmers East. And yes, my community has the ability to produce and slaughter its own meat, but young people prefer to work in an office building than in a slaughter house. I moderately sympathize with people my age; I don’t particularly feel like killing animals, either. However, I have come to the decision that, if globalization were to abruptly end, leaving each community to fend for itself, and my community needed someone to slaughter meat, I would step up. Meanwhile, I plan on taking a course on sheep shearing to equip myself with at least one trade that could be valuable to a self-sufficient community.
The discussion on food security addressed some of these issues, particularly government subsidizing. Those who need it least get it most, and those who need it most get it least – that was the general feeling. It was also noted that the world does not necessarily lack food, but just distributes it improperly. I’m not sure whether I fully agree with this statement, but I certainly agree that food is consumed and distributed unfairly.
With talk of food security comes anxiety of water scarcity. Many of the anxieties expressed by the group surrounded conflict over water, particularly in regions where already-desertified countries feel they are entitled to more water than non-desertified countries, even though they share the same water source (i.e. the Nile region). However, with the rapidity of climate change, I don’t believe that anyone can say with complete certainty that an area will not be impacted by desertification. Later on, I took part in a small group that attempted to create a climate change campaign. While we didn’t discuss issues such as the increasing danger of regional conflicts over dwindling resources, we did note the need to reach many different audiences. And with different audiences comes the need to reach them using different rhetoric; images of forest fires and droughts may inspire action for some, but the same images may drive others from even thinking about climate change.
Today’s discussions motivated me to continue with my area of study, but also to apply my knowledge on a global scale as well as a regional scale. In fact, that is precisely what my time at the entire Atlantic Youth Forum has motivated me to do. So, in the words of my good friend from the conference when he heard myself and another Canadian complaining about certain facets of Canada’s government: “What are you going to do about it?” What am I going to do about all the issues I just addressed? Continue the cycle of learning from others and sharing the knowledge I gain.
– Lily Jackson
August 4, 2010
The Power of Networks
Today’s afternoon lecture was on the topic of networks and their power in solving social and political problems. Networks can be defined as groups of two or more people forming three or more connections – be they connections based on shared interests, shared beliefs, or a shared trait. After the opening remarks made by the presenter, we went outside to conduct an activity related to teamwork and communication geared towards solving a common problem. Standing in circles of 6 or more people, we took the left hand of someone across from us in the circle, afterwards taking the left hand of a different person part of the same circle. From this knot of arms and hands we had to attempt to untangle ourselves, thereby testing our communication and coordination skills while necessitating a level of trust previously unanticipated. Upon finishing this activity and reflecting on it with the presenter, it struck me that networks are relevant for issues of international relations. No matter what the network may be based around, nefarious or positive, facilitating communication and information exchange can be invaluable for creating new opportunities and expanding collective gain. Similarly, removing or isolating key connecting nodes can facilitate the dismantling of networks such as terrorist or organized criminal groups. From this I came away with the impression that our entire excursion to Wilton Park was an exercise at exposing us to new ideas and people in a new environment, at an academic standard higher than most would otherwise experience. We were not only forming a network by sharing ideas and opinions on various issues, but we were bettering our own ability to approach problems in our future careers from within this new network of ideas and connections.
Later that evening, while sitting in the dining hall with both my peers and the day’s speakers interacting together in a very collegial atmosphere, another fact dawned upon me. The entire Youth Forum in itself was an example of broadening networks in order to promote positive change in the future. Closed networks of ethnic bias, racism, hate, and xenophobia have resulted in some of the most violent atrocities in the history of humanity – all the participants, no matter their background or training, could identify with this one fact, oftentimes on a very personal level. Looking around the dinner table, at a multinational group of individuals exchanging ideas and openly challenging each others opinions, I realized that Wilton Park intentionally brings people together in a rather private environment geared towards opening up these sorts of previously disconnected networks. Not only is Wilton Park a place where ideas can be shared and information can be exchanged, but it is a private setting perfect for challenging the biases and misconceptions of others – the same biases which often lead to many of humanity’s darkest moments. From this moment forward, I gained new appreciation for the motto that rests on a plaque next to the front entrance to Wiston House, which reads “Investor in People”.
– Nick Dalla Guarda
August 3, 2010
Delegates on Tuesday morning did not seem to share General Petraeus’ sentiment that Afghanistan is “hard, not hopeless”. Petraus’ statement seems to speak to the general debate that encapsulated the delegates at Wilton Park Tuesday. The speakers, Jamie Shea (Director, Policy Planning, Private Office of the Secretary General, NATO) and Caroline Wyatt (BBC Defence Correspondent) weighed in on the theme “Afghanistan- Birth of a Thriving Democracy, or the Death of Western Imperialism?”
Fortunately, Shea hasn’t changed much since his days of briefing the world on the NATO intervention in Kosovo. He became most known to the public by the BBC as ‘NATO’s man with the common touch’ while NATO’s spokesperson during the Kosovo crisis. His audience at this time reached millions, including myself at age 12. Looking back, I remember watching Shea every evening with my father, who acted as interpreter in explaining the Kosovo crisis in terms that a 12 year old could understand. Shea became a familiar face at a young age, and thankfully, he came to Wilton Park in good form; Shea still speaks frankly and has not lost his unique gift in engaging all members of his audience. As many of us (happily) noticed throughout the discussion, Shea was not reluctant in sharing both his personal opinion and anecdotal experiences.
Caroline Wyatt was a speaker I recognized by voice and not necessarily by face. Wyatt’s cool, calm tone is usually found layered over footage of ISAF troops in camo and the buzz of helicopters. Through numerous broadcasts, Wyatt has informed the world on the increasingly complicated situation in Afghanistan as well as its failures and progresses. Most evident in Wyatt’s portion of the plenary was her ability to look past her notes and profile as a well recognized BBC spokesperson; As she spoke her undeniable passion for Afghanistan and its people were hard to miss and the group felt privileged to have access to a journalist’s personal views on the conflict she is so inherently connected to.
So enough about the ‘pros’, how did the delegates feel?
The views seem to represent the wide variety of cultures, beliefs and perspectives that the Atlantic Youth Forum has managed to gather at Wiston House. Sitting outside on a sunny day, we discussed what seems to be a not so bright future for the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. Few were positive about the mission’s future, and many questioned what its present purpose is. More importantly, as key countries like the Netherlands and Canada pull out of key areas like Kandahar, will the purpose of ISAF shift or narrow in scope? We will have to see what the debrief report explains tomorrow.
– Elysa Hogg
August 2, 2010
Following hefty discussions on the future of Afghanistan and fuelled on a wonderful Wiston House lunch, an energetic, international croquet match immediately broke out among conference attendees – quite appropriate for an afternoon discussing sport as a vehicle for social change.
The panel discussion was chaired by the documentary director Tim Albone and the sociology of sport professor John Sugden. Tim’s documentary, “Out of the Ashes,” features the rise and influence of the Afghan national cricket team. He highlighted the team’s success and described their mission to show the world another side of Afghanistan.
Offering an opportunity to bring diverse communities together through outdoor education, Football 4 Peace is an example of using sport to promote change. John Sugden outlined the exciting development of this project and his involvement. Beginning in 2001, the project brought together one hundred Jewish and Arab children. Now it reaches over one thousand.
Starting with the youth, the sports curriculum of respect and empathy has the potential to be passed on to the coaches and parents, and eventually the community leaders. Will projects such as these lead to significant social change? Or have they already? Judging from John’s accounts, I would be inclined to think sport and sport education in this form certainly offer a possible medium for our progression towards peace.
– Tom Henbest
August 2, 2010
Following a jam-packed, sleepless flight that saw me take off from Toronto’s Pearson International at 10pm (Eastern Time) and land at London’s Gatwick Airport at 10am (British Summer Time), I set foot on British soil for the first time in my life, exhausted, disoriented and generally overwhelmed by my first experience attending an international conference. Before I knew it I was herded onto a bus with an enthusiastic group of bright, young students—a refreshing assortment of Brits, Americans, Germans, Turks, Swiss, Portuguese, fellow Canadians and a peppering of others from as far away as Hong Kong, Iran and Uganda—cruising through the picturesque English countryside en route to the Atlantic Youth Forum at Wilton Park. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was in the company of some of the world’s most promising future academics, policymakers, diplomats and international affairs aficionados.
Heading up to the splendid Wiston House amid idyllic herds of sheep and rolling green hills, the bus full of students was abuzz with anticipation, turning our attention away from the various discussions of international politics that had inevitably sprung up during the journey to Wilton Park and toward the guesthouses, conference rooms and dining halls that awaited us. In what seemed like no time, we were sitting around a large boardroom table, listening to an esteemed panel talk about the prospects for a world free of nuclear weapons. The panel was chaired by Paul Bernstein, Vice President of Science Applications International Corporation, and featured presentations by Erin Harbaugh, Public Diplomacy Adviser in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, and Carolyn Naughton, Senior Associate at the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy. The panel focused on the lead-up to and outcomes of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, addressing which countries showed leadership in the effort to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and what implications RevCon 2010 had for the future of nuclear weapons and energy.
As an MA student who specializes in nuclear arms control, nonproliferation and security, I was impressed by the nuanced level of understanding and analysis shown by my fellow conference participants. The panelists were bombarded with a range of comments and questions that exemplified the difficulties and conflicting international interests that characterize NPT negotiations. The discussion was so lively and stimulating that the time allotted for the nuclear topic at the conference soon ran short. The students showed an interest and knowledge that could fill an entire day of the conference. Despite their expertise and passion, the brief time given to the panelists to respond to students’ questions and comments did not do justice to the complexity of the issues at hand.
Fortunately we were given an opportunity to break off into small interactive groups and summarize some of the key themes of the panel. My group focused on the concrete actions that states and the international community can take in the short-term to strengthen the NPT and wider nonproliferation and arms control efforts. Our conclusions included the issuance of negative security assurances by all Nuclear Weapon States (NWS), the adoption of an Additional Protocol by all States party to the NPT, the ratification by all states of the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the strengthening of export controls on dual-use technologies, qualitative and quantitative reductions of nuclear-weapons delivery vehicles, the use of economic sanctions to enforce compliance with the NPT, the application of the South American Nuclear Weapon Free Zone as a model for further regional disarmament arrangements and increased consistency among NWS in their compliance with the NPT.
I came away feeling satisfyingly enlightened and honoured to be participating in this amazing opportunity at Wilton Park with so many promising young people. I can’t think of a better way to have spent my first day in England!
– Patrick DeRochie