Story by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Patton
NAPLES, Italy – A new center designed to enhance cooperation among organizations held a Sept. 5, 2017, ceremony at Allied Joint Force Command Naples to mark the NATO Strategic Direction South Hub’s opening.
"Fifty years after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization opened the doors on the Brussels headquarters, the Alliance today faces a dynamic security environment,” said U.S. Navy Admiral Howard, commander of JFC Naples, to the ceremony crowd. "The change has led us to the Hub, a new facility to enhance our understanding of the Middle East and North Africa.”
The NSD-S Hub, under the roof and lead of JFC Naples, is designed to focus on a variety of current and potential issues to include destabilization, potential terrorism, radicalization, migration and environmental concerns. A role of the new center is also to coordinate and work alongside agencies outside of the NATO and national military structures as they concentrate on southern regions to include the Middle East, North Africa and Sahel, sub-Saharan Africa and adjacent areas, waters and airspace.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the decision to create the Hub in mid-February of this year.
Hub officials say the center’s opening provides the crucial beginning step for its staff, which is developing relationships with potential partners to ensure the eventual production of useful product and analysis.
Howard echoed the importance of starting off with interested and invested stakeholders.
"The first order of business is seeking out people and organizations that live or operate in the south,” Howard said.
Some of the partners the NSD-S Hub hopes to connect with include actors such as regional development and crisis handling experts, academics and non-governmental organizations.
Alejandro Alvargonzalez, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy, highlighted the regular political dialogue and practical cooperation over the past years NATO has held with Mediterranean Dialogue countries and Arab Gulf states in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.
At the ceremony, Alvargonzalez also highlighted NATO’s ability to successfully build a new culture of cooperation in the security field with 12 regional partner countries.
"These partners are adopting NATO standards and promoting interoperability with the Alliance, while modernizing their defense and security sectors,” said Alvargonzalez. "They all are asking NATO for more cooperation and more assistance in the defence and security fields.”
It’s the strengthened cooperation and two-way dialogue that Alvargonzalez said will benefit the Hub’s experts and stakeholders from NATO and non-NATO partners. He said these groups will include international organizations that NATO is already working together with, such as the United Nations, European Union, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Howard pointed out that although the more recognized articles of the 1949 Washington Treaty speak to the idea of collective self-defence in NATO, it’s Article 2 that sets the existence for a Hub.
"The Parties will contribute toward the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions, by bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which these institutions are founded, and by promoting conditions of stability and well-being,” states the first sentence of the treaty’s Article 2.
NATO’s experience with partnering is something Howard thinks will assist the Hub with its efforts.
"As we are an Alliance, it is abundantly clear that we know the value of teaming, and the Hub must work in concert with friends and partners,” Howard said. "We have the chance to form a community to share expertise and experience, exchange information and take the path to a better future.”
The NSD-S Hub is slated to reach full capability by the end of this year, and French Air Force Colonel Eric Asselin, deputy director and acting director of the Hub, said the ribbon cutting was the first step following months of preparation to establish the center.
"Now we have to get to work,” Asselin said.