North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg congratulated Colombian President Iván Duque on Colombia’s new membership within the organization. The South American president’s visit on October 23, 2018, was his first to NATO headquarters in Brussels. “Cooperation between the parties since Colombia became a global partner is good for Colombia and good for NATO,” Stoltenberg told the press. “The relationship is built on our common values and shared commitment to international peace and security.”
Duque, less than three months shy of taking office as president of Colombia, made a trip to Europe with a visit to the organization as a top priority. “I would like to thank NATO’s secretary general for his warm welcome and kindness, and let him know that Colombia is glad to be the only and first Latin American nation to become a cooperating member of NATO,” Duque said.
NATO was created in 1949, when 10 countries signed the Treaty of Washington and pledged to defend each other in the event of conflict. The organization consists of 29 member states: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In addition, nine countries form the global partners: Afghanistan, Australia, Colombia, Iraq, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, and South Korea. Colombia became a global partner on May 31, 2018, enabling its participation in training operations, but not in military operations. The agreements between Colombia and NATO focus on sharing good practices in areas such as demining, military forces’ integrity, military instruction, and the participation of women in the armed forces’ leadership and security programs.
The meeting to welcome the Colombian president included a panel discussion in which it was agreed to start a process to increase combined work. “We just signed an agreement to accelerate the partnership between Colombia and NATO in cyberdefense; we are also evaluating Colombia’s experience in the fight against improvised explosive devices to share it,” said Stoltenberg. “The coalition is also analyzing Colombia’s experience in countering narcotrafficking to distribute it to member states.”
Demining was a topic of great interest as Colombia made important strides in the program. According to the Colombian government’s High Counsellor for Post-conflict, the number of municipalities declared free of antipersonnel mines rose to 188 in April 2018. Colombia demined 5.2 million square meters, much from mid-2017 to the end of 2018, during which it cleared 2.6 million square meters of national territory, thanks to security conditions the 2016 peace accord between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia afforded.
“I am thankful for NATO’s certification to our military capabilities in the country,” Duque said. “Having our demining procedures certified enables us to share our knowledge with other NATO partner nations.”
Stoltenberg and Duque addressed other topics, such as Colombia’s participation in special interventions. “In 2015, Colombia participated in NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Horn of Africa. Colombia’s experience might help support the partner mission in Afghanistan in the future,” said Stoltenberg.
At the end of the meeting, President Duque talked about the importance of being one of NATO’s partner nations, especially for the Colombian Military Forces in their efforts to meet international standards. “I’m glad to know that Colombia has the solid support of NATO and its member states. We hope to strengthen bonds of cooperation.”
In closing, Stoltenberg urged the Colombian delegation to counter common threats. “Colombia is our first partner in Latin America. The partnership with the country is highly valuable. We expect to reinforce it and work together in many different aspects on which we have common ground.”