Six students standing beside each other.

Dispatch from Model NATO: Justin Myers’ blog from the field

Photo credit: Justin Myers

By Justin Myers, MAGG

Carleton’s Model NATO consisted of four action-packed days of discussion, collaboration, and eye-opening learning, all in the heart of Canada’s capital region. Alongside nearly one hundred other delegates from fifteen universities across the country, I spent the weekend getting an inside look into how diplomacy and military strategy play out through NATO negotiations.

Hearing from the conference’s engaging speakers and guests about Canada’s role on the international stage, the significance of what we, the student delegates, were doing became clear to me. We hailed from various regions and academic backgrounds, and we were so much more than participants in a mock NATO summit – we are the future of Canada’s international presence. Being in the capital and meeting with NATO staff, former Canadian politicians, and international ambassadors was a truly enlightening experience.

Over the course of the simulation, my view of the issues we were discussing began to change. They were no longer just events that I learn about after the fact through the media. Carleton Model NATO showed me that me and my peers hold the power to be the change that we want to see in our cities, our countries, and our world.

The best learning experience happened in the committee sessions. I learned that it is possible to use multilateral negotiation to build a shared vision that works for a wide range of perspectives. But getting there certainly is not easy. In the NATO-Ukraine council, I had the privilege of debating responses to one of the most salient international issues of our world today. I remember meeting fellow members of my committee after the opening ceremonies before we had started our first committee sessions. Comments were made about whether we would have to stretch our imaginations to manufacture debate – after all, didn’t we all agree on the fundamental goal of our committee? I was thrilled that this was not going to be the case. Each delegate brought unique perspectives, both from their country’s views and their own internal logic. These differences sparked lively yet friendly debate that pushed each delegate to advocate even more strongly for their position, while not forgetting the goals of compromise and consensus.

While still a valued NATO member state, Canada is not meeting the 2 percent of GDP spending on defence that it pledged, and stands alone as the only member without a plan in place to do so. The insecurity that we face as a result of this was an underlying theme throughout the weekend that appeared in comments made by speakers from Canada as well as other NATO nations. Attention was drawn to the rising aggression of Russia, the uncertainty associated with the upcoming US election, and the changing military landscape of the Arctic region. All these examples served to illustrate a common point, which is that Canada must take action to protect our sovereignty and the support of our NATO allies. One speaker’s remark that Canada’s age-old defence strategy of 1-800-CALL-USA might be losing its value was echoed loudly throughout the weekend’s discussions, both in and out of committees.

During the opening ceremonies, a speaker commented that the future of Canada’s Arctic and the Northwest Passage may prove to be the most significant international issue for Canada in the coming decades. As I prepare to write my Major Research Paper on the economic security of the Canadian Arctic, I hope to prepare for that future, providing insight into questions that are currently unanswered and posing solutions to unaddressed threats. I am proud to be at the Balsillie School conducting research that seeks to solve these important issues, and thankful for my Model NATO experience for showing me another way that I can play a role in global governance.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the BSIA, its students, faculty, staff, or Board of Directors.

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