Securing tomorrow: The crucial role of NATO under the loop of young professionals

“Cooperation, Security, and Values: NATO in a Changing World” was the topic of The Annual Forum of Young Professionals 2023 which was held recently in Tirana — Albania, by YPN (Young Professionals Network) with the support of NATO Public Diplomacy Division and the U.S. Embassy in Tirana. Institutional partner of this forum were the Defense Ministry of Albania and the State Minister of Children and Youth. The forum recently brought together 25 passionate young professionals coming from diverse backgrounds, such as: government, regional organizations, think tanks, academia, and civil society.

In this Forum they analyzed the current perplexed security architecture, NATO’s current standing in the Western Balkans and discuss its future outlooks. The event served as a dynamic platform for insightful discussions, fostering a deep understanding of the evolving landscape of global security and cooperation within the NATO framework. Bringing together participants from Albania and the Western Balkans, the forum functioned as a varied melting pot of ideas, perspectives, and experiences.

This forum featured distinguished speakers and panelists, each of whom contributed a distinct viewpoint. The opening of this gathering featured Ms. Franceska Muco, Executive Director of Young Professionals Network, Ms. Bora Muzhaqi, Minister of State for Youth and Children, Mr. Chad Twitty, Public Relations Officer in U.S Embassy; and a video message from Ms. Carmen Romero, NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy setting the tone with their welcoming remarks and thought-provoking insights.

Three crucial panel addressed the intricacies of the Western Balkans new security architecture. The conversations touched on the absolute need for democratic stability and cooperation among Balkan countries, along with how international issues like the current situation in Ukraine affect regional security. The opening panel looked at the intricate and multi-layered security challenges that we face in 2023 with voices from the entire continent the panel ‘‘New Security Architecture: Western Balkans at the Crossroads of Challenges’’ was moderated by Ms. Petra Balažič, Project Manager, Centre for European Perspective and addressed by Ms. Bojana Zorić, Associate Analyst, European Union Institute for Security Studies, Mr. Ditmir Bushati, Albanian politician and diplomat, Minister of Foreign Affairs 2013-2019, Mr. Bojan Elek, Deputy Director, Belgrade Centre for Security Policy. It was followed by a coffee break & talk with Mr. Joshua Koci, Sergeant Task Group Balkans. Meanwhile, moving from the global picture to the Western Balkans, the second panel aimed to provide an insight into NATO’s efforts in the region, ranging from conflict-resolution to peace-building and enlargement ‘‘NATO’s Historic Role in the Western Balkans: From conflict- resolution to peace-building?’’. It was moderated by Mr. Albi Cela Executive Director of the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) and it was addressed by Mr. Imran Ahsan, Major Imran Ahsan, Deputy Defence Attaché to Albania And Montenegro, UK Embassy in Tirana; Mr. Gjergji Methoxha, Director General of Defense Policies,

Ministry of Defense of Albania; Mr. Eric Coté, Commander, Senior Defense Official / Defense Attaché, US Embassy in Tirana; Mr. Arjan Dyrmishi, Executive Director and Founder, Centre for the Study of Democracy and Governance. The third panel explored the main challenges nowadays in the Western Balkans. The panelists specifically were focus on discussing disinformation and cyber-security as security threats in the region. The panel ‘‘What is next for the Western Balkans?’’ was moderated by Mr. Romario Shehu, Researcher and Security Program Officer, Institute for Democracy and Mediation and it was addressed by Mr. Andi Dobrushi, Director, OSFA Western Balkans; Ms. Petra Balažič, Project Manager, Centre for European Perspective; Ms. Ena Bavčić, Research Editor, Geneva Center for Security Sector Governance (DCAF). To provide a relaxing environment the forum had as a side event an Art Exhibition by Mrs. Elga Mitre titled ‘‘Different Approaches of Security’’. This exhibition offered a space of interaction and networking where the participants had the chance to speak on security through a different lens. Young professionals were encouraged to actively participate in the event’s open discussions and Q&A sessions regarding the changing geopolitical landscape. The insights covered topics such as disinformation, cybersecurity, and the critical role that youth involvement plays in building resilient societies, as well as an assessment of NATO’s position in the area.

To come to real measures, Young Professionals Network decided on drafting a declaration document on the most important topics. The declaration document aimed to outline specific actions and recommendations for addressing the challenges discussed during the event and youth participation. It would serve as a guide for policymakers and stakeholders in promoting democratic stability, countering disinformation, enhancing cybersecurity measures, and fostering youth engagement in the region. Additionally, the document would highlight the importance of NATO’s continued presence and support in ensuring regional security and collaboration among Balkan countries.

The Declaration Preparation Session discussed key themes such as youth engagement in regional security, regional integration and cooperation in security matters, transatlantic partnerships, and the role of civil society and NGOs. It highlighted the importance of youth participation in decision-making processes, their roles in security matters, and the challenges faced by youth in inclusion. It also highlighted the role of civil society in engaging stakeholders and monitoring government activities for more inclusive security policies in the Western Balkans.

In the final analysis, Young Professionals Network’s joint efforts, supported by NATO Public Diplomacy Division and the US Embassy in Tirana, have firmly stated the crucial importance of empowering young professionals. This concerted effort illustrates what a vital role these individuals play in shaping the trajectory of global security and establishing international cooperation. They will construct a more peaceful and prosperous society in the future by utilizing their skills, knowledge, and passion for positive change.

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Young Professionals Network (YPN) is a cooperative development platform composed of young professionals and different kinds of other entities, such as nonprofit organisations, youth organizations, business associations, freelancers, and businesses.

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