YATA 25th Anniversary, NATO HQ, 26 November 2021

Opening Address by President Fabrizio W. Luciolli.

It is for me a great honor to be here today to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association (YATA). As the founder of YATA, I was there 25 years ago, and I am proud to address today so many young Atlanticists.

The participation of youth members from so many different countries testify the extraordinary successful role carried out by the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association in promoting, for 25 years, our Atlantic values among the successor generations of NATO Member and Partner countries.

In 25 years, the impact of your role and activities, together with the energy and vivacity of your debates, made YATA the “Spearhead” of the Atlantic Treaty Association!

The ATA’s traditional political, military, economic and educational role – the “Areas of Responsibility” of the four Committees of the previous ATA structure – and the tasks carried out by the wide ATA network of Atlantic Councils, Committees and Associations, have been dramatically expanded by the YATA projection and activities effectively engaging the successor generations, future leaders, and decision makers.

As past President of the Atlantic Treaty Association I can assure you that the YATA daily commitment and action in favor of the youngest part of our civil societies represents and extraordinary added value to ATA’s role. A value which is today much more needed than yesterday.

In fact, “From the very beginning of NATO, then, it was recognised that while defence cooperation was the first and most urgent requirement, this was not enough. It has also become increasingly realised since the Treaty was signed that security is today far more than a military matter. The strengthening of political consultation and economic cooperation, the development of resources, progress in education and public understanding, all these can be as important, or even more important, for the protection of the security of a nation, or an alliance, as the building of a battleship or the equipping of an army.” (§15)

These words, which should inspire our action today, have been drafted in the historical Report on the Non‑Military Cooperation in NATO released 65 years ago by the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gaetano Martino together with his Canadian and Norwegian colleagues, Pearson and Lange.

The ATA’s role was officially acknowledged already in that Report. I am confident that the enduring ATA’s role once again could be acknowledged by the final Communique which will be adopted on occasion of the next NATO Summit in Madrid.

The Cooperation in the Information Field between NATO, ATA, and at present also with its youth component YATA, foreseen in 1956 by the Wise Men Committee’s Report (Chapter V), appears today much more essential than yesterday.

In the present more complex security scenario, affected by hybrid threats and vicious challenges, such as the disinformation and fake news, YATA represents an extraordinary “force multiplier”, able to disseminate in real time in the social media environment, and in 20 different languages, the correct information on NATO’s role and tasks.

Moreover, YATA represents a unique system of “sensors” able to understand and transmit the security perceptions of the future generations to the Atlantic Councils, Committees and Association of the ATA’s network and through them, directly to NATO.

The ATA’s role as a “drive belt” between NATO and the civil societies ensures an osmosis process which reinforce the Atlantic Alliance solidarity, also offering a relevant contribution to the enduring NATO Adaptation Process to the fast-changing security environment.

In fact, such a Two-way relation between NATO, ATA and its YATA component, proved to be essential to inform the civil societies and the successor generation, as well as to effectively connect NATO with the new strategic thinking of different universities and think tanks, as well to outline the emerging security challenges, or the innovation technologies developed by national SMEs.

However, the increasing role of ATA and the YATA activities could not have been realized without the generous support, assistance – and sometime patient attention – of the NATO Public Diplomacy Division. A natural and vital cooperation which needs to be strengthened and reinforced to effectively cope with the new wider challenges of the present security scenario.

Sometimes, the Spearhead role of YATA could appear too advanced. However, I suggest the YATA representatives to never give up and to “knock” ATA’s and NATO doors to raise the attention on the emerging security needs of the successor generations.

25 years ago, in a totally different world, YATA activities were not considered a priority and few youth programs were taking place.

In 1996, the Italian Atlantic Committee (IAC) has been selected to host an important General Assembly: 500 participants, 50 speakers, to be managed for 5 days in the traffic of Rome! In my capacity of IAC Secretary General, I stressed all Atlantic Associations to support the participation of at least one young representative. Youth participants gathered in Rome and have been closed for five days in a conference room – without interpreters or other kind of support – and requested to not come out until they had achieved agreement on a YATA Chart of rules and regulations. Which actually happened.

Twenty five years ago, the Italian Atlantic Committee and ATA made these efforts because considered essential to draw the next generation close to NATO and to its values and purposes in the 21st century: collective defense, preservation of peace and security in the Euro‑Atlantic area, democracy, individual liberty, and the respect of the rule of law.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can all recognize that the creation of YATA has been a straightforward choice and remarkable success.

At present, YATA is a network including 28 Chapters in both NATO member States and partner countries. Hundreds of activities are carried out yearly, engaging thousands of students and young professionals.

It would be impossible to mention every single YATA initiative such as the YATA Academy or the NATO In Action Simulation, launched with the support of the NATO Public Diplomacy Division.

Finally, I am particularly proud to see the contribution and commitment to YATA of many young men and women from new member States and from partner countries. They are the living proof of the wisdom of the enlargement process and of the partnership programs, which ATA actively supported also through its youth branch.

During my tenure as ATA President, I personally had the pleasure to cooperate with several young men and women dedicated to promote the NATO values and I greatly appreciated their firm commitment.

I am confident that in the future YATA will contribute even more significantly to the purposes of our Atlantic community. It is important to take into consideration that ATA’s and its YATA’s activities do not take place in a vacuum. The international situation has sharply deteriorated since the 1990’s, when YATA was founded. Old threats have resurrected, while new disruptive technologies and hybrid challenges are raising.

The new NATO Strategic Concept, to be released next June in Madrid, will outline the strategic horizon for the current decade. In this security perspective, educating and informing the new generations remains essential, particularly to counter hostile disinformation and strengthen the resilience of our free democratic societies.

YATA perfectly fit to this role.

Therefore, while I wish YATA a very happy birthday and a brighter future, I invite all of you to stay young and to promote our Atlantic values and freedoms with the same vitality that animated me in 1996 as today.