International organisations

This section contains information on the United Nations (UN), the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union (EU).

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)

Belgium is a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), which was established on 4 April 1949.
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Belgium is a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), which was established on 4 April 1949. This makes NATO one of the longest-running alliances in history. Twelve European and North American countries (Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United States and the United Kingdom) signed the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington on that very same date. This treaty, also known as the Washington Treaty, forms the legal basis of the Alliance. Today, NATO has 32 Allies thanks to successive waves of expansion into Central and Eastern European countries after the end of the Cold War. Finland and Sweden have recently joined the Alliance following the Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Belgium's membership fits the political choice to ensure our country's security and defence in a multilateral framework, with NATO being the cornerstone for the defence of our territory. In this connection, NATO is the essential forum for security consultations and decision-making among Allies. In the current European security architecture, there is no alternative which can guarantee the objective of defending our country. Belgium attaches great importance to the Alliance's collective and defensive nature, as enshrined in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. Today, NATO guarantees the defence of shared values and principles on which our society is built.

Within NATO, transatlantic cooperation and consultation around security and defence between the European Allies, the United States and Canada, are essential. Belgium positions itself as a cooperative and reliable partner, advocating that NATO continues to find an appropriate response to new challenges and threats. As host country to NATO's (civil-military) headquarters in Brussels (Evere) and the SHAPE military command in Mons, Belgium plays a crucial role here, loyally providing mutually agreed support.

NATO relies on a Strategic Concept to define its strategy. The Strategic Concept outlines the purpose and nature of the Alliance, its fundamental security tasks in a changing environment, and the challenges and opportunities this presents. Eight Strategic Concepts have been created since 1949. The latest revision, adopted at the Madrid summit in June 2022, reaffirms that NATO's main objective is to ensure the collective defence of its members, based on a 360-degree approach. To this end, it stipulates three essential core tasks, namely deterrence and defence, crisis prevention and management, as well as cooperative security.

Deterrence and defence

Deterrence and defence is NATO's most important core task. NATO upholds the principle that an attack against one or more of its members is considered an attack against all. This is the principle of collective defence, enshrined in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.

NATO is a defensive alliance: there should be no doubt about its  strength and resolve to defend Allied territory, preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all Allies and prevail against any aggressor. This is more relevant than ever in the greatly changed security context since the unprovoked Russian war against Ukraine. In a climate of strategic competition, NATO will increase its global radius to deter aggression in any form, in line with the 360-degree approach. NATO's position of deterrence and defence is based on a measured mix of nuclear and conventional capabilities, complemented by space and cyber capabilities. This is proportionate and in line with our international commitments. NATO will deploy military and non-military instruments in a considered, coherent and integrated manner to respond to all threats to its security in the manner, time and area of the Alliance's choice. The Strategic Concept identifies Russia and terrorism as the two major, distinct threats to the Alliance. China's growing assertiveness is described as a "systemic challenge". Increasing resilience forms an integral part of this core task. By investing in the ability of societies to defend themselves against a wide range of threats - from cyber attacks to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents (CBRN), terrorism, pandemics and natural disasters - the Allies address vulnerabilities that could otherwise be leveraged or targeted by adversaries. Resilience is, therefore, an important aspect of deterrence by denial: deterring an adversary from attacking by convincing him that an attack will not achieve its intended objectives. Resilience requires close civil-military cooperation as it affects NATO's ability to carry out its missions and maintain the mobility of troops and equipment.

Military exercises also form an integral part of NATO's deterrence and defence position, as joint military training is an essential requirement to maintain Alliance readiness and improve interoperability. Information about military exercises can be found on NATO's website

Crisis prevention and management

Allies have a common interest in managing crises outside Alliance territory and contributing to stability. This can include both military and non-military measures to address the full spectrum of a crisis - before, during and after the conflict. NATO's best-known intervention in this regard was in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2021. Major ongoing operations are the missions in Kosovo and Iraq. NATO also invests in crisis response, preparedness and crisis management through regular exercises, and here it can rely on experience, proven crisis management procedures and an integrated military command structure.

NATO provides the framework within which the Allies can cooperate and train to plan and conduct multinational crisis management operations, often at short notice. The Allies decide whether to enter into a crisis management operation on a case-by-case basis and by consensus. Central to this approach is human security, including protecting civilians and mitigating harm to civilians. This is why NATO cooperates with other international actors, including the United Nations and the European Union, to address the broader conditions fuelling instability, and contributes to stabilisation and reconstruction.

In operations and missions, NATO can either act as a primary actor or contribute to the broader efforts of the international community. Usually, these operations and missions fall under a United Nations Security Council mandate, which our country also prefers. Information about current operations and missions can be found on the NATO website

Cooperative Security

NATO maintains an open-door policy, in line with Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty, as an expression of its fundamental values and its strategic interest in Euro-Atlantic peace and stability. The door remains open to all European democracies that share the Alliance's values, are willing and able to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership, and whose membership contributes to our common security. Accession is normally preceded by a long process of cooperation and alignment to NATO standards. Current candidate members are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Ukraine.

NATO cooperates in various formats with other partner countries and international organisations, including the Partnership for Peace programme, the Mediterranean Dialogue, the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, and global partners. The aim is to improve security and project international stability by mutual agreement. As such, NATO also aims to underpin the rules-based international order. NATO will continue to strengthen ties with countries in the wider neighbourhood and in strategic regions around the world, insofar as this contributes to the security of the Euro-Atlantic area.

Through the Defence and Related Security Capacity Building (DCB) fund, NATO aims to enhance the capabilities and resilience of certain favoured partners by further tailoring cooperation to their specific needs. DCB helps partners improve their defence and security-related capabilities and strengthen their resilience. It can include different types of support, ranging from strategic advice about defence and security sector reform, to the development of local armed forces through education and training, or advice and assistance in specialised areas such as ammunition and small arms management, logistics or cyber defence. In this framework, Belgium contributes to the funding of programmes with Iraq, Tunisia, Jordan and Mauritania. For Moldova and Georgia, our country is also contributing tailored support in the face of the increased Russian hybrid threat following the invasion of Ukraine. More information about the DCB instrument can be found on NATO's website

NATO-EU cooperation

NATO and the European Union (EU) share strategic interests and face the same threats and challenges. In addition, they share a majority of members. The organisations cooperate in several areas where their interests overlap, including crisis management, capability development and political consultation, as well as hybrid threats, counterterrorism, exercises, operations, and capacity building of eastern and southern partners. The EU is therefore a unique and essential partner for NATO.

Close cooperation between NATO and the EU is an important element in developing an international 360-degree approach in crisis management and operations, as this approach requires effective application of both military and civilian assets. Furthermore, it is also crucial in encouraging more European defence responsibilities. Europe must have the capabilities and ability to take on its own defence. In this, NATO-EU cooperation should ensure coherence and complementarity and avoid unnecessary duplication. Indeed, the transatlantic partnership should not be weakened, but balanced and strengthened, by making a greater European military capability available to NATO and the EU.

Arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation

Arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation contribute significantly to the Alliance's objectives. Alliance efforts in arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation seek to reduce risks and improve security, transparency, verification and compliance. The fundamental purpose of NATO's nuclear capability is to preserve peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression.

Belgium emphatically endorses all credible and targeted efforts towards effective, mutual and verifiable disarmament in the world, both nuclear and conventional. The Strategic Concept confirms the Alliance's commitment to creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons, while also indicating that as long as nuclear weapons exist NATO will remain a nuclear alliance. At the conventional level, the Alliance contributes to coordination about arms control through the High-Level Task Force on Conventional Arms Control (for more details see the NATO website: NATO - Topic: High-Level Task Force on Conventional Arms Control).  

Belgium continues to explore ways to strengthen the multilateral non-proliferation framework despite the particularly tense international context. More information about our diplomacy's commitment in this area can be found on our website under the Peace and Security section.

Human Security

In recent decades, the nature of war has changed dramatically. Competition between major powers, terrorism, conflicts between states, cyber threats and climate change pose real risks and often directly affect individuals and communities. This has led to a shift in thinking about approaches to security.

NATO's Human Security Approach is a multi-sectoral approach to security that places primary importance on people. The approach rests on five pillars: combating human trafficking, protecting children in armed conflict, preventing and responding to conflict-related sexual violence, protecting civilians and protecting cultural property. Thanks in part to Belgium's leading role in this matter, the importance of human security for the implementation of the three core tasks was first enshrined in the 2022 Strategic Concept.

Women, Peace and Security (WPS)

Promoting women, peace and security within NATO is another one of Belgium's key action lines. WPS is an essential theme to implement NATO's fundamental values, especially individual freedom, democracy, human rights and the obligations according to the United Nations Charter.

Since 2007, NATO has been developing its own policy under UN Resolution 1325, which is based on a framework of three guiding principles:

  • Integration, or attention to the gender dimension within all Alliance activities;
  • Inclusion, which means both gender balance within the Alliance and national armed forces, and better consideration of the needs of women and men; and
  • Integrity, i.e. accountability and compliance with international standards.

Further information

More information on different NATO topics can be found in the overview of the Madrid Summit of June 2022, or in the more comprehensive press release of the Brussels Summit of June 2021