Halifax International Security Forum

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Halifax International Security Forum
Halifax International Security Forum logo.jpg
Motto Building democracy, creating opportunity and promoting peace.
Founded 2011
Focus International security
Location
Area served worldwide
Services forum and network for decision-makers
Key people Peter Van Praagh
Website halifaxtheforum.org

Halifax International Security Forum (also Halifax Forum or HISF) is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.[1][2] It is a forum and network[3] for international government and military officials, academic experts, authors and entrepreneurs.[4] Halifax Forum addresses global security issues.[5] The Forum is best known for its annual security summit in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The meeting brings together more than 300 delegates from over 40 countries[6] and has been referred to by media as “The Davos of international Security”.[7][8] This summit is the only event of its kind in North America.[9] The 6th Halifax Forum will be held from 21 to 23 November 2014.[10]

History[edit]

Halifax International Security Forum was founded in 2009 as a program within the German Marshall Fund of the United States,[11] with financial support from the Canadian government.[12][13] Its annual meeting is held in Halifax in mid-November, usually the weekend before Thanksgiving.[12] In 2011 the forum became an independent organization and was joined by Foreign Affairs as media partner.[14]

Organization[edit]

Halifax Forum is an independent, nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC. The nonpartisan forum has an American-Canadian board of directors as its highest governance body. President of the forum is Peter Van Praagh.[15] HISF cooperates with institutional partners. The forum’s founding partners are the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).[11][16] In 2011, after the forum’s independence, the Canadian government continued its funding,[17][18][19][20] and Foreign Affairs joined the forum as media partner.[14] In August 2012, HISF launched the Halifax Canada Club (HCC), a public-private partnership created in cooperation with the Canadian government and Calgary-based MEG Energy.[21] HCC serves as a permanent body to engage the private sector in support of the Forum. At the launch of the 2013 summit, Canada's Minister of Justice and Attorney General Peter MacKay announced the Canadian government's decision to continue funding the Halifax Forum through 2018.[22][23]

Annual Forum[edit]

Venue[edit]

The annual Forum is held in Halifax,[24] capital of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Halifax is the largest population center in Atlantic Canada and serves as business hub of the region. Halifax Harbour is also one of the largest natural harbors in the world. The Canadian Forces Base Halifax is home port to the Atlantic Fleet of the Royal Canadian Navy and Canada’s largest military installation. Halifax is a center of Canadian shipbuilding and of the aerospace and defense industry in Atlantic Canada.

Participants[edit]

Canadian Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay, US Senator John McCain and Colombian Minister of National Defense Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno at the Halifax International Security Forum 2012

The Halifax Forum is attended by international government and military officials, academic experts, authors and entrepreneurs.[25][26][27][28] Prominent political participants include Ministers, Senators and Members of Parliament. The ministers included Steven Blaney, Peter MacKay, Rob Nicholson, and Vic Toews from Canada, as well as Chuck Hagel, Robert Gates, Leon Panetta, and Janet Napolitano from the United States. From Europe the ministers Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg from Germany, Pieter De Crem from Belgium, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert from the Netherlands, Pedro Morenés from Spain, Nikola Poposki from Macedonia, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson from Iceland, and Nicolai Wammen from Denmark are among previous Halifax Forum participants. Also, ministers Ehud Barak and Moshe Ya'alon from Israel, Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno from Colombia, Rodrigo Hinzpeter from Chile, Wayne Mapp from New Zealand, and Abdul Rahim Wardak from Afghanistan attended the forum.

In addition, United States Senators John Barrasso, Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, Tim Kaine, John McCain, Barbara Mikulski, Jeff Sessions, Jeanne Shaheen, Mark Udall together with Congressman Robert Wexler were also among the participants, as were Alison Redford, Pamela Wallin, Bernard Valcourt from Canada, and Liam Fox from the United Kingdom.

Pauline Neville-Jones and Ahmed Rashid at the Halifax International Security Forum 2012

Other government officials who came to the Halifax Forum include Stephen Breyer, Greg Craig, Gary Doer, Michèle Flournoy, Stephen Hadley, David Jacobson, Pauline Neville-Jones, Amrullah Saleh,[29] Ellen Tauscher, and Alexander Vershbow. Participating international military officials include Stéphane Abrial, Charles Bouchard, Peter Devlin, Mark P. Fitzgerald, Thomas J. Lawson, Paul Maddison, Neil Morisetti, Walter Natynczyk, Jean-Paul Paloméros, Victor E. Renuart, James G. Stavridis, and James A. Winnefeld, Jr.

International think tank experts, journalists, and entrepreneurs participating in the Halifax Forum include Geneive Abdo,[7] Michael Auslin,[30] David Bercuson, Tom Clark,[31] Steve Clemons,[32] Roger Cohen,[33] Raghida Dergham,[34] Paula Dobriansky,[35] Jane Harman, Wolfgang Ischinger,[35] Josef Joffe,[7] David J. Kramer,[36] Kevin Newman,[31] Nathalie Nougayrède, Ahmed Rashid,[7] Condoleezza Rice,[37] Gideon Rose,[35] David E. Sanger,[35] Robin Shepherd,[38] and Kurt Volker.[36]

Format[edit]

The annual forum starts Friday afternoon with introduction and a first plenary. Friday evening there is a gala dinner followed by off-the-record “night-owl-sessions”. After the plenaries on Saturday there are more than 20 dinner discussions on a variety of topics. Sunday morning starts with a 5-K run followed by off-the-record breakfast sessions. The forum ends after the plenaries and closing remarks with a press conference Sunday afternoon.[39]

Key themes[edit]

Minister of Defense Peter MacKay of Canada at the Halifax International Security Forum 2011

The situation in Afghanistan was a key issue of the inaugural Halifax Forum 2009. In his opening speech United States Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates,[40] acknowledged the military engagement of Canada in Afghanistan, with over 2,800 deployed troops and more than 130 soldiers killed. Gates emphasized the key role of the Canadian military for the success in Afghanistan.[41][42] The secretary warned the Afghan government of a reduction of financial assistance because of corruption.[43] Gates urged the nations of the western hemisphere to increase their cooperation and collaboration to bolster security in the country.[44] For the NATO troops in Afghanistan, US Senator John McCain opposed fixed exit dates before a military success. “The exit strategy is success”, McCain declared, “It’s when you succeed and start to draw down.”[45] On the conflict about the nuclear program of Iran, Ellen Tauscher, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, urged the country to “engage” with the West and warned, “If persuasion doesn’t work, pressure is going to have to be the next line of action.”[46] The future of the Arctic was also an issue of the 2009 forum.[47]

At the 2010 Halifax International Security Forum[48] the US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham asked for Canadian troops staying in Afghanistan after 2011, the date of withdrawal, changing from a combat to a training role.[49] Canadian Minister of National Defence, Peter MacKay, declared at the forum, that Canada was considering staying in Afghanistan with a training mission.[50] At a forum panel on the Iranian nuclear conflict US Senator Graham called for a military strike on Iran to “neuter” the regime.[51][52][53][54] Michèle Flournoy, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, confirmed a new approach of the US Administration towards Iran, from an attempt to engage the Iranian government “toward a pressure track with the imposition of sanctions”.[54] Canadian Minister MacKay favored collective international sanctions against Iran and its nuclear program.[51] Speaking at Halifax that same year, Janet Napolitano, United States Secretary of Homeland Security, emphasized the prominent role of regular citizens in thwarting terrorist attacks.[55]

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at the Halifax International Security Forum 2011

Leon Panetta, United States Secretary of Defense, gave the keynote speech[56] at the Halifax Forum 2011. Panetta described the US as confronting “the fiscal realities of limited resources” and outlined the future of the US military “that, while smaller, is agile, flexible, deployable and technologically equipped to confront the threats of the future”.[57] Secretary Panetta also urged other countries to share in the burden of maintaining global security.[58] In spite of budget pressures Panetta expressed his confidence in the funding of the multinational Joint Strike Fighter (F-35) program. Together with his US counterpart, Peter MacKay, Canadian Minister of National Defense, confirmed Ottawa's plan to buy 65 F-35 aircraft.[59][60] Regarding the situation in Syria and Iran, two key issues for the Forum, MacKay declared, that the NATO mission in Libya was no blueprint for similar interventions. “There's a danger in creating a scenario that says there is 'world police' that are going to start singling out countries and enforcing what those governments — legitimate or not — should be doing”, MacKay told the Forum’s participants.[61] Any international actions in Syria would need a UN Security Council resolution similar to the one on Libya, the Canadian defence minister added. He also expressed his hope that Russia and China would agree on economic sanctions towards Syria.[62] Speaking in Halifax, Senator John McCain expressed his conviction that the “Arab Spring is a virus that will attack Moscow and Beijing”.[63]

United States Senators Mark Udall, John McCain, John Barrasso, and Barbara Mikulski speak to members of the media at the Halifax International Security Forum 2012

The Halifax International Security Forum in November 2012 took place against the backdrop of the open military conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.[7][64] This conflict and the civil war in Syria were major topics of Forum debates. Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay stated that Israel had the right to defend itself against Hamas,[65] but urged restraint in the conflict.[29] Regarding Syria, MacKay called on Russia to help end the civil war.[66] US Senators John McCain and Mark Udall called for a no-fly zone in Syria.[67] McCain dismissed any talk of a potential US ground intervention given the lack of popular support for such s step by the American people. “Americans are war-weary”, the Senator declared.[7] During a panel discussion on the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan, Afghan politicians and business leaders described the situation in their country as “very, very vulnerable”. According to Abdul Rahim Wardak, advisor to Afghan President Hamid Kazai and former defence minister, Afghanistan needed “a lot of resources and patience on the part of the international community”.[68] At a panel on technology and modern warfare, Vic Toews, Canadian Minister of Public Safety, declared that Canada was “as prepared as anyone else” to defend itself against cyberattacks.[69] During the same panel, Minister MacKay announced plans to procure drones for the surveillance of Canada’s Arctic territories.[69]

US-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at HISF 2013

Global climate change and its impact on the Arctic were key issues at the 2013 Halifax International Security Forum. In his keynote address,[70] US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel illustrated the rapid shift of the polar landscape and its consequences for international security.[71] Hagel then announced the Pentagon’s new Arctic strategy, which for the first time outlined how the US responds to the repercussions of climate change for the Arctic.[72]

As the shrinking of Arctic ice opens up new waterways[73] and potential energy resources,[74] countries' increased interest in the region could potentially lead to rising international tensions,[75] the Defense Secretary warned. Hagel called for more international cooperation in the Arctic[76] to protect its environment[77] and to keep it “peaceful, stable and free of conflict”.[71] He also emphasized his country’s commitment “to detect, deter, prevent and defeat threats to the United States, and continue to exercise US sovereignty in and around Alaska”.[75] Speaking at a Forum’s panel, Rob Nicholson, Canadian Minister of National Defence, welcomed the Pentagon’s new Arctic strategy and called it “entirely consistent” with Canada’s approach.[78] Nicholson described the Arctic as a “low-tension area” and emphasized Canada’s efforts to foster more international cooperation in the region.[79] Just prior to the launch of the 2013 Halifax Forum, Hagel and Nicholson signed the US-Canada Asia-Pacific Framework to increase their security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.[80][81]

Minister of Defense Rob Nicholson at HISF 2013

Regarding the forthcoming withdrawal of the last Canadian forces from Afghanistan in March 2014, Minister Nicholson declared that “Canada has made a difference in Afghanistan”.[82] The minister also expressed his concerns about Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s refusal to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US.[83] Secretary Hagel emphasized the necessity of a signed and ratified BSA as a precondition for a US military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014.[84]

The 2013 Forum’s Saturday night reception was interrupted by breaking news of the Geneva interim agreement on Iranian nuclear program and the broadcasting of US President Barack Obama's White House statement.[85] The agreement was also the focus of a Halifax Forum meeting between Secretary Hagel and his Israeli counterpart Moshe Ya'alon.[86][87]

During a panel discussion on the responsibility of Western nations to engage globally on political and humanitarian grounds, Liam Fox, former British Secretary of State for Defence, called for a “re-emphasizing” of NATO’s political mission instead of staying focused only on the military side. He recalled that the Cold War was won by the Western allies. “And it was won — not just because we had military superiority or economic superiority — (but because) we had political and moral superiority and we were willing to say, not that we were different, but that we were better. That freedom would be better than oppression. Capitalism would be better than state control”, Fox declared. In view of declining international engagement due to economic pressures, he called it an “absurdity” that NATO states were spending more of their GDP on debt interest repayments than on defense.[88]

Alexander Vershbow, NATO’s Deputy Secretary General, stressed the alliance’s role as a force for global peace.[89] In order to solve international issues, NATO needs to cooperate with other international organizations, Vershbow declared, also urging more assistance to the Syrian opposition. US Senator John McCain emphasized the importance of establishing humanitarian zones in war-torn countries such as Syria.

Speaking about international military interventions, Canadian Minister of Justice and Attorney General Peter MacKay described a kind of fatigue currently present in democratic societies, due to the losses in recent years. As for Canada, MacKay declared the country’s willingness to maintain its high international presence moving forward.[88]

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External links[edit]