Halifax International Security Forum

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Halifax International Security Forum
Halifax International Security Forum logo.jpg
Founded 2011
Focus International security
Location
Area served
worldwide
Services forum and network for decision-makers
Key people
Peter Van Praagh, President[1]
Joseph Hall, Vice President
Jonathan Weisstub, Chairman[2]
Jonathan Tepperman, Vice Chairman
David J. Kramer, Treasurer
Mission Advancing greater strategic cooperation among democracies to meet the world's most pressing security challenges.[3]
Website halifaxtheforum.org

Halifax International Security Forum (also Halifax Forum or HISF) is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.[4][5] It is a forum and network[6] for international government and military officials, academic experts, authors and entrepreneurs.[7] Halifax Forum addresses global security issues.[8] The Forum is best known for its annual security summit in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The meeting brings together more than 300 delegates[9] from over 70 countries[10] and has been referred to by media as “The Davos of international security”.[11][12] This summit is the only event of its kind in North America.[13] The 9th Halifax Forum will be held from 17 to 19 November 2017.[14]

History[edit]

Halifax International Security Forum was founded in 2009 as a program within the German Marshall Fund of the United States,[15] with financial support from the Canadian government.[16][17] Its annual meeting is held in Halifax in mid-November, usually the weekend before U.S. Thanksgiving.[16] In 2011 the forum became an independent organization and was joined by Foreign Affairs as media partner.[18]

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. The President of the forum is Peter Van Praagh.[19] HISF cooperates with institutional partners. The forum’s founding partners are the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).[15][20] In 2011, after the forum’s independence, the Canadian government continued its funding,[21][22][23][24] and Foreign Affairs joined the forum as media partner.[18] 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.[25] HCC serves as a permanent body to engage the private sector in support of the Forum.

Annual Forum[edit]

Key themes[edit]

2015 forum[edit]

The 2015 Halifax International Security Forum took place against the backdrop of the ISIS terror attacks in Paris[26] and was attended by 300 delegates from 60 countries. The terror attack was the main topic of the Forum discussions.[27]

Harjit Sajjan, Canadian Minister of National Defence, gave the opening keynote.[26] For Sajjan it was the first major public event he attended after his inauguration earlier that month.[28] In his speech, Sajjan also addressed the situation of Syrian refugees and defended the government’s plan to resettle 25,000 refugees in Canada.[29] The minister described democratic societies welcoming Syrian refugees as a major strike against the ideology of Islamic terrorists. This sent a "great message to ISIS", Sajjan told the audience.[30] The Forum's opening session addressed the new objectives in Canada's foreign policy. During the US/Canadian panel discussion[31] Sajjan agreed with air strikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq as a preparation for ground troops. But the Afghanistan War veteran also warned about the "second and third effects" of indiscriminate bombings, a point with which all panelists agreed.

William E. Gortney, commander of US Northern Command, told the audience that "carpet bombing" was not the answer to terrorism. Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Armed Forces, said that "You can’t carpet bomb your way to victory".[32] Panelist John R. Allen, former Special Presidential Envoy for Defeating ISIS, who attended the panel and later had an additional appearance at the Halifax Chat, emphasized the necessity to fight ISIS also financially and in the sphere of information warfare.[33] Allen told the audience that for the US a massive ground operation was not on the agenda. He instead favored operations by combined special forces.[34]

Speaking at a panel on global security threats,[35] General Petr Pavel, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, stressed the need for "a much broader approach" to fight ISIS[36] and called for a greater involvement of NATO[34] without making it to a "NATO-led anti-ISIS operation".[36]

Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr., Commander of the United States Pacific Command, made the opening remarks for a panel discussion on China's ambitions in the Asia-Pacific region. Addressing the territorial disputes between China and its neighbors in the South China Sea, Harris emphasized that "the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows and that the South China Sea is not, and will not be, an exception".[37] He criticized Chinese efforts to develop man-made islands within disputed territories and called them a "Great Wall of Sand"[38] and "Sandcastles in the Sea".[39] Harris described China as a country which had abandoned Deng Xiaoping's philosophy of patience. "In fact, China has transitioned from a patient nation to a nation in a hurry", Harris told the audience.[40] The Admiral expressed his belief that a conflict between China and the US was not inevitable but emphasized the need to develop the bilateral relationship with a long-term perspective.[38]

During the following panel discussion, Admiral Michael S. Rogers, Commander of the United States Cyber Command, Director of the National Security Agency and Chief of the Central Security Service, blamed China for its cyber-attacks against the United States.[38] Rogers described China as a nation which would hack private companies and afterwards share stolen intellectual property with Chinese companies.[41] The Admiral warned Beijing that it also could be the target of cyber intrusions and described the country as being "as vulnerable as any other major industrialized nation state". Rogers expressed his hope that China would refrain from future cyber-attacks against the US.[38]

Further topics of the 2015 Forum were current developments in the Muslim world, the European migrant crisis, and ways to cut off the financing for international terror networks.[42]

2014 forum[edit]

Senator John McCain speaks during a press conference held by the US congressional delegation at HISF 2014

The armed conflict in Ukraine was a key issue at the 2014 Halifax International Security Forum. Canadian Minister of National Defence Rob Nicholson, who also held the Forum’s opening speech, in a panel discussion called on Russia to get out of Ukraine[43] describing the situation there as "completely unacceptable".[44] He emphasized the Canadian commitment to oppose the conflict and accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ignorance. "It’s certainly my hope and the hope of everyone that he does get the message", Nicholson declared. "We are not going to let up on this… Whether it takes five years or 50, the people of Ukraine deserve the freedom that they deserve, that they fought for", the minister promised.[45] Nicholson’s cabinet colleague, Justice Minister Peter MacKay, called it "telling" that none of the delegates from Russia were representing their government.[46] In view of the Ukrainian conflict Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves opposed Russian propaganda and warned that "many things that Europe often takes for granted are under threat today".[47] Ilves also described the conflict’s negative consequences for global nuclear disarmament as Ukraine in 1994 gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange of international security promises and "when it comes to guaranteeing their territorial integrity, nothing is done".[46]

Less than a month after the terror attacks of Quebec and Ottawa, the Forum’s opening session addressed North American security. The session, moderated by Tom Clark, was recorded and was broadcast on The West Block, a Canadian Sunday political show.[48] Minister Nicholson stated that Canada was willing to enter a more integrated common defense strategy with the US.[9] This would not affect Canadian sovereignty, Nicholson emphasized.[49]

From the US, nine members of Congress attended the Forum. This largest congressional delegation ever to visit Canada[50] was led by the Senators John McCain and Tim Kaine.[51] At a Forum panel examining America’s role as a "indispensable superpower"[52] McCain and Kaine confirmed their optimism about the future of the US. Both senators agreed that US President Barack Obama should have sought congressional authorization to conduct operations against ISIL. "You can't ask people to risk their lives, risk getting killed, seeing other folks getting killed or injured if Congress isn't willing to do the job to put their thumbprint on this and say, this is a national mission and worth it", Kaine said during the panel. "I totally agree with Tim, and I do think it's very important for the president to come over with the authorization that he wants", McCain added.[51] Regarding the Keystone XL pipeline, Senator Kaine at the Forum also explained why in the previous week he had voted against a Senate bill to approve the project due to environmental reasons.[53]

Senator McCain, against the backdrop of the failing negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program in Vienna and its repeated extension,[54] criticized the US diplomacy and drew parallels to North Korea. McCain told the audience that North Korea was in command of nuclear weapons and delivery systems and called this a "wake up call". The senator’s statement was confirmed by General Charles H. Jacoby, outgoing commander of NORAD and US Northern Command, who referred to North Korea as a "practical threat" due to its nuclear and ballistic capabilities.[55]

Abdullah Gül at HISF

Abdullah Gül, the former Turkish president, at the Forum spoke[56] about the persistent instability in the Middle East. "The key term to express the gravity of the situation in the region at present can be ‘frustration’", Gül told the audience.[57] He also responded to concerns related to interior developments in Turkey.[58] It was Gül’s first public appearance since departing the presidency.[59]

On Saturday afternoon, the Forum’s president, Peter Van Praagh, issued a statement that the ISIL terror group was sending messages to the Forum’s staff and participants and also using #HISF2014, the Forum’s hashtag, to spread a propaganda video.[60] The ISIL terror in the Middle East was debated in several Forum panels. Further topics of the 2014 Forum were African security issues and the situation of Hong Kong.[61]

2013 forum[edit]

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,[62] US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel illustrated the rapid shift of the polar landscape and its consequences for international security.[63] 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.[64]

As the shrinking of Arctic ice opens up new waterways[65] and potential energy resources,[66] countries' increased interest in the region could potentially lead to rising international tensions,[67] the Defense Secretary warned. Hagel called for more international cooperation in the Arctic[68] to protect its environment[69] and to keep it “peaceful, stable and free of conflict”.[63] 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”.[67] 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.[70] Nicholson described the Arctic as a “low-tension area” and emphasized Canada’s efforts to foster more international cooperation in the region.[71] 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.[72][73]

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”.[74] The minister also expressed his concerns about Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s refusal to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US.[75] Secretary Hagel emphasized the necessity of a signed and ratified BSA as a precondition for a US military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014.[76]

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.[77] The agreement was also the focus of a Halifax Forum meeting between Secretary Hagel and his Israeli counterpart Moshe Ya'alon.[78][79]

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.[80]

Alexander Vershbow, NATO’s Deputy Secretary General, stressed the alliance’s role as a force for global peace.[81] 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.[80]

2012 forum[edit]

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.[11][82] 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,[83] but urged restraint in the conflict.[84] Regarding Syria, MacKay called on Russia to help end the civil war.[85] US Senators John McCain and Mark Udall called for a no-fly zone in Syria.[86] 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.[11] 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”.[87] 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.[88] During the same panel, Minister MacKay announced plans to procure drones for the surveillance of Canada’s Arctic territories.[88]

2011 forum[edit]

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

Leon Panetta, United States Secretary of Defense, gave the keynote speech[89] 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”.[90] Secretary Panetta also urged other countries to share in the burden of maintaining global security.[91] 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.[92][93] 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.[94] 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.[95] Speaking in Halifax, Senator John McCain expressed his conviction that the “Arab Spring is a virus that will attack Moscow and Beijing”.[96]

2010 forum[edit]

At the 2010 Halifax International Security Forum[97] 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.[98] Canadian Minister of National Defence, Peter MacKay, declared at the forum, that Canada was considering staying in Afghanistan with a training mission.[99] At a forum panel on the Iranian nuclear conflict US Senator Graham called for a military strike on Iran to “neuter” the regime.[100][101][102][103] 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”.[103] Canadian Minister MacKay favored collective international sanctions against Iran and its nuclear program.[100] 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.[104]

2009 forum[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,[105] 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.[106][107] The secretary warned the Afghan government of a reduction of financial assistance because of corruption.[108] Gates urged the nations of the western hemisphere to increase their cooperation and collaboration to bolster security in the country.[109] 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.”[110] 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.”[111] The future of the Arctic was also an issue of the 2009 forum.[112]

Venue[edit]

The annual Forum is held in Halifax,[113] 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.[114][115][116][117] Prominent political participants include Ministers, Senators and Members of Parliament. The ministers included John Baird, Steven Blaney, Scott Brison, Kent Hehr, Peter MacKay, Rob Nicholson, Harjit Sajjan, 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 Michael Fallon from the United Kingdom, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg from Germany, Pieter De Crem from Belgium, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert from the Netherlands, Pedro Morenés from Spain, Milica Pejanović Đurišić from Montenegro, Nikola Poposki and Zoran Jolevski from Macedonia, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson from Iceland, Nicolai Wammen from Denmark, Haki Demolli from Kosovo, Tina Khidasheli from Georgia, Mimi Kodheli from Albania, and Juozas Olekas from Lithuania are among previous Halifax Forum participants. Also, ministers Ehud Barak and Moshe Ya'alon from Israel, Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno and Luis Carlos Villegas 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, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Tim Kaine, John McCain, Barbara Mikulski, Chris Murphy, Jeff Sessions, Jeanne Shaheen, Mark Udall together with Representatives Tom Cotton, Tulsi Gabbard, Adam Kinzinger, Mike Pompeo, Adam Schiff, and Robert Wexler were also among the participants, as were Alison Redford, Pamela Wallin, Bernard Valcourt from Canada, and Liam Fox from the United Kingdom.

Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov of Russia, former President Abdullah Gül of Turkey, and President Toomas Hendrik Ilves of Estonia have also attended the Forum.

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, Mark Carney, Greg Craig, Gary Doer, Michèle Flournoy, Stephen Hadley, David Jacobson, Pauline Neville-Jones, Bob Paulson, Amrullah Saleh,[84] Ellen Tauscher, Alexander Vershbow, and Robert O. Work. Participating international military officials include Stéphane Abrial, John R. Allen Charles Bouchard, Peter Devlin, Mark P. Fitzgerald, William E. Gortney, Frank J. Grass, Cecil Haney, Harry B. Harris Jr., Michelle Howard, Charles H. Jacoby Jr., John F. Kelly, Thomas J. Lawson, Paul Maddison, Neil Morisetti, Walter Natynczyk, Jean-Paul Paloméros, Petr Pavel, David G. Perkins, Victor E. Renuart, Michael S. Rogers, James G. Stavridis, Jonathan Vance, and James A. Winnefeld, Jr.[118][119]

International think tank experts, journalists, and entrepreneurs participating in the Halifax Forum include Geneive Abdo,[11] M. J. Akbar,[120] Michael Auslin,[121] David Bercuson, Rosa Brooks, Tom Clark,[122] Steve Clemons,[123] Roger Cohen,[124] Raghida Dergham,[125] Paula Dobriansky,[126] Lyse Doucet, Jane Harman, Wolfgang Ischinger,[126] Josef Joffe,[11] Suat Kınıklıoğlu,[127] Kathleen Koch,[128] David J. Kramer,[129] Kevin Newman,[122] Natalie Nougayrède, Ahmed Rashid,[11] Condoleezza Rice,[130] Gideon Rose,[126] David E. Sanger,[126] Robin Shepherd,[131] Janice Gross Stein,[132] Frances Townsend, and Kurt Volker.[129]

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.[133]

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