Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Social Media Is the Answer to Increasing Solidarity

Mariita Mattiisen, atlantic-community.org

author of article image from article

Social media plays an important role in today's society. Via social media it's possible to reach not only decision makers but also wide sectors of the population. It's important to strengthen the unity between NATO member states. By learning about each other's history, culture, and possible threats, it is possible to make the Alliance more united and decrease the problem with decision making that is hampered by divergent threat perception. 

The main idea for NATO to work is understanding between member states. To achieve that, I suggest using social media and the internet more broadly in our favor. NATO's public diplomacy division has a lot of resources and NATO has been active in social media. Therefore, it should also be active on how to promote solidarity between member states. ...
I suggest creating social media campaigns for all member states. For example, each member state could have its own week in which NATO's social media platforms introduce the country's history, culture, possible threats to this country's security and other specific information, that are useful for other member states to understand each other better.
There should also be a special webpage devoted to these efforts, where it would be possible to read about other member states in even more detail. The webpage should be linked to NATO's home page and should be broadly promoted via social media. But in order to reach a wider public, the campaign should be done mainly through social media. The information provided should be more defense oriented than on a country's cultural or historical background information, but these factors should also be included.
This information should be prepared by the member states. I recommend to include Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA) members, which is a civil society organization present in all NATO member states. In addition, countries aspiring to NATO membership must integrate this dialogue in their societies. This concept should be developed by NATO, but the content for each country should come from members. It will ensure that there is trustworthy and important information about every country and also will not make a lot of extra work for the headquarters.
This would be a good way for member states to learn about each other and specifically also to learn about other members' possible security threats. For example, for the eastern part of the Alliance, Russia is a much bigger threat than for southern allies. However, for southern allies, migration is definitely a bigger problem than Russia. To understand each other's problems, we need to spread the information more actively and social media is a key element here.
Through interactive campaigns, it is possible to engage citizens and decision makers from all member states. Information should be visible to everyone, hence why I suggest social media, such as facebook, twitter, instagram, and snapchat. All kinds of videos, pictures, articles etc are effective ways to reach citizens. The message should be clear but simple. To ensure common understanding and support, it is important to reach the citizenry and explain it to them in a simple and attractive way.
To engage more people via these awareness campaigns, it could be useful to have some kind of competition, photography, essay or a questionnaire. For example: "post your travel photos from other NATO member states where you have been", or questionnaire "how much do you know about Norway?". There could be a small prize for the winners, but it definitely will help to strengthen common understanding, values and unity between NATO members. Not only among the decision makers but also between citizens.Including member states and their people is the only way to raise the awareness of NATO and its member states, unify the citizens and make them feel like the Alliance is one big family which stands for everyone and takes account of everyone's specific needs. It will help to understand each other's history and culture, which are important factors for creating cohesion. Social media plays a key role here and I suggest that NATO use the power social media offers.
Mariita Mattiisen has a master's degree in international relations and works in the Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association.

This article has been submitted for category D "Increasing Solidarity in the Face of Divergent Threat Perception" of the "Shaping Our NATO: Young Voices on the NATO Summit" competition. Comments are most appreciated.  Read the other articles in this category here.

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