Beyond Troops: Canadian Contributions to NATO in
Three Areas Outside of Military Operations


Dr. Danielle Stodilka, Senior Fellow, Canadian International Council,
and Dr. Walter Dorn, Professor, Royal Military College (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


Brief presented to the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence
testifying on 
1 November 2017. (pdf: En, Fr)


NATO is known primarily as a military alliance for collective defence. Thanks, in part, to Lester Pearson’s pioneering efforts, NATO also contributes to international peace and security through other means. This review looks at three important initiatives:
     NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme;
     NATO Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center (EADRCC); and
     NATO-accredited Centres of Excellence (COE).
We assess Canada’s contributions as markedly low in these initiatives and propose much greater involvement, while at the same time minimizing any duplication of
resources, assets and capabilities already in NATO. A modest first step would be for Canada to host its first NATO Science for Peace and Security Information Day event.

In the twenty-first century, Canadian contributions to NATO were primarily through military operations in Afghanistan. More recently, Canada has deployed troops to Latvia, as part of Operation Reassurance, and is currently conducting training (Op Unifier) in Ukraine, a key Partnership for Peace country, through a multinational support operation comprised of several NATO states. But NATO has important non-Article 5 activities worthy of major Canadian effort. This paper provides a preliminary stocktaking of Canada’s role in the SPS Programme, EADRCC initiatives and NATO-accredited COEs. We suggest that Canada can do much more to help NATO’s continual development and transformation through these initiatives. 

NATO Science for Peace and Security

The SPS Programme, sometimes called “NATO’s Third Dimension” (after military and political),1 was created in response to a report by Lester B. Pearson and two other foreign ministers (Gaetano Martino of Italy and Halvard Lange of Norway), collectively known as the “Three Wise Men.” In 1956, they called upon NATO to enhance non-military cooperation through politics, economics and science. The North Atlantic Council endorsed their report and created the NATO Science Programme. Next year will mark the seventieth anniversary of what is now called the Science Peace and Security Programme. With this, the aim service expanded from NATO members to researchers from partner countries on science and technology to address common security challenges, including extending networks to universities and institutions. The programme supports collaboration through grant mechanisms including: multi-year, training courses and advanced study institute programs. Notably, about 18 individuals who received grants became Nobel Prize winners, including Paul C. Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield, who both received a NATO research grant for the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which later won them the 2003 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.2

Canada once had active participation in this programme. Awards provided by NATO SPS from 1982 to 1998 show that more than 550 Canadians were Principal Investigators (PIs) in grants received from the SPS Programme, for an average of about 32 grants per year. (An important aside is that about one percent of these Canadian SPS PIs were women, some of whom left for the US or Europe.) In the 17 year period, more than 90 percent of awards were given to non-governmental PIs, most of whom where based in universities, illustrating the programme’s support for civilian scientists and implicit value of their academic freedom. Currently, there are about a half-dozen Canadian scientists who are PIs in ongoing SPS programmes; however, the NATO SPS Programme 2016 Annual Report shows no new SPS activities led by Canada, while sixteen other countries provide such leadership.3

Since the Russia-Ukraine conflict in 2014, Ukraine became the main beneficiary of the SPS Programme as a NATO partner country. About 17 Ukrainian universities and 10 research institutions of the National Academy of Sciences are scrambling to re-locate to government-controlled territories of the country.4 The major internal displacement of scientists and regrouping of institutions means there is a need to help find them employment or risk that their expertise may be used by other, possibly harmful, actors. There are many opportunities for interested Canadian scientists to partner within the SPS framework.

Our recommendation is that, as a first step, Canada host a NATO Science for Peace and Security Information Day, led by a high level delegation from NATO’s Emerging Security Challenges Division, in the next year to explore possible partnerships with Ukraine and other countries.

NATO Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre

The same year that NATO launched the Science Programme in 1958, the North Atlantic Council established procedures for coordination assistance in the event of natural or man-made disasters. The procedures for coordination where modified over several decades, yet remained in effect until after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, when they were extended to partner countries, including former Soviet states. A new Euroatlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) endorsed a Russian proposal to establish a Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Capability to support and complement the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Then the “Senior Civil Emergency Planning Committee” called for the creation in 1998 of a Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center (EADRCC) and a Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Unit (EADRU).5 When a disaster strikes, a nation can request international assistance, and other nations can decide whether to provide assistance through the EADRU or bilaterally.

Since the earliest published situation report on exercises led by the EADRCC, “Trans-Carpathia 2000,” 18 multinational exercises have been conducted, the most recent being “Bosna i Hercegovina 2017”. Situation reports available from these exercises show no participation from Canada in any exercise.6

Well over 60 operations have been led by the EADRCC, with its first one responding to the large influx of refugees from Kosovo to Albania in 1998. In examining EADRCC situation reports for operations since 2002, Canada had directly contributed personnel and assets in 2 cases: 2005 “Support to the US in response to hurricane Katrina” (including 3 navy warships, Coast Guard ship, 2 helicopters, clearance divers and a Search and Rescue team)7 and in 2006 “Earthquake to Pakistan” (including 2 helicopters and a disaster relief team).8 In some cases Canada had provided donations directly to NGOs providing humanitarian assistance. Though most NATO operations in disaster response are conducted in Europe, there appear to be only a few out of more than 60 where Canada directly provided a contribution.

Several SPS Programmes results have been demonstrated in EADRCC exercises, notably a Multinational Telemedicine System (MnTS)9 and a Next Generation Incident Command System (NICS)10, one of which was assessed in Exercise “Ukraine 2015” by the co-author. 11

Having low participation may prompt those concerned to ask why Canada has done so little to aid these programmes despite being an early contributor to NATO programs in non-military cooperation. (The same could be asked about Canadian peacekeeping in UN-led operations.) We call for increased support for these programmes.

NATO Accredited Centres of Excellence

Background: The COEs are international military organisations that conduct research, and train/educate leaders and specialists, military and civilian, from NATO member and partner countries.12 Each COE participates in the development of doctrine, identifies lessons learned, improves interoperability and capabilities, and tests and validates concepts. As think tanks they offer recognised expertise and experience, and support the development and transformation of NATO. COEs cover a wide array of themes such as civil-military operations, cyber defence, military medicine, energy security, defence against terrorism, cold weather operations and counter-IEDs. NATO does not fund COEs directly, nor are COEs in the NATO Command Structure. There are three types of participants for COEs: Framework Nations, Sponsoring Nations and Contributing Nations. The Framework and Sponsoring Nations coordinate, draft and negotiate agreements with NATO’s Allied Command Transformation (ACT). ACT periodically re-assesses COEs to assure that they continually meet NATO accreditation standards.

Currently there are 24 NATO-accredited COEs. None of them are located in Canada but Canada is in the category of a “sponsor” for three: the Combined Joint Operations from the Sea (CJOS) COE in Norfolk, USA; the Military Engineering (MILENG) COE in Ingolstadt, Germany; and the Joint Air Power Competence (JAPCC) COE in Kalkar, Germany.13 It may be of future interest to conduct a study to take stock of Canada’s role and relevance in the NATO COEs throughout Europe.  


There is a need to improve Canada’s involvement in NATO’s development and transformation in the non-operational sphere. Canada’s marginal involvement in three major NATO activities has been observed: no new SPS activities led by Canadian Principal Investigators in 2016; no direct participation in NATO-led operations in disaster response since 2006; and sponsorship of only 3 of 24 NATO-accredited COEs. These are clear indicators for Canada to invigorate its commitments and to engage in activities beyond the traditional (operational) ones. Active stocktaking and a policy gap analysis by relevant stakeholders are recommended. A modest first step is for Canada to host a NATO Science for Peace and Security Information Day.




2 “The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2003”,

3 “NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme - Annual Report 2016,”, p.41.

4 “NATO boosts cooperation with Ukraine on scientific and security-related activities,” July 2017,

5 “EAPC Policy on Enhanced Practical Cooperation in the Field of International Assistance,” 1998

6 “Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) – Exercises,”

7 “EADRCC Final Report (No. 15) Hurricane Katrina – USA,” 3 Oct 2005,

8 “The EADRCC Final Situation Report No. 23 Earthquake Pakistan,” 15 Feb 2006,

9 “A Multinational Telemedicine System for Emergency Situations,”

10 “NATO/Next Generation Incident Command System Pilot Project,” DHS Science and Technology Directorate,

11 D.O. Stodilka, “International guidelines and minimum standards in disaster management for both government and NGO sectors,” CRHNet Annual Symposium 2016, Montreal, 23-25 November 2016.

12 “2017 COE Catalogue – NATO Accredited Centres of Excellence”, Feb 2017,

13 Ibid, p 34.