The Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA) is an independent organisation designed to support the values enshrined in the North Atlantic Treaty. Created on 18 June 1954, it is an umbrella organisation for the separate national associations, voluntary organisations and non-governmental organisations that formed to uphold the values of the Alliance after its creation in 1949. The Youth Atlantic Treaty Association (YATA) is the youth branch of the ATA and was formed in 1996.
The ATA’s role is to educate and inform the public of NATO’s activities and responsibilities, to promote democracy and, more generally, to uphold the values of the North Atlantic Treaty.
The ATA’s flagship events facilitate networking and policy debates among political leaders, academics, diplomats and journalists from the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond.
The YATA – the youth branch of the ATA – has a similar role, helping to bridge the gap between policy and younger generations in civil society in the areas of international security and defence.
The ATA was created in June 1954, becoming the umbrella organisation for existing national associations, while the YATA was formed in 1996.
Since the end of the Cold War, the activities of the ATA and YATA have increased significantly to include new NATO member states and countries that are engaged in partnership with the Alliance.
The role of the ATA and YATA
The ATA is a community of policy-makers, think tankers, diplomats, academics and representatives from industry. It seeks to inform the public of NATO's role in international peace and security and promote democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law through debate and dialogue.
To achieve this goal, it holds international seminars and conferences and launches initiatives, such as the Central and South Eastern European Security Forum and the Ukrainian Dialogue and Crisis Management Simulations. The ATA is also active in NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme, the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, launching conferences, seminars and multi-year research programmes. As a result, the ATA's geographical scope has increased since the end of the Cold War, i.e. since the early 1990s, mirroring NATO's enlargement and its engagement with an ever-broader number of partner countries in the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond.
The ATA also cooperates with various organisations connected with Euro-Atlantic security, such as member associations of the ATA, the governments of member associations, the European Union, NATO and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. It also promotes the development of civil society in, for instance, the Black Sea and Caucasus regions, and engages in dialogue with Middle Eastern countries.
More generally, the ATA fosters debate and dialogue in an effort to create a solid understanding of Alliance issues and current security issues such as hybrid warfare, cyber security and terrorism. In addition, it works to develop relations between organisations in different countries by connecting with civil society groups that support the basic principles of the North Atlantic Treaty. Furthermore, it seeks to develop relations between its members in an effort to achieve common goals.
The ATA's youth division – YATA – was formed in 1996 during the ATA's General Assembly in Rome with the aim of reaching out to younger or "successor" generations.
It serves to bring together groups of young professionals working in security and defence, providing an opportunity for networking between themselves and senior level officials from different countries. It works in close cooperation with the ATA, supports its activities and shares its primary goals. They include educating and informing the successor generation about issues concerning international security, supporting research into NATO's role in the world and encouraging young leaders to shape the future of the transatlantic security relationship while promoting its importance.
The YATA also seeks to encourage cooperation between the youths of NATO member countries and partner countries, and between various international organisations to generate debate about the role of security institutions.
Although the YATA is officially part of the ATA, it also holds separate activities to achieve its objectives, such as its annual Atlantic Youth Seminars in Denmark (DAYS) and Portugal (PAYS), as well as crisis management simulations and regional conferences. The YATA also works with NATO's Public Diplomacy Division to organise international conferences and seminars where the national YATA chapters are able to meet Alliance leaders and officials, including the NATO Secretary General, to discuss transatlantic security issues.
The ATA is composed of three main bodies: the Assembly, the Bureau and the Council, as well as the YATA and the Committee of Patrons.
The Assembly is the top decision-making body of the ATA and is comprised of delegates from Member, Associate Member and Observer Member associations. With the exception of Observer Members, each delegate has one vote and resolutions are passed by a simple majority. In addition to the delegates, members of the press and academic community, government and military officials, and international observers may attend the General Assembly meetings, which are held once a year.
The Bureau includes the president, vice presidents, secretary general, treasurer, YATA president and the legal adviser. Members of the Bureau assist in carrying out the decisions of the Council and the Assembly and aid in policy matters, in addition to developing relationships with other groups such as the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
The Council comprises Bureau members plus up to three delegates from each of the ATA Member, Associate Member and Observer Member associations. The ATA allows the Council to take action on its behalf, with the recommendation of the Bureau and the approval of the Assembly. The Council holds two meetings a year: once at NATO Headquarters and once in a host country.
The Youth Atlantic Treaty Association is officially part of the ATA. It serves as the youth division of the ATA and has its own structure, activities and programmes. Similarly to the ATA, there are separate national youth divisions.
The Committee of Patrons
The Committee of Patrons is comprised of previous ATA presidents and other people who have served the ATA with merit.
The President of the ATA is in charge of the general policy of the Association, in addition to acting as its spokesperson. The Assembly, with input from the Council, elects the president for a three-year period.
The ATA Secretary General is in charge of day-to-day operations for the Association, furthering its goals and aims, implementing the decisions of the Assembly, Council and Bureau, and maintaining relationships with various other institutions. The Assembly, with input from the Council and the Bureau, elects the Secretary General for a three-year renewable period.
The Assembly also elects the treasurer, who is in charge of financial matters, for a renewable three-year period.
There are three different types of membership in the ATA: Members, Associate Members and Observers.
The national associations, which come from NATO member countries, may join the ATA as Members. As such, they may attend and participate in Bureau, Council and Assembly meetings. They also have full voting rights.
The national associations that make up the Associate Members of ATA come from non-NATO countries that have signed up to NATO's PfP programme. Associate Members may attend and participate in Bureau, Council and Assembly meetings. Once an association's respective country joins NATO, the association automatically becomes a Member. Much like Members, Associate Members also have full voting rights.
Associations from non-NATO countries that have a direct interest in Euro-Atlantic security issues can participate in the ATA under the status of Observer Members. As Observer Members, the national associations may attend and participate in Council and Assembly meetings, but not Bureau meetings. Also, unlike Members and Associate Members, Observer Members have no voting rights.
Evolution of the ATA
Following the creation of the Alliance in 1949, several separate organisations in NATO member countries formed with the aim of informing the public of NATO's role and activities. A few years later, these organisations came together under the umbrella of the Atlantic Treaty Association when the latter was established on 18 June 1954.
Public debates and discussions focused on NATO's activities during the Cold War, but with the dissolution of the Soviet Union – and with it the Warsaw Pact – the ATA's focus expanded. The ATA examines security issues related to Central and Eastern European countries, the Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East, as well as the Caucasus and Central Asia.
The creation of the YATA in 1996 enabled the organisation to tailor communication specifically toward younger generations in an effort to raise awareness, while continuing to work with other opinion multipliers across the Euro-Atlantic region and beyond. In 2018, the ATA launched three task forces to provide support in areas of strategic interest for the Association and the Alliance: the ATA Task Force Women, Peace and Security, dedicated to empowering women and supporting balanced gender inclusiveness in the field of defence and security; the ATA-YATA Integrated Task Force for Communication, which uses the potential multiplier effect of the network of ATAs and YATAs in nearly 40 countries; and the ATA Task Force on Disinformation and Malign Influence, which principally analyses trends and provides training and capacity-building to ATA and YATA Chapters, as well as recommendations.