Alumnus selected to help shape future of NATO

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Kevin Vuong, BMOS’11 is one of 14 youth leaders providing input on the future of NATO.

He has been recognized as a Queen’s Young Leader for Canada, one of the nation’s Top 30 Under 30, and a Fellow of the Aspen Institute. And now, another honour for Western alumnus Kevin Vuong.

Vuong, BMOS’11, is one of 14 youth leaders selected from a pool of candidates from 30 countries who will share their views on security and peace with the National Atlantic Treaty Organization to help Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg plan the future of the Alliance.

Vuong’s post was announced Monday at NATO YOUTH 2030, a virtual summit engaging young citizens from NATO member states and partner countries in a series of conversations with the Secretary General and other allied leaders.

“It’s a really exciting opportunity to be able to contribute to something like this,” Vuong said.

The Youth Summit was hosted as part of NATO 2030, Stoltenberg’s larger initiative to ensure that the Alliance remains ready to respond to future challenges throughout the next decade and beyond.

The sole Canadian among the youth leaders, Vuong, 31, will be offering his perspective in a civilian capacity, though his background and experience allow him to consider issues from multiple angles. He is currently vice-president and chief operating officer of the knowledge management firm Delphic Research, and a naval reserve officer serving on the board of the NATO Association of Canada. He has also had frontline discussions on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as co-founder of TakeCare Supply, which developed Canada’s first evidence-based reusable mask.

The 14 youth leaders (aged 18 to 35) will be teaming up to tackle five key topics, and Vuong will be leading a group exploring NATO’s values in a changing world.

“Over the course of the next three months, we will be determining the values that really unite the 30 countries across the Alliance,” Vuong said. “We will be deliberating and consulting with different working groups, different leaders and experts across the Alliance, to develop a set of recommendations for the Secretary General.”

That will involve several teleconferences for Vuong, who will present his group’s recommendations in a public handover to the Secretary General in January, 2021. As the pandemic continues, the format of the handover has yet to be decided.

Throughout the process, Vuong also looks forward to discussing NATO’s future role “in protecting our environment (and) advancing social justice, human rights and the rule of law above and beyond the Alliance member countries.”

During Monday’s kickoff event, attended by more than 900 young people and NATO world leaders, Vuong responded to a question from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the increasing threat of disinformation.

“Disinformation is one of our most urgent security challenges today,” Vuong said, proposing a trans-national standard to guide countries, governments and citizens of democratic countries to fight falsehoods. Without such a standard, Vuong warned, “countries leave themselves open to having various groups on social media exploit vulnerabilities that can be used by our adversaries.”

Vuong looks forward to engaging further with Trudeau and other world leaders, noting the important voice he and his millennial peers have in deciding NATO’s future.

“We are all here at the table very intentionally, and there is a perspective we are bringing that the world leaders don’t have. Whether we are speaking to Prime Minister Trudeau or someone else, I think we will be respectful but persuasive and not intimated by the fact they are global leaders, but instead see them as someone who wants to hear our ideas.”

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