Atlantic Assembly 2023 – Unity & Resolve

On Saturday 1 April 2023, the Young Atlantic Association organized their annual conference ‘Atlantic Assembly 2023: Unity & Resolve’ in Museum Sound & Vision The Hague (Beeld & Geluid Den Haag). Atlantic Assembly is an extended version of NATO Night which has had five very successful editions in the years before.   We are delighted to look back on our first successful Atlantic Assembly: a full-day conference with insightful talks, inspiring debates, workshops and lively networking.

This year’s Assembly will center itself around the resolve in trans-Atlantic cooperation of the past year. Through an interactive program, the Young Atlantic Association introduces you to this new resolve. Further, the Atlantic Assembly aims to go beyond the military domain to discuss new security threats, such as climate-change, right-wing extremism and the western support for Ukraine.

No earlier than 08:00 in the morning on Saturday, volunteers and board members of the Young Atlantic Association gathered to finalize the setup at the venue Museum Sound & Vision The Hague,  whilst simultaneously welcoming our first partner organizations: TNO, Defensity College and Goldsworthy, Stolk & Associates. These partners hosted  two  serious games during our morning program, consisting of exercises where students and young professionals took part in a scenario requiring them to make strategic choices for the organization or nation they were responsible for. We officially kicked off at 9:00 in the morning when the participants arrived.

At 9:20, the chair of the Young Atlantic Association, Boukje van den Eijnden, opened the event with a brief word of welcome. At this point, about 40 participants had joined for the morning program, which meant we were fully booked. Half the group dove into a mini-lecture with the experts of TNO, who guided them through a complex setup in the Arctic region leading up to the serious game: Geopolitics in the Arctic. In a second room, the other participants played a game hosted by Goldsworthy, Stolk and Associates, based on the war in Ukraine. With the good care of our venue’s staff, the participants joined a networking lunch at the end of the morning program.


In the meantime, our volunteers and board members welcomed all other participants of Atlantic Assembly. After registration, the participants of the afternoon program had the option to explore the information market where several partners of the Young Atlantic Association hosted info stands.  The Netherlands Atlantic Association, DYAMI, TILT, HCSS, and Damen Naval where present.


At 13:00, chair Boukje van den Eijnden officially opened the Atlantic Assembly in front of the 100 guests, speakers and partners that had joined us. She briefly reflected on the current state of international affairs, security, and looming threats that were important topics of the day. Atlantic Assembly is, on the one hand, an opportunity to engage with and hear from established  speakers– but we also greatly value the perspective of our young networkIt was therefore inspiring to hear Boukje speak on stage too. Throughout the afternoon program, both our board members and volunteers took to the stage interviewing experts. All participants were able to join the workshops and enterinto conversations with experts. This is what makes these events unique for our network.


Our first keynote of the day was provided by the Netherlands Chief of Defence, General Onno Eichelsheim. The General reflected on the current state of affairs, both on a military and political level. Acknowledging  the current state of crisis that the international field of security finds itself in, he also focused on a brighter future. After a Q&A with some insightful questions to the General, the rest of the afternoon program commenced. In three different rounds of sessions, the Young Atlantic Association offered its participants no less than nine sessions with distinguished experts, fruitful interactions, and important topics. In every round, a panel discussion, a workshop, and a live interview were offered to the participants, each in collaboration with different partners of the Young Atlantic Association.


The panel in our first round of the afternoon program was about  the Western support for Ukraine. Under the guidance of moderator Christiaan Harinck (Utrecht University), three excellent speakers discussed this important topic: Marie Brethous (EUISS), Marnix Provoost (NLDA), and Sander van Hoorn (NOS). Each offered a different perspective on this dynamic discussion – while all agreed the West needs to support Ukraine, the extent of this support remained a lively point of discussion. The second session hosted during this round was the workshop by DYAMI. During this workshop, DYAMI delved deeper into an explanation of strategic foresight – and what is needed for a reliable intelligence report. In the last session of the first round, one of our volunteers, Paul Holleman, interviewed Jeff Amrish Rithoe (HCSS) on the relationship between minerals and geopolitics. The conversation ended with more questions and provoking thoughts on the way out than on the way in.


In the second round, climate and security was the main point of attention for our second panel of the day. Moderated by dr. Ernst Dijxhoorn (Leiden University), Vice-Admiral (RTD) Ben Bekkering and Derk Boswijk (CDA) joined him in this (more than ever) relevant discussion. Each offered a distinct perspective – while the admiral mostly focused on his experience in the Royal Netherlands Navy to come to urgent action, Derk Boswijk went into the difficulty for politics to act with resolve. The workshop during this second round was hosted by TILT. One of their experts went into the persistence of disinformation and the efforts the company makes against it. Board member of the Young Atlantic Association, Niels Mulder, interviewed dr. Bob de Graaff (Utrecht University) on the history of the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD). Dr. Bob de Graaff recently published a book on this topic and elaborated in the interview on his experiences at the MIVD toward a willing audience.


The closing panel of the day focused on a discussion about right-wing extremism and disinformation. Teun van Dongen (ICCT), Hind Dekker-Abdulaziz (D66), and David van der Wilde (ZEMBLA) spoke with moderator Anna van Zoest (Netherlands Atlantic Association) about the possible threats of a misinformed society. Teun van Dongen approached the matter and effects of right-wing extremism from an academic perspective, whilst Hind Dekker-Abdulaziz added her personal and political experience to the discussion. The conversation eventually shifted more towards disinformation and its persistent effects on democracies and political processes, as David van der Wilde shared his experiences from a journalism perspective. Lieutenant Colonel Stefan Mastenbroek hosted the workshop ofthe final round, on dilemmas in military operations for junior leaders. With a most interactive workshop, Niels Mulder joined Mastenbroek in presenting participants with various dilemmas – and asked the audience for their considerations and decisions in harsh and difficult situations. Lastly, our board member Anders Lörtzer interviewed David Allison (HCSS). David shed some light on his view on European defense questions. After this last round of sessions, all participants gathered in the main event room for the closing keynote.


The closing keynote was provided by Ambassador Thijs van der Plas, the Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to NATO. He enlightened the participants with a refreshing outlook ahead. Starting with the great potential of students and young professionals, he presented the audiences with different challenges ahead: systemic rivalries, mineral shortages, climate change and defense investments. But he also noted the positive change in the  way that both NATO and the Netherlands had started to engage more in the fields of defense and security with the Russian invasion in Ukraine. Finally, Boukje van den Eijnden closed Atlantic Assembly 2023 and invited all the participants, speakers, and partners to join in a round drinks.


In the two hours that followed, participants were welcomed at the networking drinks. Many participants, speakers and partners stayed until the doors closed at 19:00 o’clock. With over a 100 attendees, 25 distinguished speakers and nearly 10 partner organizations joining us at the Atlantic Assembly, the Young Atlantic Association looks back on a successful conference for our network, our speakers and for our partners. We thank all our volunteers, all speakers and partners, and our main sponsors: NATO and the US Embassy the Hague.

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