The 55th annual NATO Parliamentary Assembly is being held in Edinburgh this year, from November the 13th to the 17th. But what is it?
Not, it seems, part of NATO itself.
The NATO PA was founded in 1955, five years after the creation of NATO, as an inter-parliamentary organization of legislators. In other words, members of parliaments from all of the NATO member states get together for a conference.
This year, over 350 legislators will come to discuss subjects such Afghanistan, “Enabling Pakistan,” and “NATO’s open door policy.” There will also be representatives from twenty non-member countries – including Russia, the Ukraine, Georgia, Pakistan and South Korea.
Does it have any power?
At the end of the session, the Parliamentary Assembly will make policy “recommendations” which will be circulated to NATO and member states. The assembly has no legally binding power or control over NATO policy, but it sets the broad strategic goals. On it’s website, legislators argue that the Assembly is a valuable as a way of creating dialogue between NATO and the different parliaments of member states.
Whatever role it plays, the protesters who are gathering in Edinburgh are clear that it is not to be welcomed into the capital. The NATO Welcoming Committee, a group advocating direct action, say that NATO is an aggressive, interventionist military organization, and through it’s nuclear presence in Europe, is in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The Forest Cafe near Bristo Square is hosting a convergence space where people can prepare for several days of protests. There’s an Indymedia space where people can post reports and news, and a legal support desk handing out bust cards – little yellow crib sheets telling you what to what to do if you get arrested. They also provide workshops training people to be legal observers.
Jane had come all the way from Hellensburgh to help run the legal support group as a volunteer. Why was she willing to give up so much of her time and energy for it?
“I think direct action is really important. Actually going out and confronting the things that you think are wrong. NATO has all these troops in Afghanistan, there are innocent civilians getting killed. And if you’re going to confront that, you need legal support.”
Jane also thinks that ordinary citizens should try to reclaim the law for themselves.
“If we’re going to challenge the law then we need to learn for ourselves what it’s all about, and make it work for us.”
Jane’s work will begin in earnest on Friday morning. Thats when the protests are scheduled to start. The exact details are being kept a secret – but the NATO Welcoming Commmittee are planning to mass text the location to people at 10:30am.
I’ll be following the story throughout the day.