Investments in a Safer Future

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Investments in a Safer Future

Investments in a Safer Future

The consortium formed by the New Strategy Center, the West University of Timișoara and the “Nicolae Bălcescu” Land Forces Academy in Sibiu was selected by the NATO Public Diplomacy Division within the call for projects titled “ Increasing Societal Resilience: Innovative Ways to Counter Disinformation and Hostile Information Activities”, which aims to increase the resilience of NATO states in the face of disinformation campaigns.

The “Investments in a Safer Future” project of the aforementioned consortium is among the proposals that have been declared as winners, and will run until the end of this year. It will engage young cadets from the “Nicolae Bălcescu” Land Forces Academy in Sibiu and students from several faculties within the West University of Timișoara in several activities aimed at assessing both the level of knowledge on NATO’s activity and the degree of permeability to some narratives that are part of disinformation campaigns, whose aim is to undermine the trust in democratic values ​​and cohesion at NATO level. Young people of the same age, but having different professional interests, will be able to share information through which they can better recognize false news and hostile propaganda actions, in an interactive setting that will help them develop a critical apparatus and become more aware of the origin and objectives of misinformation campaigns.

At the same time, this project is an example of cooperation between civilian and military academia, but also between academia and the area of non-governmental expertise, to increase societal resilience to informational aggression, especially among the younger generation.

By means of this project, New Strategy Center, West University of Timișoara and Land Forces Academy “Nicolae Bălcescu” from Sibiu want to contribute to the training of future leaders in civilian and military areas by disseminating information on NATO’s contribution to increasing security in Romania and the entire Eastern Flank, as defense investments are in fact investments in a more secure future, meant to ensure prosperity and the security for our region.

The initiative is a pilot project in which a peer-to-peer educational model can be implemented. It will focus on NATO’s political and communication priorities, according to a strategy adapted to the younger generation. Among the objectives of the project, we mention:

– the development of innovative educational materials adapted to the constantly changing digital environment, in a way suitable for a younger audience;
– involving students in reaching out to other students on topics of great strategic relevance, which are the target of misinformation actions;
– improving the current expertise in communication with the successor generation;
– encouraging relations between future practitioners and experts;
– stressing the importance of the NATO-EU relationship, the lasting transatlantic link and Allied solidarity;
– informing the younger generation about NATO’s role in ensuring stability and prosperity in the Black Sea region;
– the acquisition by participating students of advanced critical skills and useful knowledge in detecting and countering propaganda, false news, and information manipulation.

Together with the target group at the West University of Timisoara, the first two stages of the project were carried out, on 17 November 2021, where the students were asked to fill in general questionnaires on the North Atlantic Alliance, Romania’s role in NATO and sources of information, and on 19 November 2021, the focus group phase, to deepen the issues addressed by the project.

The third phase of the project was the training module of cadets from the “Nicolae Balcescu” Land Forces Academy Sibiu, on November 23, 2021, considering that the military students will become sources of information for their civilian colleagues in the project’s final workshop.

The fourth phase of the project took place on 11 December, and in the four training modules, young people addressed basic concepts regarding the North Atlantic Alliance, the values and principles governing NATO, as well as their familiarization with a number of concepts used at the ally level. The interactive exercises, aimed at developing responsible youth behavior, have addressed practical examples of misinformation and hostile propaganda and have facilitated the assumption of several tools to counter these phenomena.