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Session Recaps


Thursday, November 21

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Government of Canada Funding Announcement

The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, on behalf of the Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of National Defence, and the Honourable Rob Moore, Minister of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency) together with Peter Van Praagh, President of the Halifax International Security Forum, announced the Canadian government is extending its investment in the Halifax International Security Forum, one of the most significant security forums in the world, through to 2018.  The five year, $9.8 million investment builds on the Canadian government’s previous commitment, as well as private sector investments, and helps bring together informed leaders from government, military, business and media to consider international security threats.

On the Panel

Peter MacKay
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada



Friday, November 22

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Minister of National Defence and Secretary of Defense News Conference

The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of National Defence, and the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, met on the margins of the Halifax International Security Forum (HISF) in Halifax, Nova Scotia to discuss the Canada-U.S. defence relationship, and sign the Canada-U.S. Asia-Pacific Defense Policy Cooperation Framework.

On the Panel

Chuck Hagel
Secretary of Defense, US Department of Defense

Rob Nicholson
Minister of National Defence, Department of National Defence, Canada

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Introductory Remarks & Opening Speech

The most prolific thinkers on international security, decision-makers, military experts and writers joined together in Halifax, Canada to open the fifth annual Halifax International Security Forum, one of the most significant forums in the world.  Peter Van Praagh, President of  Halifax International Security Forum, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of National Defence, and US Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, made opening remarks.

On the Panel

Peter Van Praagh
President, Halifax International Security Forum

Rob Nicholson
Minister of National Defence, Department of National Defence, Canada

Chuck Hagel
Secretary of Defense, US Department of Defense

Session Videos

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Plenary 1 - The West Today: Calculated Power or Complete Paralysis

Panelists discussed the perceived decline of the West and indicated that the West may be tired or has lost “curiosity,” however they asserted that alternatives to global leadership are not obviously surfacing. Additionally, the progressively quickening pace of change in the world leads to conclusions that the future is increasingly confusing and uncertain, and the West may be challenged to keep up. Panelists suggested that the West should consider using its current power to try to evolve a global political system that would be acceptable in any eventuality. Panelists engaged on the appropriateness of Western political influence on the current dynamic among and within democratic nation-states in regions such as the Middle East and North Africa and what, if any, alternatives are presenting. The panel weighed the impact of non-state influences, such as religion, activism, and corporate bodies within the global political structure and how these actors contribute to the balance of interests and values. The panelists discussed the relevance of Europe in global activities, which led to a discussion about cooperation and working together through international bodies such as NATO. Solidarity will be challenged, but panelists asserted that cooperation is crucial to pursuing and advancing values of peace and democracy.

On the Panel

Gideon Rose
Editor, Foreign Affairs

Jeanine Antoinette Hennis-Plasschaert
Minister of Defense, Ministry of Defense, Kingdom of the Netherlands

Ivan Krastev
Chairman of the Board, Programme Director, Political Research, Centre for Liberal Studies

Moshe Yaalon
Minister of Defense, Ministry of Defense, Israel

Rosa Brooks
Professor, Georgetown University Law Center and Contributing Editor, Foreign Policy Magazine

Session Videos

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Peter Mansbridge Keynote Address

Mr. Peter Mansbridge, Chief Correspondent and Anchor of “The National”, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, made a special keynote address to the Halifax International Security Forum on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. The full text of his remarks can be viewed here

On the Panel

Peter Mansbridge
Chief Correspondent, CBC News


Saturday, November 23

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Plenary 2 – Bloody Autocracy, Religious Kleptocracy, Unstable Democracy: In Search of Better Choices for the Middle East (and Beyond)

Panelists disagreed on the role of the West, particularly the United States, in the path forward to establishing democratic systems in the Middle East. There was agreement that establishing democracy takes time and that some degree of patience is required – examples of the unstable paths that America and Europe took towards democracy were cited. Panelists were pressed on American leadership in the Middle East in the context of waning public opinion for U.S. participation in global politics and war weariness, domestic budget constraints and other stated foreign policy priorities, such as “the pivot to Asia.” Given the history of how power is exercised in the Middle East, including the assertion that whoever has power has all the power, unfettered and presenting no alternatives, questions were posed about the effectiveness of conventional democratic electoral systems. The panel analyzed recent events in Egypt, Libya and the Arab Spring and how they relate to the current situation in Syria. Additionally, panelists questioned the focus of the international community on governments and their actions as opposed to the effects of these actions on “the ground” in local populations.

On the Panel

Lyse Doucet
Chief International Correspondent, BBC

Leslie Campbell
Senior Associate and Regional Director for Middle East and North Africa Programs, National Democratic Institute

Tim Kaine
Senator, United States

Heba Morayef
Egypt Director, Middle East and North Africa Division, Human Rights Watch

George Sabra
President, Syrian National Council

Session Videos

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Plenary 3 – If Democracies Won’t, Alternatives Will: Reviving Global Responsibility

Considering recent international involvement and intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and others, panelists diverged on whether or not international action is best facilitated under the leadership of one country or under the rubric of an international organization like NATO or the UN to address ongoing and future regional conflicts such as the one in Syria. In addition, they discussed what kind of action is most effective: direct military intervention or training to build local military and police capacities that create local structures to deter conflict. There was discussion on the development of international law, the responsibilities of abiding by the rule of law and the consequences of failure to adhere to agreed-upon standards. With the recent news about Ukraine’s relationships with the European Union and Russia, panelists asserted that the West needs to continue defending its Cold War victory to protect Western values and interests. A conversation on Afghanistan was ignited when a female member of the Afghan Parliament, from the floor, thanked NATO allies for their continued efforts and work in her country. The session concluded with an exchange on the responsibility to help alleviate civilian suffering in Syria and refugee camps in the region.

On the Panel

Kathleen Koch
Author and Journalist

Liam Fox
Member of Parliament, House of Commons, United Kingdom

Peter MacKay
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

John McCain
Senator, United States

Alexander Vershbow
Deputy Secretary General, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Session Videos

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Plenary 4 – From India to the Americas: the Trials and Tribulations of a New Pacific Order

Panelists began the conversation by discussing the gap between economic and security policies. Regional tensions and conflict in the Asia-Pacific region are underpinned largely by outdated political structures operating within 21st century economic policies. The panelists agreed that no engagement about the Asia-Pacific region can proceed without a discussion on China and the cornerstone of the New Pacific Order remains with the US-China relationship. Panelists discussed the increased, unspoken relationship building that is happening between the US and China in part because of China’s “New Model of Great Power Relations.”

The discussion about China focused primarily on the interest-based relationships that have been developing in recent years and the need to shift the priorities to values-based priorities. Using European history and the development of other dynamic regional structures as examples, panelists suggested that Asia-Pacific nations would benefit from additional regional organizations focused on other matters beyond economic growth and development.

On the Panel

Jonathan Tepperman
Managing Editor, Foreign Affairs

Mobashar Jawed Akbar
Editor-in-Chief, Sunday Guardian

Rodrigo Hinzpeter
Minister of National Defense, Ministry of National Defense, Chile

Kevin Rudd
26th Prime Minister, Commonwealth of Australia

Masashi Nishihara
President, Research Institute for Peace and Security

Session Videos

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Plenary 5 – Robot Wars: The Technology Strikes Back

The panelists discussed society’s access to technology and whether expanded access to technology is beneficial or dangerous and disagreed about the need for government transparency for security technology. Panelists agreed that technology has enabled an increased number of non-state actors to have access to weaponry. The panelists discussed the ability of government institutions to develop adequate policies to control new technologies.

The discussion spoke to the practicality of implementing rules on technology, growth and development because of the vast scope and scale. The panelists disagreed on this point as they spoke about the capability of many countries to develop drone technology and the subsequent necessity to control the use and proliferation of this technology and a disagreement on their use by military forces.

Panelists disagreed on the ability of the government to prevent technological advancements. Interaction and questions raised the issue of the use of lethal force in drones. Questions about increased hostility in the Middle East towards countries that use drones and UAV and the responsibility of members of the military to properly utilize this technology. Increased military accuracy in executing missions and whether this increased efficiency is worth the risk of removing the human element of military tools was also questioned. Panelists discussed whether or not the human element has been entirely removed, as drones are manned by individuals in a separate location. The panelists then wrapped up by projecting where technology would take them in five years and what the state of military technology and the use of drones would be.

On the Panel

Tom Clark
Chief Political Correspondent, Global News and Host, The West Block with Tom Clark

Mary (Missy) Cummings
Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Jean-Paul Paloméros
Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Neil Gershenfeld
Director, Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Bits and Atoms

Jane Harman
Director, President and CEO, Woodrow Wilson Center

Session Videos

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US Congressional Delegation News Conference

The US Congressional Delegation led by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) held a press conference to discuss their participation at the Halifax International Security Forum and American leadership in the world.

On the Panel

John McCain
Senator, United States

Tim Kaine
Senator, United States

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Plenary 6 - Arctic Encounters: Hot Commodities, Cold War

Panelists agreed that this session was particularly timely given the announcement by Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel’s regarding the first U.S. Defense strategy for the Arctic the previous day. In the context of climate change, melting ice and new-found access to resources, there was clear consensus among the panelists and participants that cooperation is required in managing activities in the Arctic related to search and rescue, the environment and the economy. It was noted that the first binding agreement by the Arctic Council was on search and rescue in the region.

Panelists pointed to the cooperation at the Arctic Council as a primary reason that the relationships amongst Arctic nations tend to be fairly peaceful. They also noted that the interest from non-Arctic states to be granted observer status on the Arctic Council is a demonstration of the importance the world is beginning to place on the region. The dominance of Russia’s assets in the Arctic, such as nuclear submarines, was raised and questions about the possibilities of a dissolution of peaceful and cooperative relationships remained largely unanswered.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and existing principles in maritime law were raised as crucial components to developing the Arctic. NATO’s role in providing situational awareness was discussed, but panelists did not feel that NATO would have a military role in the foreseeable future. Panelists also agreed that the people living in the Arctic including the Inuit must be brought to the table to provide their expertise on the region and its future.

On the Panel

Steve Clemons
Washington Editor-at-Large, The Atlantic and Editor-in-Chief AtlanticLIVE & QuartzLIVE

Rob Nicholson
Minister of National Defence, Department of National Defence, Canada

Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Iceland

Nicolai Wammen
Minister of Defense, Ministry of Defense, Denmark

Session Videos

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Sunday, November 24

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Press Conference: Aleqa Hammond, Premier, Greenland

The Premier of Greenland, the Honorable Aleqa Hammond, made a special, on-the-record address at the Halifax International Security Forum.

On the Panel

Aleqa Hammond
Premier, Government of Greenland

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Plenary 7 - Free Radicals (With Return Tickets): Boston, Nairobi, and the Future of Terrorism

The session examined whether terrorist threats remain present, in what form and how they are combatted. Panelists agreed that terrorism is an ever-present threat and discussed anti-terrorism strategies including surveillance. Panelists discussed how terrorism and the war on terrorism has mutated and globalized. The success of anti-terrorist activities was considered difficult to measure in comparison to the failure of those activities, but anti-terrorism is a now a critical part of the post 9-11 world. Panelists indicated that governments must prepare for new versions of terrorist threats, such as cyber-terrorism, to be effective in the evolving world of terrorism.

On the Panel

Robin Shepherd
Director, International Affairs, Henry Jackson Society

Steven Blaney
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Canada

Arnaud Danjean
Chair, Subcommittee on Security and Defense, European Parliament

Pedro Morenés
Minister of Defense, Ministry of Defense, Spain


Session Videos

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Plenary 8 – WMD: Whose Moral Dilemma?

With a deal having been reached just hours earlier on the freezing of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the limited relief of sanctions, panelists engaged in a particularly timely discussion about weapons of mass destruction. There was relative consensus on the panel that an interim deal has been reached,and the success or failure of the agreement will reflect equally on Iran as it does on the other signatories. Panelists and audience members felt the outcome of the process will demonstrate if Iran has truly abandoned its nuclear ambitions. Panelists also considered the intent of the current program in Iran and indicated that, if the singular intent is to remove particular weapons, it may be proceeding well. Panelists also weighed the relative injury on humankind of nuclear weapons versus other kinds of more conventional warfare.

Panelists debated the viability of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. They disagreed on the importance of trust in the relationship with Iran; some panelists argued that a deal with consequences for breaking the agreement does not require trust. The “right” to enrich nuclear material was discussed given that Iran believes it to be a natural and inalienable right. The concept of a Pax-Iranica was raised with trepidation. Panelists concluded that much remains to be seen with the six-month deal with Iran and the outcome will have a lasting impact on the future of the region and relations with the West.

On the Panel

Jeanne Meserve
Senior Fellow, The George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute, and the Aspen Institute's Homeland Security Advisory Group

Camille Grand
Director, The Foundation for Strategic Research

Husain Haqqani
Senior Fellow and Director for South and Central Asia, Hudson Institute

Andrew Murrison
Minister for International Security Strategy, Ministry of Defence, UK

Kurt Volker
Executive Director, McCain Institute for International Leadership

Session Videos

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Closing News Conference

The closing news conference marks the successful conclusion of engaging discussions amongst democratic thinkers at the 2013 Halifax International Security Forum.  For the past three days, democratic leaders, business leaders, military strategists, security experts and members of the media joined together in an intimate setting to discuss international relations and pressing security challenges.  Peter Van Praagh, President of the Halifax International Security Forum, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of National Defence, and the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and Regional Minister for Nova Scotia, made remarks.

On the Panel


Rob Nicholson
Minister of National Defence, Department of National Defence, Canada

Peter MacKay
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada