During Day 1 of the NATO Debates at Vrije University Brussels eight teams of European and Canadian students will compete for the NATO Debates Championships. Specifically each team will compete in four preliminary rounds of competition followed by a championship round involving the top two ranked teams. The rounds will be judged by panels of faculty mentors from other schools, special guests, and military officers from Ecole de Guerre.
The NATO Debates Championships will be "collaborative debates". This means that participants will not be required to take particular positions on the topic and may choose to agree with the arguments advanced by their opponents. Specifically during the debates students will be asked to present their views on the NATO debates topic, answer questions from both their judges and opponents, and present a concluding rebuttal as per the below format. Team's concluding rebuttals should be focused on identifying and commenting on the material differences between teams approaches. For example, there may be points of disagreements that distinguish the teams' presentations or there may be differences in ways teams support their positions with argument and/or evidence. Your concluding rebuttals are your opportunity to draw out and comment on these differences in your approach and that of your opponent.
Should and can NATO allies commit to spending at least 2% of their GDPs on defense?
During each round teams will be paired against a competing team using the following format:
10 minutes: Team 1 presents their position on Transatlantic burden sharing
5 minutes: Team 1 takes questions from the judges regarding their position
5 minutes: Team 1 takes questions from Team 2
2 minutes of preparation time
10 minutes: Team 2 presents their position on Transatlantic burden sharing
5 minutes: Team 2 takes questions from the judges regarding their position
5 minutes: Team 2 takes questions from Team 1
2 minutes of preparation time
3 minutes: Team 1 presents concluding thoughts
3 minutes: Team 2 presents concluding thoughts
5 minutes: Teams leave the room for judge discussions
5 minutes: Teams return to room for judge feedback
Judges will be instructed to assess both the presentation and scholarship of the teams and in each round will be asked both to select a winning team and to assign team scores.
The primary criteria applied by the judges will assess the merits of teams' scholarship. Did a team use logic and evidence as necessary to develop persuasive arguments supporting their positions? If so, were the team's arguments innovative and are they a valuable contribution to the ongoing transatlantic dialogue on NATO burden sharing?
In rounds in which the teams' scholarship is rated as similar, judges may break the tie by focusing on the quality of the teams' presentations. Students should not be penalized for being English as second language speakers. Rather judges will assess the students' command of the subject matter, teamwork, and organization of thought and argument when making this determination.
Tips for Student Participants
First, we are here to support your preparations! Please contact us with any questions you might have.
Second, there is no requirement during the debates that you disagree with your opponents on any particular issue. These are "collaborative debates." In other words students should strive to speak in their own voices and express their own opinions on the topic.
Third, note there are several instances during each round in which you will directly interact with the opposing team and their arguments. These instances include questioning periods and periods for presenting concluding thoughts. Although you are not required to agree or disagree with the opposing team during these periods, you should strive to distinguish your scholarship and ideas from those of your opponents. Are there important issues on which you disagree? How should these issues be resolved? Are there important issues you have stressed that your opponents have ignored? Why are these important issues to consider? These interaction periods are opportunities for teams to distinguish their ideas and approaches from those of their opponents and should be used accordingly.
Finally, although we are asking teams to robustly engage each other's ideas, please take care to do so in a polite and respectful manner so as to promote a productive dialogue for all of our participants.