National Statement of the Netherlands at the 199th Executive Board

National Statement of the Kingdom of the Netherlands at UNESCO’s 199th Executive Board H.E. Lionel Veer, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to UNESCO.

Mr President,

Mme Director General,

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Six months ago I started our national statement with expressing our sincerest condolences to Turkey with the terrible attack in Ankara.

Unfortunately we had to repeat our condolences, not only to Turkey, but to Pakistan, to Belgium, to France, to Russia, to Lebanon, to Nigeria, Tunisia to Iraq and to so many other countries that were hit by terrorist attacks since our Executive Board meeting in October.

Preventing Violent Extremism is clearly an urgent priority. I agree with the DG that ‘l’extremisme ne sera pas vaincu par la force des armes – il faut aussi gagner la bataille des idées’.

To do this UNESCO needs to get out of its comfort zone and look for new ways to promote respectful, inclusive and cross-cultural dialogue.

This comfort zone consists of always repeating the same message, and sticking to so-called agreed language. This is clearly not enough.

One way to achieve more impact is to not only repeat our values, but also have the courage to discuss them. In that sense, the symposium on Culture of Respect organized by our colleagues from the Arab Group was a good example of the power of dialogue and the power of ideas. Because by discussing values on the table we take a step in the direction of the other. Only through dialogue can we open minds, find common ground and strengthen the defenses of peace.

The same goes for freedom of expression and opinion, which is a precondition for new ideas. UNESCO has to defend this, but should also have the courage and the confidence to discuss what freedom means in different countries.

Now on a more practical note:

Have you ever heard of digital amnesia? I am sure many of you have suffered from it already. You remember the floppy disk? When you will try to read documents you have saved on a floppy disk 10 years ago, you will suffer from digital amnesia.

The information society is digitalizing fast. But globally speaking the preservation of digital information is still in its infancy. If we don’t act, we run the risk of massive digital amnesia. Fortunately UNESCO’s PERSIST project is addressing this urgent problem but more resources are needed.

I think this project is a great opportunity for UNESCO to show leadership in solving a problem that affects and will increasingly affect access to information globally.

Another area where UNESCO shows leadership is the prevention of homophobic violence in education. The Dutch government has supported a very successful UNESCO project on this topic. On May 17 and 18, UNESCO will host an International Ministerial Meeting on Education Sector Responses to Homophobic Violence, where high-level representatives, including Ministers of Education, will share best practices and affirm their political commitment to ensure the right to education for all learners, including LGBT children. On this occasion, the first United Nations global report on this matter will also be launched. The Dutch minister for Education and Culture will chair part of this meeting and she hopes to welcome many of her colleagues from around the world here in Paris.

Have you noticed the acronym INX? I hope you did because I think our Chair, ambassador Worbs, has worked hard to give the intersessional meetings of the Executive Board a good start. I trust we will all support him to give this governance experiment a fair chance. The basic idea behind the INX is simple: let’s make better use of time between Executive Board Sessions and let’s have a more permanent dialogue between members of the Board, non-members and the Secretariat to improve the decision making process and build more trust between all parties involved.

I also like to say a few words about the leadership of UNESCO in the field of the protection of Culture in Times of Conflict. We wholeheartedly support UNESCO’s efforts and would once more iterate the importance of international cooperation, not only between governments but also with the many important non-governmental organisations that are active in the field. There are a lot of expert networks  but not yet one general database in which all these experts can be found, the Netherlands feels the creation of such a database would be a good idea. 

To conclude I repeat our message as a candidate for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council for 2017 -2018 ‘the Kingdom of the Netherlands is your partner for peace, justice and development’. 

Thank you for your attention.