National Statement of the Netherlands at the 197th Executive Board

National statement of the Kingdom of the Netherlands at Unesco’s 197th 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,

First of all, I like to express, our sincerest condolences and we wish Turkey all the wisdom and strength to overcome the terrible attack in Ankara.

On a more hopeful note, I congratulate Tunisia and the Tunisian national dialogue quartet for winning the Nobel peace prize. This confirms the importance of civil society organizations in times of transformation.

The Director General quoted leaders who spoke in New York. Let me quote his Majesty the King of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

He said: ‘Congratulations! Thank you for seventy years of battling against cynicism and fatalism’. I repeat this message for the 70th anniversary of UNESCO: ‘UNESCO, thank you for battling against cynicism and fatalism’.

The King also said, ‘the Kingdom of the Netherlands believes in the power of empathy and dialogue. It is not always the loudest voices that speak the deepest truths. In fact, it is often the small member states that show us the way forward’.

One example of this is the contribution of the Small Island Development States. They show us the urgency for the new Sustainable Development Goals on oceans and scientific cooperation to fight climate change and marine pollution. The Kingdom of the Netherlands knows how important this is, because three of our countries, Aruba, Curacao and St Maarten are small island states. We support swift implementation of the UNESCO SIDS Action plan and we believe SIDS should benefit more from UNESCO programs.

I like to see UNESCO as the think-tank of the United Nations and as the best example of the power of dialogue and the power of ideas. If we want to construct defenses of peace in the minds of men and women we need stimulate these minds and develop new ideas. Dialogue is the best way to develop and exchange these new ideas.  Cross-cultural dialogue is needed to develop ideas that could help constructing or, what is needed more urgently, repairing the defenses for peace.

These last few months we saw beautiful examples of cultural diversity here in the UNESCO building. Our colleagues from Bangladesh paid tribute to Rabindranath Tagore, the great poet and philosopher. For me, this brought back sweet memories because we used to read his poems in school. Tagore is not only an example of speaking deep truths without a loud voice, but also a good example of cross-cultural dialogue. His conversation with Albert Einstein is one of most inspiring dialogues on science and religion in history.   

I also welcome the remarks by the Director General on the Agenda 2030 as a new vision for Humanity, for the planet, for peace. I am pleased to see that UNESCO stands at the heart of this new Agenda. I support in particular one thing the DG said:  “UNESCO’s vision of freedom of expression and access to information as a human right, to advance media development, to promote transparency and good governance, to strengthen the rule of law, is taken on board”. The Netherlands is happy to see that this part of UNESCO’s mandate is back in the center of attention and we need to make it a success!

During this Executive Board the Netherlands, supported by many member states proposes changes to improve quality and efficiency of our work. We already had a good debate in the SP Committee and other delegations mentioned the ideas on inter sessional meetings. The basic message 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 in running this wonderful organization.

On a practical note I ask your attention for UNESCO’s important work to preserve our groundwater. I invite you for a short side-event on Tuesday, tomorrow, at 2pm in Room IX to present the work of the UNESCO category 2 Institute, IGRAC in Delft, which is UNESCO’s Global Groundwater Centre.

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.