National statement of the Kingdom of the Netherlands at the 200th Executive Board

National Statement of the Kingdom of the Netherlands at UNESCO’s 200th Executive Board H.E. Lionel Veer, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to UNESCO.

Mr. President,

Mme Director General,

dear colleagues,

ladies and gentlemen,

I know that there are some 30 items on our agenda that will force us to discuss about many procedural, programmatic and financial matters, but let me start on a more philosophical note. After all this is the 200th session of the EXB, which calls for some reflection.

The Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO held an interesting debate on protection and destruction of heritage. The main speaker, Stephan Sanders, a well know Dutch philosopher, met with ADG Social and Human Sciences, Nada Al-Nashif and her staff as well as with colleagues from the World Heritage Centre to prepare himself.

He was inspired not only by the meetings, but also by the visit to the UNESCO building. He was struck by the strong message the UNESCO building delivers.

He said it like this: ‘Waiting in the reception hall of the UNESCO building is a pleasure. The building is the dream of postwar optimism captured in concrete.

That was the era of the big decolonization, of the independence of developing African nations, Asian nations, and this whole multicultural world was going to be accommodated at UNESCO.

Many artists wanted to contribute to the UNESCO dream of a better world. Art and politics did not inhabit separate worlds; dreams and political ideas went hand-in-hand.

This dream is that there should be contact between all countries in the world, that education should be a matter of course anywhere and that culture, no matter what its nature, should be taken seriously. And that we should be able to speak of humanity without bursting into laughter. ‘ 

Sometimes you need an outsider to show you again the beauty of your daily surroundings.

His speech also reminded me of what our Director General said a few years ago on a New Humanism for the 21th century.

‘The problem of international understanding is a problem of the relations of cultures. From those relations must emerge a new world community of understanding and mutual respect.

Being a humanist today means adapting the strength of an age-old message to the contours of the modern world.

This new context demands that the conditions necessary for mutual understanding and peace-building be rethought.’

I am convinced that this rethinking of what is needed for mutual understanding and peace-building is part of what the UNESCO constitution means with ‘constructing the defenses of peace in the minds of men’.  

Peace is threatened by many battles, but if we forget to fight the battle of ideas peace will be lost.

Now that our Director General will stay with us for one more year I would like to invite her to push again for this new humanism, for UNESCO to take the lead in this battle of ideas.

Last Sunday Jeroen Oerlemans, a Dutch war photojournalist, was killed in the Libyan city of Sirte. I was sad to see another journalist added to the long list of almost 70 media workers killed this year.

Freedom of expression, promotion of independent media, access to information and safety of journalist are priorities of the Netherlands Human Rights policy and the active leading role of UNESCO in this field is very important to us. We will intensify our cooperation with the Communication and Information sector. The success of the conference last week on Powering sustainable development with public access to information, also known as the IPDC Talks organized in collaboration with IFAP, encourages us to do more.

Against this background I take the audit report on the C&I sector, which is on our agenda, as an encouragement to strongly support the ADG Frank LaRue in his efforts to make the necessary improvements. I liked the ideas on the link between the C&I activities and the SDG’s, he presented briefly at our last intersessional meeting.

Maybe the DG can elaborate on this in her reply on Monday.

To conclude I like to invite you to a side event on 12 October in Room IX, where we will discuss how to address negative stereotyping in education. We will launch the CELL Foundation, which stands for Conflict and Education Learning Laboratory. The event will be opened by ADG Qian Tang for Education and ADG Eric Falt for External Relations and Public Information. You are all most welcome and lunch will be provided.