The Advisory Committee on Modernising the Diplomatic Service (chaired by Arthur Docters van Leeuwen) has issued a progress report with measures aimed at making the Ministry of Foreign Affairs more effective in a changing world. These include clustering the network of diplomatic missions (with a coordinating role for larger embassies within the network), broader training for diplomats based on fixed standards, and a more publicly visible foreign ministry. Today the Committee presented the report to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Frans Timmermans, who will use it in drawing up the policy letter on modernising the diplomatic service that he will submit to the House of Representatives in June.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Bert Koenders as his Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The former Dutch minister for development cooperation will be responsible for the entire UN operation in Mali and will coordinate the international efforts there.
Foreign minister Frans Timmermans today met with UN deputy secretary-general Jan Eliasson. They discussed the UN’s efforts with regard to the crises in Syria and Mali as well as the reconstruction of Afghanistan and the Netherlands’ role in that process.
The Stabilization Mission’s main task is to contribute to a peaceful and stable Mali. Mr Koenders will head a new type of mission, comprising over 11,000 military personnel and 1,440 police. Under his direction, the aim is to get peace negotiations off the ground, prepare for elections, protect the population and set up and implement a great many programmes relating to judicial reform, economic development and human rights.
The International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) was observed around the world on Friday May 17. While most of the impressive initiatives this year came from civil society, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, as well as the High Commissioner for Human rights Ms. Navi Pillay gave a keynote speech about the importance of respecting the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People. Also this year, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released an anti-homophobia video, called "The Riddle", which -- in just six days -- has been watched by over 200,000 people. This video message has been partly financed by the Netherlands.
Foreign minister Frans Timmermans has expressed shock at the mayhem that ensued at a gay rights demonstration in Georgia today. A counter-demonstration by anti-gay activists turned violent, resulting in a number of injuries. ‘It is unacceptable, particularly on the International Day against Homophobia, that lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBTs) cannot exercise their fundamental rights, like the right to free expression and peaceful demonstration.’
The Netherlands will next year contribute €7.5 million to support the work of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Foreign minister Frans Timmermans received the High Commissioner, Ms Navi Pillay, this morning in The Hague. During the meeting Mr Timmermans and Ms Pillay signed an agreement for the Dutch contribution.
On Tuesday 14 May foreign minister Frans Timmermans received 16 Arab ambassadors and official representatives, with whom he discussed Europe, developments in the Arab region and cooperation between the Netherlands and their countries.
‘Freedom of expression and media freedom are fundamental human rights, not only for journalists but also for society itself. They enable people to form their opinions in freedom and participate in the public debate. A democratic society cannot exist without freedom of the press.’ Foreign minister Frans Timmermans spoke these words today on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, established by the United Nations in 1993 to promote and raise awareness of press freedom around the world.
Foreign minister Frans Timmermans and development cooperation minister Lilianne Ploumen have condemned the murder of Jalal Dhiab, an Iraqi representative of the black community in Basra. Mr Dhiab was closely involved in a project organised by IKV Pax Christi, which the Dutch government supports through the Human Rights Fund. He was killed by a Basra militia last Friday as he left his office.