Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, United States

Open Securty Council Debate, Maintenance of International Peace and Security, "War, its lessons and the search for a permanent peace"

Statement by H.E. Karel J.G. van Oosterom

Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

to the United Nations

New York, 29 January 2014


Mr. President,

Thank you for organizing this important debate. The Netherlands aligns itself with the statement made by the European Union.

I saw the horrible results of war when I visited Beirut from my posting in Damascus Syria in August 1992. I saw a city destroyed, infrastructure damaged, houses demolished, and, above all, lives of people damaged. At that time I realized there is one key lesson from war: that we have to do our utmost to prevent it and that the search for peace is a common moral imperative.

Having lived in Damascus Syria for four years, and seeing the people from Syria suffering from the current violence, I draw one conclusion: we must do our utmost to contribute to ending the conflict, and ending the terrible human suffering now taking place.

In our view, the search for peace and security is closely linked to justice and human rights.

Mr President,

Last year we celebrated that a hundred years ago, the Peace Palace was inaugurated in The Hague, the Netherlands. Since 1913, the Peace Palace has been a world-wide icon for peace and justice. The Hague has been labeled Legal capital of the world.

Promotion of a stronger international legal order is in our Constitution as a must for our Government. A stronger international legal order reduces chances of conflict and promotes peace and is crucial for peaceful settlement of conflicts.

The means of pacific settlement of conflict, as defined in article 33 of the UN Charter, are crucial. Let me quote: “Parties to any dispute shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements or other peaceful means of their own choice.”

Over time a whole array of methods for the peaceful settlement of disputes was developed and it is encouraging to see that these methods are being used more and more often. Let me give two examples:

The Netherlands strongly supports the UN as a global actor in the field of mediation, including substantial funding for DPA.

And when it comes to judicial settlement of conflicts, the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, both housed in the Peace Palace, are global symbols of the pursuit of peace by means of law and of conflict prevention.

Another crucial element of prevention is early warning of conflicts. My government highly values the initiative of the UN under the Rights Upfront Action Plan, which is very closely linked to the responsibility to protect. The UN has clearly demonstrated the close link between peace, development and human rights. The UN also concluded that conflicts in the last 50 years practically always started with human rights violations. Human rights violations therefore function as an early warning signal of potential conflicts, and the UN and UNSC should act accordingly. To quote my colleague from New Zealand: we believe that interaction between countries on the Security Council and other UN members could be improved.

When conflicts do occur, the UN must make sure, and let me quote DSG Jan Eliasson “that we have the reporting, that we have the type of people who can do the work on the ground on human rights and on the political side.” Accurate reporting by the UN, as mentioned, is crucial to establish the facts in a conflict - crucial for accountability and crucial for reconciliation, as you mentioned in the concept note.

I would like to echo the point in your concept note for this debate, that accountability is a condition for durable reconciliation and peace. As we see time and time again, sustainable peace and security cannot be achieved if perpetrators of the most serious crimes are not brought to justice. Mass atrocities and international crimes can never go unpunished, regardless of whom the perpetrator is. Prevention, protection and prosecution are closely linked:

-    we must do our utmost for the prevention of conflicts and war,

-    if conflicts break out we must do our utmost to protect the people, and subsequently

-    we must prosecute the perpetrators of war crimes.

In that sense, prosecution also has a preventive function.

Argentina, Belgium, Slovenia, The Netherlands and an ever increasing number of countries, are advocating negotiations with all UN Member States on a multilateral Treaty which will fill the gaps in the international legal framework for extradition and mutual legal assistance for the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Mr. President,

As you so eloquently stated in the concept note for this Debate, the narrative of a conflict is important for reconciliation and resolution. Therefore it is crucial that objective data and proof are conserved, both during and after conflicts. The Netherlands, by hosting and funding the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre, is doing exactly that.

Furthermore, the conservation of the records of the international tribunals, like those of the Nuremberg Tribunal and the Special Court for Sierra Leone, is important, as they can serve future generations as a point of reference for the origins of past wrongs and future reconciliation. I am proud to say that the Dutch National Archives serve as depository for both institutions.

You asked for best practices of reconciliation and of reaching a shared historical understanding of the conflict. As others pointed out today, the South Africa Truth Commission is such a best practice of historic dimensions.

Like the Namibian ambassador said, in all phases of conflict (before, during or after) the position of women deserves specific attention. They are crucial in prevention, protection and reconciliation. Therefore my government worked closely with UNWOMEN to have a group of Syrian women invited to Geneva and to New York. We thank the Security Council for receiving them last week.

Allow me to conclude by reminding all of us that the tools for lasting peace exist; in the past 100 years we created many international institutions; the burden is upon ourselves to use them effectively. May our work to that effect be guided by the wise words of Baruch Spinoza of four hundred years ago (Dutch philosopher 1632-1677).

‘Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, for confidence, for justice.’

Let us work towards a world where we are partners in bringing about peace, justice and development. It is the ambition of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to be a partner in that endeavor.

Thank you for your attention.