May 24, 2019

Minister Kaag calls for new, adequate solutions in dealing with present-day conflicts

Minister Sigrid Kaag.

By Guido Lanfranchi.

On March 8th, 2019, the premises of the Supreme Court in The Hague hosted the event “Conflict Resolution in the Middle East”, co-organized by UPEACE Centre The Hague and SIB-Leiden. The event’s keynote speech was delivered by Ms. Sigrid Kaag, Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development, who analyzed the emerging global challenges and stressed the need for suitable solutions.

The challenges in nowadays world are abundant and daunting, and addressing them will not be easy. Yet, we can address them, and we should not spare any effort in trying do to so. This could be the takeaway from the keynote speech of Ms. Sigrid Kaag, Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development, in the occasion of the event “Conflict resolution in the Middle East”. The event, co-organized by the UN University for Peace’s Centre The Hague and by the student association SIB-Leiden, attracted a large audience composed by politicians, ambassadors and diplomats, researchers and students from several different backgrounds.

The event started in the early afternoon, with the introduction by Mr. Robert Serry, Chairman of UPEACE Centre The Hague, and Mr. Paco Vervaet, President of SIB-Leiden. The introduction of the hosts was followed by a presentation of UPEACE by Mr. Juan Carlos Sainz-Borgo, Dean of UPEACE Costa Rica, who described the mission of UPEACE and its activities around the world.

The panel discussion: Mr. Robert Serry, Chairman of Upeace Centre The Hague, Minister Kaag and Dr. Juan Carlos Sainz-Borgo, Dean of the University for Peace in Costa Rica.

This presentation was followed by the intervention of Prof. Aaron Wolf. From the IHE Delft Institute of Water Education, who stressed the importance of water-related issues in conflict situation and outline the Institute’s activities. Finally, Mr. Tomás Alberto Chang Pico, a Venezuelan alumnus of UPEACE, described his experience as a student at UPEACE Costa Rica, paving then the way for a lively questions and answers session.

After a networking break, Mr. Serry reconvened the audience in the main room for the keynote speech of Ms. Kaag. The Minister exposed her analysis of the current challenges facing the international system, with a particular focus on the increase in the number and size of conflicts around the world. She touched upon the current geopolitical and geoeconomics shifts, which are leading to multipolarity and fragmentation on the international scene. While such developments can be seen as opportunities, they can also lead to some negative consequences, such as for example the undermining of fundamental values such as those enshrined in the concept of universal human rights – the Minister said, deploring for instance the rise of illiberal democracies.

Audience from right to left: Former ambassador (NL) H. Schaper, Former Ambassador (NL) N. van Dam, R.A. Mollinger, former Chairman of UPEACE Centre The Hague Mr. M. Enthoven, Dr. B.R. Bot, former Minister of Foreign Affairs NL.

Ms. Kaag identified several of the potential causes of instability, such as conflict, poverty and the increased role of non-state actors, and stressed the importance to address such issues in order to prevent, rather than resolve, conflicts. The approach towards conflict prevention – the Minister stressed – should be multi-dimensional, involving different issues such as diplomacy, defence and development. The Minister stressed the importance of mediation, calling for more efforts on track 2 diplomacy and for more involvement of women in peace processes. At the same time – she stressed – developmental issues, and especially those related to the youth, remain crucial in order to prevent the emergence of conflicts.

Minister Kaag clearly claimed that “we need to change the way we work” in order to adapt our responses to the evolving challenges of the 21st century. “We must be more creative, embrace risks, use new technologies, and we must believe that conflicts can be solved” – the Minister told the audience in her concluding remarks, stressing the importance of values in the fight against conflicts.

Minister Kaag during her keynote speech, with overview of the Courtroom.

During the ensuing Q&A session, the Minister addressed a large number of topics. She delved more in detail into the situation of the Middle East, congratulating countries such as Lebanon and Jordan for their actions towards Syrian refugees in the region, as well as praising the facilitation efforts led by Oman in the region. Moreover, on the occasion of International Women Day, the Minister repeatedly stressed the importance of including gender considerations in Dutch foreign policy all over the world, as well as of improving gender equality targets in the Netherlands and in Europe.

Student asking questions.

While conflicts seem set to remain a daunting challenge for the world in the decades ahead, hopefully politics and civil society will find the means to adapt to this constantly changing world and find the adequate solutions to ensure peace and well-being for everyone in the world.

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