Speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the Association of Caribbean States 7th Summit of Heads of State and/or Government

Secretary-General, (Mr. President), Your Excellencies, esteemed friends and colleagues,

Thank you for inviting me to Havana. It’s a privilege and an honour to be the first Prime Minister of the Netherlands to attend the ACS Summit of Heads of State or Government. So for me this is a very special occasion. Yet, at the same time, my being here makes perfect sense, as the Netherlands has both a European and a Caribbean part.

As you may know, the country of the Netherlands is part of a larger Kingdom. It consists of four countries that are all associated members of the ACS. Aruba, Curaçao and St Maarten are three autonomous Small Island Developing States located in the Caribbean. The country of the Netherlands consists of a territory in Northwestern Europe and the Caribbean islands of Bonaire, Saba and St Eustatius. We are bound together historically, politically, culturally and socially. And we know from experience that working as a team makes us stronger.

It’s no coincidence, for example, that our combined baseball team has a strong reputation worldwide, especially in these parts. We still cherish the memory of becoming world champion in Panama in 2011 with a legendary victory over the most successful team ever, Cuba. I hope our gracious host will forgive me for bringing this up!

My message today is simple: we want to keep teaming up with our neighbours and friends in the ACS. The special bond we share comes with a common responsibility for our common future. That is especially true with regard to the threat of rising sea levels and climate change. The Netherlands is a low-lying delta country which has had to deal with floods for centuries. More than half of our population lives at sea level or below. So your concerns are our concerns, and in our international policies we strongly emphasise the interplay between climate change, the environment and sustainable economic development.

That’s why we are glad to share Dutch expertise on water and delta management with others. Our support is available right now, without bureaucracy or difficult project proposals. And it can take different forms. When tropical storm Erika left a wake of devastation in Dominica, for example, we were happy to help a friend in need. But we also offer training programmes, like ‘Blue Diplomacy’ at the Clingendael Institute in The Hague, which aim at sharing knowledge. And I’m delighted that so many Caribbean diplomats have attended.

Ladies and gentlemen, to us, ‘teaming up’ means taking responsibility at every level, and we firmly believe that the UN is the destination of choice for all those who want a better world. That’s why I’m proud to mention the Kingdom of the Netherlands’ candidacy for the UN Security Council for the 2017-2018 term. We feel that Security Council membership entails clear obligations towards the member states. We also feel that the Council urgently needs to be made more effective and legitimate, to better reflect today’s geopolitical realities. So we favour the addition of a limited number of new permanent and non-permanent members. Small and medium-sized countries, including SIDS, should be adequately represented. And let me assure you that the Kingdom of the Netherlands wants to be a bridge builder and a true ally for this region.

Ladies and gentlemen, the world we live in holds many challenges. But we’re all striving for the same thing: a strong and sustainable economy, safety and security for our people and the promise of a better future for the coming generations. So let’s keep collaborating, as neighbours and friends, and shape that future together, as a team.  

Thank you.