Speech by Minister Knapen at the at the IKV Pax Christi and GPPAC symposium

IKV Pax Christi and GPPAC symposium ‘Peacebuilding, Statebuilding and Situations of Fragility’, The Hague

Ladies and gentlemen,

My first journey as a minister took me to Sudan. This was not a coincidence. Not a coincidence, because our country has a long-standing history of involvement with Sudan. And – at least as important – because security and the rule of law in fragile states are a priority in Dutch development cooperation.

Let me explain. Recently, I sent two letters to the Dutch parliament saying that the Millennium Development Goals and global public goods are key elements of my policy. We will be focusing on themes and areas where our country can make a difference.

With an aid budget of 0.7% of GNP, the Netherlands remains a leader in international cooperation. Surely, we are in the process of reducing the budget from 0.8%. But 0,7% keeps us in the realm of being a reliable partner as that is the internationale norm. This gives us scope to invest in our priorities. First: food security. Second: water. Third: sexual and reproductive health and gender. And fourth, as I said: security and the rule of law.

We are focusing on security and the rule of law because progress on the MDGs in fragile and conflict-affected states has been slow. Indeed, no fragile or conflict-affected state has yet achieved a single MDG. According to the World Bank, these countries account for most of the MDG deficit. And what’s more, more than one third of the poor in low-income countries live in fragile and conflict-affected states. Poverty and failed states belong together, unfortunately.

The people living in fragile and conflict-affected states are our first and most important concern. But there is a second reason for focusing on security and the rule of law. Conflict-affected states potentially have a large impact on the world as a whole. Think of illegal immigrants and refugees from countries like Iraq or Somalia. Think of human, drug and arms trafficking from West Africa and the Balkans. And think of terrorists from Yemen or pirates on trade routes near the Horn of Africa.

These problems require a focused and coherent approach, often called the 3D approach: Defence, Diplomacy and Development. Together with international and local partners, we are trying to deal with the root causes of instability. The biggest mistake one can make, however, is a one-size-fits-all approach. These causes differ in different countries and regions. This was made clear to me once again during a visit to the disputed region of Abyei in Sudan, in January this year.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Dutch government very much welcomes the growing international attention to these issues. Next week the World Bank will present the World Development Report 2011 on conflict and fragility. And a group of fragile states, including Afghanistan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and South Sudan, have founded the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding. Their goal is to increase international support for a rapid recovery in their countries.

The EU has a responsibility to promote peace and security. In Afghanistan, but also on the coast of Somalia the EU shows that it is committed to combine development and security policies. But the EU it is still punching below its weight. Nevertheless, there is a clear logic in working together closely within the EU. That is – for example – why our government will make a major contribution to EUPOL in Afghanistan. The balance of power in the world is shifting, and European countries need to cooperate if they want to defend themselves against threats and want to benefit from new opportunities.

For managers in the development aid world it used to be more of a habit to fly to New York than to take the train to Brussels. This is changing now and it has to.

A more effective European foreign policy is needed. Here are some points from our wish list in the field of development cooperation. The first is a better division of labour, in developing countries as well as between donor countries. This will not only counteract the fragmentation of our efforts, but bring substantial efficiency gains as well. Another point is more consistency in EU development cooperation activities, for example in the field of security and fragility. And, to underline the importance of a 3D approach, the Dutch government would like to include all activities relevant to development in the official definition of development assistance, regardless of whether soldiers or civilians do the development work.

How would this work out in a country like Sudan?

The EU plays a pivotal role in this country. It acts on Diplomacy and Development, leaving Defence mainly to the United Nations and the African Union. After a successful referendum, Sudan is heading for yet another important date in its history: the independence of the South, due on 9 July. The EU and its international partners are supporting the building of institutions in what is soon to be the youngest country in the world. This requires a long-term commitment and realistic expectations.

To make optimal use of limited capacity, the international community should not overburden national institutions. This is why we have taken the initiative to work towards a joint programme of EU member states and the European Commission. What’s more, I encourage the European Commission to make full use of flexibility in the European Development Fund so that South Sudan can benefit from regular development funds directly after its independence. And I have made a case for South Sudan to benefit from the Everything but Arms Trade Preferences. Products from South Sudan should enjoy a duty free and quota free access to the EU market.

Finally, the European Union needs to stay engaged diplomatically in implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the independence of South Sudan. In the meantime North Sudan must not be forgotten. Here the EU should continue to advocate human rights and to provide humanitarian aid in unstable Darfur. The EU has some leverage to bring to the field.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As I said earlier, the people living in fragile and conflict-affected countries are our first and most important concern. I agree with the Dutch civil society network on Peace, Security and Development that without the direct involvement of citizens no real progress is possible. The new constitution of South Sudan, for example, should not be drafted without the input and consent of the population.

NGOs are essential for development, precisely because they are better at connecting with local citizens than governments are. The more independently these NGOs work, the better they are able to do this important job. Our government does not oppose government funding for NGOs, but feels that funding should have its limits. NGOs should not operate as extensions of governments, because this undermines the basic idea of non -governmental organisations. This may mean that NGO’s have to re-invent themselves. Because I truly believe there is a civil society out there that wants to express itself as compassionate, critical and committed citizens.

I intend to discuss the limits of government funding with representatives of civil society in the near future. But this does not mean that I am turning my back on NGOs or their important work. The Dutch government believes in public-private partnerships, because they bring the synergy and leverage we need to step up our development efforts. In the field of security and fragility as in other areas.

So I would like to invite IKV Pax Christi to reflect on how we can join forces and increase the involvement of local populations in Sudan and other fragile states.

Thank you.