Speech by Uri Rosenthal at the opening of ‘The European International Model United Nations (TEIMUN) 2011

Madam Secretary-General, Mr Chairman, Mr De Hoop Scheffer, ladies and gentlemen,

It’s good to be here with you - two hundred students from more than fifty countries to discuss the future of global governance and of the UN in particular. You are the next generation of politicians, diplomats, officials and lobbyists in the international arena. You and I have something very important in common: our shared concern and sense of responsibility for the world’s future. The UN is the key instrument for international cooperation. Its relevance has been on the increase over the years. But it should and could go for an even stronger performance. So we should also be willing to identify the UN’s shortcomings as well as the opportunities for change and improvement. That’s why you are here.

The challenges our world faces today are more complex than ever before. For that matter, the principles of 21st century international policy - global security, freedom including human rights and prosperity - are even more interlinked and interdependent. Violations of individual freedom and of human rights for example are not only morally reprehensible. Sooner or later, they also lead to unrest, instability and economic decline. Security and freedom are fundamental to economic growth. Social and political turbulence is highly dysfunctional to foreign investments and to foreign trade and vice versa. Lack of economic growth and structural unemployment among the youth go hand in hand with and social turmoil.

The recent developments in the Arab world are a case in point. It was the lack of prospects, especially for young and ambitious people like you, and the intrusion into the fundamental rights of the people, that sparked the uprisings across the region. It is also in our own interest to address these challenges. Assistance to the countries in the Arab world should be based on intelligent conditionality. And we should focus on social and economic reforms, strengthening democracy and improving the rule of law.

The challenges we face throughout the world should be countered through international cooperation. We cannot effectively protect our security alone. Nor can we single-handedly protect our economies against external shocks. International cooperation is essential. And the UN is a most important instrument to foster cooperative arrangements. The UN is a vital player in international politics, including international crisis management. Libya’s suspension from the Human Rights Council and this year’s Security Council resolutions on Libya and Côte d’Ivoire prove it in a clear-cut way.

Besides being a key forum for international politics, the UN contributes on a daily base to economic development, social justice and the protection of human rights around the world. Every day, UNHCR helps refugees, the World Food Programme distributes food and UNICEF reinforces national programmes to get the children to school.

I appreciate that you here at the TEIMUN will try to follow the UN’s procedures and its negotiation processes as closely as possible. This is fertile ground for your future careers. But at the same time, I want to press you to come up with new ideas. Don’t stick too closely to the current paradigms of international affairs. Use this opportunity to let your ideas and your ideals flow freely. This means taking a critical look at how the UN works, and at where it doesn’t work that well. Don’t get carried away by visions of the UN that are overly rosy. I encourage you to use your independent, critical faculties to come up with ways of improving the organisation.

But we need to be realistic as well. After all, international politics is the art of the possible. Some ideas, however good or innovative they may be, will not succeed without the support of the powers that be. On the other hand, this doesn’t absolve us and you from the obligation to improve the way the UN works.

Let’s look at some proposals for change. The world’s changing power relations are a fact. And the UN needs to adapt. I am in favour of that. The Netherlands supports a modest enlargement of the Security Council: permanent seats for Brazil and India, for Japan and Germany. But we need to make sure that this enlargement does not impact the efficiency of the Council’s decision-making process. So we will argue for a limit on the right of veto if the Council is enlarged. This is only a temporary reform option, because none of the other proposals tabled so far are supported by a sufficient majority. To be able to finalise the reform model in due course, we will need to include a review clause as well. I understand that this issue is also on the TEIMUN agenda. New ideas are still needed and are most welcome!

Another subject well positioned on your agenda, and rightly so, is the Responsibility to Protect, or R2P. The Responsibility to Protect puts severe pressure on those who take part in the infliction of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. It should be clear that nation states have the primary responsibility to protect their people. But when they don’t, the international community has a responsibility to take the necessary measures. These start with mediation and may ultimately include military intervention as a last resort. Mediations in Kenya, Kyrgyzstan and Guinea-Bissau are successful examples. Last March’s Security Council resolution 1973 calling for the protection of Libya’s civilian population was the first resolution to take the Responsibility to Protect as a basis for measures ranging from sanctions to military action.

Together with Rwanda, the Netherlands co-chairs the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect. Our goal is to raise awareness and encourage debate on how to prevent the four Responsibility to Protect crimes. And we will certainly do this at the upcoming UN summit in September. But let me add a forewarning: be careful out there! There is no sense in running into a one-way street hitting the wall of sheer opposition and obstinate anger about the infringement of territorial sovereignty. There is still a lot to do before the Responsibility to Protect will be a solid principle and doctrine of international law.

I am pleased that a model meeting of the North Atlantic Council is part of the TEIMUN programme as well. For NATO remains the world’s most successful political-military alliance. NATO is not the ‘global cop’, but our prospects for international peace and stability would be a lot bleaker without it.

Yet NATO still has challenges of its own to meet. In Lisbon, November last year, we identified new external threats like terrorism, piracy and cyber attacks as part of the new Strategic Concept. But there are also challenges from within, such as burden sharing. NATO-EU cooperation is hampered by political problems between one NATO member and one EU member. Until a political solution is found, we have to maintain pressure on the parties involved and continue taking small practical steps forward.

A step towards NATO-EU cooperation was the decision taken at last April’s NATO Foreign Ministerial in Berlin. There, we agreed to hold an informal NATO-EU meeting on the situation in Libya. This may have been only a small practical step, but it was also a timely and substantive one.

One of the subjects on which the UN, NATO and the EU are joining forces is the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. We should integrate this resolution into the way we develop our strategies, and organise and deploy our forces. At last year’s Lisbon Summit, NATO agreed on an action plan mainstreaming 1325 into its operations and missions. The Netherlands and Spain have recently launched courses for civilian and military professionals from NATO and EU member states and from third countries. The course, which has been certified by the European Security and Defence College, teaches participants how they can in practice enhance women’s role in conflict resolution and ensure women’s protection. I do hope that it will not only be the women, but also men raising their voices to promote the position of women in the international arena.

To conclude, I strongly support the involvement of young and critical people like you, the next generation, in our UN debates. For that reason, my Ministry has invited Dutch students to apply through Facebook for the chance to attend this September’s UN summit. On the basis of a short film posted on our Facebook page, one student will be selected to report on what happens at that annual event. The deadline for applications has already passed, but you can still visit our Facebook page (NederlandendeVN) to ‘like’ your favourite entry.

Back to this week’s TEIMUN. As Albert Einstein once said, ‘the true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination.’ I hope you will use yours to the full.

Thank you.