Lecture nr. 6 on ‘Peacebuilding in Progress’ by former Dutch diplomat Mr. Herman Schaper: ‘The Candidature of the Netherlands for Membership of the Security Council 2017-2018’.

‘On a Dutch bike in New York’

On Wednesday February 3, 2016, UPEACE Centre The Hague, in cooperation with the Peace Palace Library, organized a lecture on the Dutch candidature for membership of the United Nations Security Council. This Peace Palace Library report will give an overview of the lecture with the main focus on the keynote speaker: former Dutch diplomat Mr. Herman Schaper. Today, it’s me talking’, announced Mr. Schaper at the start of his Lecture after being introduced to the audience by Library Director, Mr. Jeroen Vervliet. Mr. Schaper’s idea of the lecture was to discuss the Dutch campaign for membership of the UN Security Council based on his own experiences of the campaign in the past years. In addition, he also explained to his audience the work process that has been going on at the United Nations in New York to achieve this goal of the Dutch government.

United Nations Security Council Elections 2016

Schaper first discussed the election procedure and gave us an explanation of the system. The 2016 UN Security Council election will be held in June 2016 during the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, held at the UN Headquarters in New York. Elections are held for five non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council. These five seats rotate among five regional groups. Three of these groups are based on geographical location, two of them on the old East-West division. The Netherlands is currently competing with Sweden and Italy for two seats in the Western European and Others Group. Sweden presented its candidacy in 2004, the Netherlands in 2005, and some years later, Italy put forward its own candidacy. ‘If you look at the history of the candidacies of the countries,’ Schaper illustrated, ‘Italy has been a member of the Security Council 6 times, The Netherlands 5 times and Sweden 3 times.’

The Dutch Campaign: The Kingdom of the Netherlands

The campaign for the candidature of the Netherlands will focus on 5 themes:

I) The Kingdom of the Netherlands. II) Partnership. III) Peace. IV) Justice. V) Development.

Mr. Schaper explained to us that a main theme of the campaign is to show other countries that the Kingdom of the Netherlands consists in fact of four different countries, namely the Netherlands and 3 small island states in the Caribbean. Since 2010, the island states of Sint Maarten, Curacao and Aruba are constituent countries and only depend on the Netherlands for foreign policy and defence matters. They have a special status within the Kingdom, which in effect means that they are autonomous countries with their own governments. According to Mr. Schaper, the Kingdom of the Netherlands means the Netherlands on the mainland of Europe and the Netherlands in the Caribbean. The Kingdom has intensive bilateral relations with other Caribbean states and as a member of the UN Security Council the Netherlands will give special attention to the problems and interests of small island states. Mr. Schaper emphasized that there are nearly 40 small island states in the world, all of them with a vote in the elections in June.

Dutch Campaign: Peace, Justice and Development

Mr. Schaper continued to discuss the peace, justice and development themes. The primary task of the Security Council is maintaining and restoring international peace and security. The Netherlands is providing troops to the UN and assists the UN in fulfilling its peacekeeping role in the world. As a potential member of the Security Council, the Netherlands will advocate for improved planning, training and preparing for peacekeeping actions. The Netherlands will put forward a more serious approach with regard to the use of military force by the UN.

At the same time, we will not only focus on military solutions. We are aware of non-military ways to help maintain international peace and security,’ Mr. Schaper said in his speech. He also spoke about the peaceful settlement of international disputes to maintain international peace and security, pointing out the fact that the Netherlands is host to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the UN. The focus of the Dutch campaign will also lie on these peaceful alternatives to military force, for example, by promoting mediation and arbitration. ‘We hope to strengthen relations between New York and The Hague’.

The United Nations Security Council

From 2009 to 2013, Mr. Schaper was the Permanent Representative (Permrep) of the Netherlands to the UN in New York. It was during this period that Mr. Schaper actively promoted the enlargement of the Security Council. The Netherlands is in favour of opening up the Security Council and wants to be a partner with other UN countries outside the Security Council. At the moment, one of the main criticisms of the Security Council relates to its position as a ‘closed body’ with many private meetings.

Additionally, a debate is taking place in New York on the functioning of the Security Council. This debate focuses on the veto rights of the permanent members. Mr. Schaper explained the Netherlands is in favour of limiting the reach of the veto in special situations, for example in case of mass atrocities. It was suggested by France that in such cases the five permanent members will not use their veto. Unfortunately, limiting the veto rights will not be easy, because it requires the support of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

Campaign Strategy

The Netherlands started its bid for the candidature more than 10 years ago, in 2005 to be precise. To be elected a candidate needs at least 129 votes (two-thirds of the total membership of the UN, which is 193). The campaign of the Netherlands focused on promoting its candidacy trough bilateral and multilateral meetings with officials of individual countries. Often this takes the form of agreements of mutual support: ‘We support another country in their candidacy in a UN-election, and in return they support our candidacy for the Security Council,’ Mr. Schaper explained. ‘We also emphasize our substantial contribution to the UN over many decades in the maintenance of international peace and security, the promotion of human rights and international law, and the support of developing countries.’

Mr. Schaper also explained that it was important for the Netherlands to distinguish itself from the two other candidates of the same regional group, in particular Sweden. An example he gave was the fact that while he worked in New York, he preferred to travel around the city by bike, honouring a well-known Dutch tradition. He truly enjoyed this means of transport, but also considered it part of the national profile. Mr. Schaper even went to meetings and dinners by bike, which was sure to lead to comments from other participants and guests, which he could then use to explain Dutch society and to promote the candidacy for membership of the Security Council. All in all, the outcome of the elections remains unpredictable and a lot can happen until June 2016.

By Sophie Brinkel, Fé de Jonge & Candice Alihusain, Peace Palace Library.

Biography Herman Schaper
Herman Schaper (1949) is currently a professor at the Campus The Hague of Leiden University, as well as a senator for the political party D66 in the Dutch Senate. From 2009 to 2013, Mr. Schaper worked as the Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the UN in New York. From 2005 to 2009, he was the Dutch Permanent Representative of the Netherlands at NATO. After his return to The Hague in the summer of 2013, he was appointed Special Envoy for the Candidacy of the Netherlands for membership of the Security Council 2017-2018, a position he held until his retirement in 2014.