Saturday, March 29, 2014


By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Tourists eager to pose with the  military despite their frightening equipment

WOAO! Is it by accident that The Hague City is known as the global centre of World Peace?  The answer is capital NO! Even the military personnel in The Hague are tourist attractions. And despite their deadly machine guns in hands, civilians, especially foreign tourists including African students are eager to take photographs with them. It may sound like a miracle in some parts of the world!
  Yesterday, Saturday, 29 March 2014, at the forth court of the ancient monumental  Parliament building in the heart of The Hague city, The Netherlands, military personnel stole  the show. They instantly became angels at first sight! And despite all their frightening military equipment ranging from parachutes, armour-cars, and submarine engines, their smiles alone attracted more  crow like a magnet to their stands. And they readily and freely posed for civilians, children, the youth, adolescents, old ladies and old men who were prepared to queue and take souvenir pictures with the soldiers. It was unbelievable! And they humbly and gleefully posed with anybody who wanted to do so.  It was fantastic!     
Conversely, the military in some countries in Africa and other parts of the world have carved some terrible image for themselves. So much so that all military people are perceived as terrible creatures. In fact, the actions of some terrorists, rebel fighters, militia rapists,  and suicide bombers have  created a wrong psychological  impression in the minds of many ordinary mortals  that all soldiers are brutal, deadly, and fearsome human beings. Is it not unfortunate?
 With ever trigger-happy fingers of some of these soldiers in some  regions of the world, no ordinary civilians will dare approach near the place where their shadows of will pass. But military people in The Hague look  so friendly  and harmless that their auras attracted tourists who were willing to queue and take pictures with them! It is amazing! After all, are military men and women not civilians in uniforms?
This author will like to make some suggestion for the consideration of the Mayor. The Honourable Mayor of The Hague City  Municipality must consider the establishment of a training programme for military-civilian relations for the rest of the world. The training centre could be called “The Hague International Institute of Military – Civilian   Relations.”  And must run only short courses. The three-month short course can be run within or around the Peace Palace where all the library and documentary facilities there could become the teaching and learning materials for participants. Honourable Mayor, please think about this programme in addition to the World Class The Hague progamme! The City can generate some revenue  from this programme and use the proceeds to improve on the history festival. For instance, during the History Festival, there could be a place where children and the  aged could go for refreshment and take some souvenirs gratis!
Honestly speaking, the history festival which is officially known as Constitution Festival in The Hague or ‘Grondwet Festival’ is magnificent to say the least. This year’s event marked the 200-year anniversary of the Dutch Constitution. According to the organizers, the Dutch Constitution is ‘the oldest in the world after the United States Constitution.’

Several historical and monumental edifices were open to the general public. These included but not limited to the King’s Office, Hall of Knights, House of Representatives, Senate, Peace Palace, Council of State, Supreme Court, Chancery of the Netherlands Orders of Knighthood, National Archives, Netherlands Court of Audit, Council for the Judiciary, Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.

The others were  Ministry of Security and Justice; The Hague City Hall, Historical Museum of The Hague; Social and Economic Council, Association of Netherlands Municipalities, Prison Gate Museum, Education Council, Koninklijke Schouwburg, National Ombudsman (in the ‘Ombudsbus’) and ProDemos and many more...

By 10: 00 hrs, most of these places were jammed to the brim. And there were long winding queues here and there. As if the whole universe had descended on The Hague City! One wonders where all these people were trooping in from. The amazing thing was that  the aged people who defied all physical challenges went to queue  to witness the events as they unfolded with nostalgia.!

In terms of  performances, the entire city centre  was converted  into one mega open-theatre. Over 60 organisations were expected to take part in  this mind-boggling Constitution Festival. Some volunteers known as “Ambassadors” were smartly attired and were offering guided tours. With leaflet  city maps  in hands, they interpreted and explained debates, theatrical performances and workshops to curious visitors to the City.

 One of such “Ambassadors” - a lady quickly started conversing with this writer in French when she heard him  say “voila!” She asked, “Do speak French?” When my response was in affirmative, she changed the ‘meter band’ at once. And she was very proud of speaking the French langue. She told me she had studied in France for one year. Then as we were talking in French another colleague of hers came to join us. Then when he realized that her volunteer friend was speaking French with me, he, too, wanted to say something in French to impress me.  Then I asked him a question in French and the lady told me in French: “Don’t mind him, he has never been to France before!” Then when the lady and I were laughing at him, he too started laughing. It was  fun galore!

The Dutch History Festival is an eye opener. My own country has several magnificent heritage  festivals but The Hague event is exclusive. I hope to recommend it to relevant authorities when I go back to my country – Ghana!

The author is an MA Student at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam, here in the Hague

(See photographs of some of the scenes)

The 200-year-old Dutch Constitution
A brave young boy trying parachuting exercise under the eagle eyes of the
'angel soldiers!'  When they started the exercise, it was a young girl who jumped first!
How the military stole the show at the Constitution Festal 2014.

Group photo of some ISS students and their Christian  hosts 
who invited them for guided tour of the event 

The military became tourist   attractions in the true sense of the word!
Children had their fair share of the Constitution Festival

All manner of persons patiently waited in meandering queues to see what
were in those ancient monumental edifices  

One of the magnificent ancient buildings at the seat of the Dutch Government

Friday, March 28, 2014


But Jesus said: "Let the little children come to me"
Matthew 19: 14
The Obama Grant Essay Contest
Topic: The Hague is the international city of Peace and Justice.
What does the word “Peace” or what does the word “Justice” mean to you?
By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Traditional African wisdom is reflected in this Ghanaian proverb which admonishes:
“An elderly person does not sit down in the house and watch children to engage in a fight.”
There are many peaceful means of resolving differences rather than physical exchange of blows. As the adage goes, ‘jaw-jaw’ is better than ‘war-war.’

For this essay, I will place premium on the word PEACE   and try to underscore its significance based on my personal experience, as required by the Obama Club of the Netherlands – the organizers of this contest. They deserve felicitation for their imagination and vision.

The first question that flecked through my mind when I saw the essay contest was why is President Obama coming to The Hague? Through online search I got to know that he was attending the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) 2014 being hosted by The Hague from 24th -25th March.  I knew The Hague is the international city of PEACE and Justice. This year’s NSS which is the third in the series after Washington, DC (2009) and Seoul (2012), the world summit is aimed at PREVENTING (emphasis mine) nuclear terrorism around the globe.

Incidentally, President Obama is the brainchild of NSS in the first place. This is an indication that the man wants PEACE in the world. If The Hague is the global center of PEACE, then there must be some PEACE chemistry between President Obama and the city of The Hague.
So, therefore, one can draw an analogy between President Obama 53, and the city of The Hague 800 years old. But as President of the world’s most powerful nation today, Obama is the wise elderly person in the world who cannot stand and stare while global PEACE is tossed to the dogs of nuclear terrorism.

As a student from Africa, I have witnessed brutal ethnic conflicts including the Rwanda genocide of 1994. I have seen the Liberia and Sierra-Leone civil wars at close range. The atrocities of these wars cannot be described in words. Babies had their ears and noses sliced like onions. Nursing mothers had their breasts cut off to prevent them from breastfeeding their babies.  Young girls and boys were reduced to armless and legless creatures. Others who should have been in schools were drugged and dragged in the army as child soldiers.

In post-election disputes in countries like Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire, citizens were massacred in cold blood with their decomposed bodies scattered in lagoons and streets.
As an eyewitness to these traumatic political intolerance and immaturity, the word PEACE was rendered meaningless. But PEACE is priceless, really.  No amount of money can buy PEACE. Even the World Bank cannot purchase PEACE with all the money it has accumulated for the past 70 years (1944-2014).

So, to me, the word PEACE means something more than the air we breathe!


 The Hague website <> accessed 28 February, 2014
 The White House website < accessed 6 March, 2014
 The Nuclear Security Summit website <> accessed 28 February, 2014
 The Word Bank <> accessed 7 March, 2014

PS: This was the script this author submitted for the essay contest organised  for international students for  "World Class The Hague 2014" by the Obama Club  Netherlands. It was  in connection with President Obama's visit to The Hague for the just-ended  Nuclear Security Summit 2014. 

Even though  it  was not selected for nomination, I was not discouraged at at all. It is because  experience has taught me that if you participate in a contest  and did not win, it does not mean that you are not good. What it means is that someone is  better than you! So you must back up and do better next  time!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Philippines Vice-President at ISS
An American Philosopher and mystic Ralph M. Lewis once wrote: “A great man is not necessarily of a huge stature. He is great because he has the ability to command his environment to serve his purpose.”
On Tuesday, 25 March, 2014 around 9:00 am, I saw a high profile letter on our ubiquitous Moodle system. Because such letters do not appear every day like other communications, it caught my attention instantly.
And it reads:
“Dear colleagues and students,
“I am honourned to invite you to a Special lecture in a big aula by the Vice-President of the Philippines, Mr. Jojomar Binay, and this Wednesday, 26 March at 16:00. Mr. Binay is a Harvard University educated Human Right lawyer and will be giving a lecture on migration and development on perspectives of Philippines. The lecture will be followed by questions and answers.
“I hope many of you as possible will join us for the lecture and afterwards a reception at the atrium.
“Leo de Haan.”
Dear reader, I reproduced this letter of invitation for two simple reasons:
First, for the benefit of those who might not know the actual designation of Leo de Haan. He is Professor Dr Leo de Haan and Rector of the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam.
Second, to signal how polite and humble the tone of his invitation sounds like. And he did not even quote his title to show off  that he is  the Rector of this globally acclaimed school or as if he was commanding everybody to be there whether they like it or not. And that is the sign of greatness. We students  must endeavor to learn something like this from the authorities and  lecturers of this Institute. After all, does it not pay to be humble?
On Wednesday, 26 March, 2014 three wonderful things happened at ISS:  In the first place some six giant motorcade riders including a lady escorted  the person who came to give the lecture at our institute. He was the Vice-President of Philippines, Mr. Jojomar C. Binay.
H.E. Mr. Binay came to the Global City of Peace – The Hague to participate in the Nuclear Security Summit 2014. This was an extraordinary event attended by over 50 world leaders addressed by the only super power President of the world today. He is in the person of President Barako Obama of America. So, Vice-President Jojomar Binay has killed two birds with one stone.
The second wonderful thing that happened was that, most people including this writer gathered in the big aula were expecting Prof. Leo de Haan, the Rector to accompany the Vice-President of Philippines into to the lecture hall. But he could not come himself due to some ‘circumstances beyond his control’ as we say in Ghana. So, when the Deputy Rector in charge of Research  Affairs, Prof  Mohamed Salih with a large entourage, entered the auditorium, many people who did not know the Vice-President including this author, were still expecting the Rector to come in with the distinguished Speaker for the day.
It was only when Prof. Salih mounted the platform and started to introduce the Speaker that it dawned on many that H.E. the Vice-President was already in our midst. After the introduction a very, very, simple man with cute diminutive stature like a Ghanaian, stood up and went to the lectern. And he is not only a great man by intellect but he also possesses a huge sense of humour!  
When he mounted the platform placed there purposely for him, he looked at it curiously and thanked Prof. Salih for creating the special platform for him. As he put it, something to the effect that but for that platform, nobody would be able to see his face when speaking. And the entire auditorium burst into hearty laughter. That was the mark of a great man! It is not his stature that matters so much but his brain; his mind; his ideas, his knowledge and his service to his nation and his contribution to the advancement of mankind. That is what we are talking about here.
And when the Vice-President started delivering his lecture, one could feel the wisdom and sense that were streaming from his dreams through the train of his brain. It was beyond compare. H.E. Jojomar Binay did more than justice to the topic under discussion; “Migration and development perspectives of the Philippines.”  He spoke not only  as a politician but as an academician as well. He gave facts and figures and quoted sources of his information.
For example, he related that there were over 400 000 Filipinos scatted all over the face of the earth at the moment. He recalled the very first Philippines nurse who came to The Netherlands or Europe as far back as 1947. In fact, he gave the positive and negative aspects of migration as experienced by his country men and women over the years. But he underlined a point that it is not only Philippines citizens who  travel to other parts of the world.  Others too, migrate into Philippines as well. He mentioned how Philippines was the first country to play host to hundreds of refugees trooped to his country during Vietnam wars and other conflicts in the Far East.
Still, it was during the questions and answers time that the intelligent politician in H.E.Jojomar Binay emerged. He has a unique way of answering questions. Having served as a Mayor in his country for over 20 years before becoming a Vice-President made him a man in his own class. He carries a bag-load of professional and academic experiences. He is an astute politician to say the least. It is not a fluke that he is a Harvard University educated Human Right lawyer.  He knows his left from his right. He goes straight to the point when answering questions and would end up throwing a question back to the questioner rhetorically. It was fantastic to listen to him.
Strategically, he did not fixed himself like a statue on the platform at one place when answering questions. He pans left, right, center and closes in on a questioner as if to interact with any person posing a question to him.  Even after the session he started interacting freely with the audience as an ordinary member of the public. His human relationship was wonderfully depicted at once. It was a magnificent style that I have yet to witness anybody public speaker employ to maximal effect.  One thing that he said that sent my own brain orbiting in my skull was that: “Modern man prefers to move instead of remaining static in one palace.” So, to him, nobody can or should stop people who want to migrate to any part of the world from doing so.  People must be free to move around as they please, he concluded!
The author is MA Student at the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Hague.

(See more pictures)
Prof. Mohamed Salih, Deputy Rector Reseach introducing the Veep
A questioner posing his question to the Veep

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Ambassador Ivo Daalder
Nuclear Security Summit 2014 ready
An African proverb of Ghanaian origin warns: “Never dare insert your finger in the mouth of a snake that does not bite.”
Have you ever heard of this philosophical axiom which says that, “There is no accident in God’s plan?” In His supreme wisdom, the Creator God or Allah or MAWU – call Him/Her whatever you please, at every point in human history, sends someone who is destined to redeem mankind is one way or another. Buddha was one; Mohammed and many others followed.  But arguably, the greatest of them all was the Master Jesus the Christ.
In our time, this author is tempted to cite President Barako Obama as the latest of those enlightened souls sent to make a difference in human history. Ironically, though, history has proved   that most of  such illustrious individuals  came to  live among  ordinary people and were  hardly regarded  by their  contemporaries  let alone  accept them  as 'angels in action.'
On Tuesday, 18 March 2014, at exactly 16:00hrs GMT, in the City of The Hague, a young looking middle-aged man came from America to deliver a very brief but profound lecture. This brilliant chap was a Dutch-American citizen of the world. His name is Ambassador Ivo Daalder. He is a veteran politician and an international diplomat of repute. He is President, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and former US Representative to NATO.
Ambassador Ivo Daalder who was born in 1960, looks so simple and an unassuming in deed. It was only when  he was introduced to the audience by Mr. Willem Post, the International Adviser of the Mayor and Vice-Mayors of The Hague, that  some of us got to know he was not a ‘small man’ at all as we say in Ghana. And Ambassador Daalder’s biological father was among the audience, too. Incidentally, this writer was in the conference hall at the Cronwne Plaza Hotel before Mr. Daalder Snr. was ushered in. When he was accompanied to the hall, he was shown a reserved sit in the front row and had himself-seated.
Then no  sooner  did the lady usher   who brought him leave than  Mr. Daalder Snr. started  looking  left,  right, and left  again as if he was about to cross a road. Then quietly, he stood up and came back to the second row and planted him between me and another friend on my right. Both of us were African students from the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam among other Universities in The Hague invited to attend that lecture.
 Then I watched Mr. Daalder Snr. engaged my friend in a conversation. He was so simple and down to earth.  It was only when the function was about to start and the Speaker for the event Ambassador Ivo Daalder was introduced that it was mentioned in passing that his father was in the audience. And a finger was pointed towards his direction. And he nodded his head. So, the ‘young’ man who came to sit between two African students was the father of the keynote Speaker who was flown all the way from the United States of America to give that lecture? I asked myself.
I relate this seemingly irrelevant incident to prove a vital point. That those who are great are always very humble. So one can see that the simplicity of Ambassador Daalder Jnr. and the humility of Mr. Daalder Snr. shows that this is a great family with 'humility blood' flowing through their veins. The little information I gathered  online about Daalder Snr. (his first name is Hans) indicates that he was not only a political scientist but the biographer of ‘Prime Minister Drees of the Netherlands. Apparently, the said Prime Mister died in 1969 and “a moon rock" presented  to him by astronauts while he was alive  was displayed for public admiration   and  later  sent to a  museum in The Hague.
The Logic of Zero
The lecture for the day itself was part of pre-events in preparation towards  the third Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) being hosted in The Hague from March 24-25, this year. It was under the theme : “THE LOGIC OF ZERO – Why We should Eliminate Nuclear Weapons and How Nuclear Security Summit Can Help.” The NSS 2014 is world summit aimes at preventing nuclear terrorism around the globe.
 Thus, three previous informative meetings organised by  the Hague Bridge, World Class The Hague and ‘The Hague Programme on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Efforts’ had already been held.  These were addressed by Dr. Dan Plesch (10 December, 2013); Willem Post (30 January, 2014); and Dr. Henk Geveke (20 February, 2014) respectively. So, the fourth and the last of the series is what Ambassador Daalder came down to deliver before the main event itself  scheduled to open 24 March . It would be attended by over 50 world leaders and would be  officially declared open by President Barako Obama.  In fact, President Obama is the brain child of the NSS. Thus, the very first summit was held in Washington DC in 2010; the second version in Seoul 2012 and The Hague edition is the third one  running. 
The conceptualization or the philosophy of “The Logic of  Zero’ as explained by Ambassador Daalder sounded so simple. But it seems to me to be  more complex than one can imagine.  And as a lay man hearing the term for the first time  I will not dare go into any technicalities at all. For the purpose of this article I just want to report it the way I understood it personally. Period!
At least everybody knows what the word  ‘ZERO’means. Yes, it means nothing. So, if you add 100 zeros  and multiply them by 1000 it will come to ‘ZERO’. In effect, Ambassador Daalder is saying  that in the opinion of President Obama, there should be  no NUCLEAR WEAPONS at tall on the face of the earth. The logic comes in when  until 2007 or 2008 when then candidate  Obama was campaigning to be elected  President of America, he reasoned that nuclear weapons are so deadly and dangerous to humanity that even  the basic material used in making  them –‘uranium’ should  NOT be possessed by anybody at all let alone allowing them to manufacture weapons out of it. His fear was that should  uranium and others  fall in the hands of any ‘terroristic'- minded person the entire world could be finished one day. Just recall what happened to Hiroshima in 1945 with atomic bomb which eventually brought the World War II to an end in August that year?
Since then the world has decided to sign some Nuclear  Proliferation or Reduction Treaties. But President Obama’s philosophy or vision  is that  nobody should even possess the ingredients of nuclear weapons let alone make it or reduce its  use  in the first place. And I totally agree with him.  What sense does it make to possess a weapon but not make use of it when the need arises? So, the conception is that no country should be allowed to have access to uranium at all let alone manufacture nuclear weapons. Is that  clear?
According to Ambassdor Daalder, right now, America’s policy is NOT to use nuclear weapons again any country even if any country uses nuclear weapons against America. That policy is what is known in America as “THE LOGIC OF ZERO.” Basically, this is  my layman’s comprehension of the term ‘the logic of zero.’   There were so many US journalists in attendance at the lecture. And mind you, the American journalists who are in The Hague to cover the Nuclear Security Summit to be addressed by President Obama come Monday March 24 are not teenagers or cop journalists. 
They are veterans, mature and experienced journalists in their 60s and above. So, when they talk or pose a question they know exactly what  they are about. One question that was fired at Amabassdor Daalder was something to this effect; if you say America would not use nuclear weapons at all even if some countries use it against America, are you not saying that America is weak or exposing the US citizens to danger?
Do you know how Ambassador Daalder answered that question? He looked at the veteran journalist who posed the question straight in the face and said: “Let anybody dare and see.” Then he cited the case of Saddam Hussane of Iraq when he invaded Kuwait in the early 1990s. He recalled that when some countries threatened to use nuclear weapons in their warfare and the US dared them that if they did, the consequences would be too deadly, 'did any one  dare?'  he pointed out with confidence. 
As he put it, America is the most powerful country on ‘the face of the earth’ and will continue to be so. So, the fact  that  the US has adopted ‘The Logic of Zero’ policy does not mean America hasn't got the capacity. This is why I quoted the African proverb in my opening sentence that “Never dare put your finger in the mouth of a snake that does not bite.” If you dare, you will live to regret it.
Without exaggerating, it is the opinion of this writer that Ambassador Daalder is a wise man. Little wonder he worked  in the former US President Clinton’s administration and now one of advisers in President Oboma’s government. Before he started his lecture, Mr Willem Post who moderated the entire proceeding requested that he should briefly update the audience about the situation in Ukraine. And reader, you need to be there to ear the man! He spoke as if he  just arrived  from Ukraine. He graphically described what  was going on and informed the audience that just about 12 hours ago, Russian President Putin signed a decree declaring Crimea as  part of the Russian Federation or so, something to that effect. Ambassador Daalder went ahead to give details and analyzing the scenarios in Russia . He noted what happened when the former Soviet Union collapsed about 20 years ago and what is likely to follow Putin’s action in the ‘21st century’ and not in primitive centuries in authoritarian history, none knows yet. His brief statement about the situation in Ukraine was even more comprehensive that the lecture itself. He is a man of knowledge to say the least.
To conclude this article I will like to  politely  recommend the entire world to  read Luke 23:34 of the  Christian Bible.  Just meditate on  the short prayer Jesus was reported to have  uttered when his detractors were brutally and savagely assaulting him   and  spitting into his face?
This author will like to respectfully and humbly  encourage President Obama, even though he is not Jesus, but to imitate the Christ! . He must  remain calm and maintain ‘The Logic of Zero’ Nuclear Weapons policy for the sake of children of the world. He must do this  even in the face of extreme provocation from global terrorism mongers. For THE LOGIC OF ZERO is just right and good  for humanity and posterity will be his judge!
The author is MA Student at the  International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Hague, The Netherlands.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Dr Abiodun Williams
Ambassador H. Schaper
It was fantastic! The very first program of World Class The Hague 2014. The day was a Thursday, 13 March 2014. A rather relatively warm evening for a month of March by European standard?

  The event was held in the bosom of the magnificent The Hague Institute for Global Justice.  Located at Sophialaan 10, it is just a stone’s throw from our famous International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Of course, ISS is the acclaimed best European Development Studies School in the whole universe. If you make a statement like that in Ghana, then you will rhetorically pose the question, “Any challenger?” And the logical answer will be “No challenger!” But we are not in Ghana so, I hesitate to do that.

By 19.00 hours, the program was set into motion with registration. With interactions, fraternization and networking over hot tea, coffee and other cookies (in Ghana we call the cookies ‘small chops’) among participants – mostly students from leading universities in the city of The Hague. The ambiance was generally friendly and harmonious. This took about 30 minutes and it was time for serious business.

At exactly 19.35 hours, Mr. Willem Post assumed his post by mounting the podium. Mr. Post is the International Advisor of the Mayor and Vice-Mayors of The Hague. He welcomed everybody and expressed delight to have seen the auditorium packed to capacity. He told the audience that as young men and women, ‘this is your world.’ He said something to the effect that the future of the United Nations belongs to the youth, so he was happy they were present in their numbers.

Then, Mr. Post said a few words about the Hague Institute for Global Justice. It was established only 2011 by the Municipality of The Hague and the Hague-based academic institutions. But what this writer finds heart-warming about this organization is the fact that it is an independent and nonpartisan institution. And among other things, it aims at ‘fostering innovative interdisciplinary policy research and development.’ Yet, despite its independence, it receives support from the Dutch Government.

However, the kind of ‘support’ was not specified in their brochure.  So, I don’t know how truly independent it is. What I know is that, if it were in Africa, once Government has a hand in one way or another in support of an institution,   especially in funding, the temptation for manipulation cannot be ruled out. In other words, such a so-called independent institution may dance to certain tunes of government’s music. After all, is it not said that ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune?’  But, because this is Europe, some benefit of the doubt must  be granted.

 As protocol demands, Mr. Post beautifully and dutifully introduced  Dr. Abiodun Williams & Ambassador Herman Schaper who were the Lecturers for the first World Class The Hague 2014. Both Lecturers were amazing and did justice to their respective topics within the constraints of time allotted to them. No one was supposed to speak more than 15 minutes or so. How can one talk about the United Nations, a world body of a membership of about 194 sovereign states in 10 to 15 minutes? This is where Dr. Abiodun Williams proved beyond reasonable doubt what made him what he is. It is not by accident that he was appointed the first President of The Hague Institute for Global Justice in January 2013.

When he mounted the podium, he looked a bit nervous at first. The natural stage fright disease which is no respecter of any person regardless of their socio-political or academic status. Then he quickly regained his composure and started by quoting a certain character from one of William Shakespeare’s plays. Something to the effect that it was a herculean task to address the functions and duties of the UN and its various agencies in ten minutes. It was like touring the entire world in ten minutes, he joked and the audience giggled spontaneously.

 As he progressed in his speech his self-confidence glowed like a rainbow. He sounded more British than American. His spoken English was not only fluent but soothing as well. It was musical to listen to his voice.  He barely looked at his written speech on the lectern in front of him. And he strategically narrowed down his focus on the security and peace keeping aspect of the UN.

By the way, did you know that From 2001-2007, Dr. Williams served as Director of Strategic Planning in the Executive Office of the United Nations Secretary-General, where he was a principal adviser to Secretaries-General Ban Ki-moon and Kofi Annan? In fact, he once served in three peacekeeping operations in Macedonia, Haiti, and Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1994 to 2000 as Special Assistant to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and Political and Humanitarian Affairs Officer.

Dr Williams is a man who knows his ‘left from his right’ - so to speak.  He disclosed that the charter which established the UN never mentioned ‘Peace keeping’ in that document. It appears the Founding fathers did not anticipate ‘Peace keeping’ the form it has assumed today.  He explained that the UN itself has no standing army of its own. So, the UN does not arbitrarily take decisions to send soldiers to various war or conflict zones for peace keeping duties as it pleases.  “It is only when the Security Council adopts a resolution to send troops to a particular troubled spot before the UN can take action.”  Even then the world body has to rely on the benevolence of member states to contribute troops for peace keeping operations he told students. But people who do not understand the UN systems sometimes criticize the world body unduly, Dr Williams noted sympathetically.

So, some of the brutal wars the world has witnessed since the Second World War, in some major conflict zones like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Rwanda for instance, the UN had to go pleading or sometimes  begging member states to supply soldiers for peace keeping operations  in those deadly war zones. ‘The UN Secretary-General is ‘an elevated beggar of the world,’ Dr Williams asserted. He pointed out that when there is war, ‘there must be peace to keep’ even before the UN can make a move. He noted that most of the troops that are sent on peace keeping duties are mainly supplied by Africa and Asia.

 According to him, although the advanced nations do contribute funds and logistics for peace-keeping duties, they hardly send their soldiers on peace keeping missions.  “So, it is Africans and others who have been shedding or sacrificing their ‘blood’ in peace keeping for the world, he noted. Dr Williams expressed profound appreciation to the Dutch Government for willing to assist in finding solution to the emerging boiling situation in Ukraine. Observing and analyzing the depth of his knowledge, I can ‘brand’ Dr Williams as UN living and moving encyclopedia. Africans in particular and all citizens of the world in general must be proud of such an enlightened soul working for peace and security for the benefit of mankind and to the glory of the Divine Intelligence.

On his part, Ambassador Herman Schaper, a veteran international diplomat and Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the United Nations in New York gave an helicopter  view of what goes on  behind the sciences at  the UN. He narrated very interesting personal experience when he first assumed duty in 2005. He was surprised to realize that everybody working there was more or less reserved to himself or herself  with a diplomatic attitude of 'mind your own business'.

The Ambassador dished out more than enough food for thought for enthusiastic fairly young undergraduate students who took part in the first episode of the World Class The Hague 2014. He however, took the opportunity to enlighten participants about the situation in Ukraine. The experienced international diplomat expressed concern  about what Russia is doing and regretted that any resolution adopted by the UN Security Council might be ‘vetoed’ by Russia.

When the floor was open for questions and answers, the excited and eager students raised their hands in drove to query the speakers.  They fired all kinds of questions from archeology to zoology. They wanted to know whether the UN is a 'toothless bull' when it comes to veto-power? Some radical students  seem to be of the view that the UN  was still  living in the ‘19th century while we are in the 21st century in terms of reforms’ with regard to the few Permanent members of the world body. 

Others expressed concern about the ‘non-gender balance and the question of equality. In fact, Dr Abiodun Williams  himself admitted that since  the UN was formed  about 70 years (1945) all the regions of the world or the various  continents have had UN Secretary-Generals. But no single ‘woman’ has yet occupied the hot-seat. Is it fair to our mothers? But it has been observed that some students need to be coached how to ask questions at forums of that nature. They must be advised that question time must not be used for mini-lectures by the questioner. Every question must be straightforward, simple and short. Since we are all learning, this is just an observation for the consideration of future World Classes The Hague.

Having said that, it is my considered opinion that it time a woman must be elected for the post of UN Secretary-General. If there are women presidents and prime ministers in the world, there should be  no reason why a woman cannot be the Chief Executive of the UN. And  I will go further to hazard a guess that the very first woman be elected UN Secretary-General will be a product of the International Institute of Social Studies of the Erasmus University Rotterdam. We have very powerful women there who are effectively managing the affairs of   ISS  in collaboration with their male counter parts.

The beauty nature of the first program is indication that  the World Class The Hague 2014  promises to be a tourist attraction for the world to behold!

The author is MA Student in Development Studies at ISS of Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Hague, The Netherlands

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Creative Logo of the City of The Hague
Oh, World Class The Hague!
Who are students on your league?
What constitutes your class
If your standard is of world class?

If your class is made of
Classes of International students,
What class of Professors
 Deliver lectures in your class?
Only Lecturers of certain class
In their own class of world class!

Oh, World Class The Hague!
You assemble first class players
On the table of your league;
May you forever be a class
Of world class souls!

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Dedicated to
  World Class The Hague

The author is MA Student
at ISS/Erasmus University Rotterdam