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Endowed Chair of Marga Klompé
International Social Responsibility

Prof. Mirjam van Reisen inaugurated as Marga Klompé Chair

Mirjam 14 oktober 2011Last Friday (14 October) saw the inauguration of EEPA Director Prof. Mirjam van Reisen as the Marga Klompé Endowed Chair at the University of Tilburg in the context of a conference on ‘international social responsibility’. This continues the tradition of Marga Klompé’s crucial work in the construction of social security in the Netherlands.

Former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers elaborated on the personal influence Marga Klompé had had on him when he first took office, praising her unique moral clarity, which stemmed from her religion.

The Zimbabwean Minister for National Healing and Reconciliation, Sekai Holland, expressed the importance of national post-conflict mechanisms for a country to move on and develop peacefully.  The international community had been key, she said, in forcing Robert Mugabe to accept the Global Political Agreement for power-sharing. 

Roberto Bissio, the international coordinator of NGO-network Social Watch expounded on the failure of recent economic ‘development’ and globalisation, to benefit the poorest members of the world’s population.

Social Watch’s ‘Basic Capabilities Index’ reveals that poverty alleviation has stalled, whilst trade has grown exponentially.  At this time of ‘fashionable austerity’ he advocated a more human approach, paying greater attention to people’s well-being than to GDP figures.

Prof. Marianella Feoli, the head of the Secretariat for Partners in South-South Cooperation, introduced the participant countries’ innovative approach to development in the global South, based on equality and reciprocity between developing countries.

Prof. Van Reisen, in her inaugural lecture talked about the relevance of Marga Klompé’s ideas and approach to today’s world: “Klompé was someone guided by a deep sense of faith, yet her religion was an intensely personal affair - she used it to bring people together in her search for universal values.

“Klompé’s basic moral principles are those which still underpin the inclusive welfare state - she rejected the notion of personal culpability for misfortune, and preferred to blame circumstances rather than the underprivileged themselves.

“The economic doctrines of privatisation of social security pursued by the World Bank proved to be incompatible with the provision of a minimal level of social protection.  A reassessment is underway of the appropriate balance between states and markets.”

Prof. Van Reisen concluded by setting out her priorities for the Marga Klompé Endowed Chair.  She will work on what she sees as the three key areas of Klompé’s thought, namely: universal social protection; issues of diversity, identity and social inclusion; and, international justice and peace.

Click here to download the inaugural speech

Europe in search of a social and political model that responds to the international crises, to remain a 'global player'

The President of the Commission, José Manuel Barroso, this morning delivered his keynote State of the Union address to the European Parliament.

He spoke of the severe test that Europe faces in the form of the sovereign debt crisis but reaffirmed that ‘Greece is and will remain a member of the Eurozone’.   Mr Barroso called for a central role for the Commission in European economic governance, stating that the intergovernmental model could not succeed there.

He mentioned the need to bolster both European common foreign policy and defence policy ‘if we want to count in the world’, and he rejected the idea of there being a ‘G2’ composed of the US and China.  However, on the question of Palestinian statehood, he merely repeated the line that Europe wished to see a Palestinian state coexisting with Israel, without reference to the EU position on the UN membership vote.

The speech concluded with a resounding rallying cry to defend the European social and political model in the face of international criticism.

Inauguration of the Marga Klompé Chair and Conference on International Social Responsibility

Photo Exhibition

14 October sees the inauguration of the new Marga Klompé Chair, Prof. Mirjam van Reisen, at Tilburg University, Netherlands. The inauguration will take the form of a conference on International Social Responsibility, with a host of distinguished speakers in attendance.

They will include the former Dutch Prime Minister, the Zimbabwean Minister of National Healing and Reconciliation and the Director General of Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. 

The meeting will enable the exchange of views and perspectives on social responsibility, with a particular focus on the solidarity between people of different cultures and situations.

The meeting will also be followed by the opening of the photo exhibition "Three continents, One vision", featuring photos of Javier del Campo,  who has travelled through Benin, Bhutan and Costa Rica to create this breathtaking collection of photos.

More information:

The EU resolution on Eritrea is welcome but more action is needed, according to Prof. Mirjam van Reisen

mirjamThe European Union adopted last week a position on Eritrea, the country strategically located on the Strait of Hormuz, the waterway from Europe to the East.

In this resolution the European Union deplored the Human Rights situation in the country and the continuous imprisonment of journalist Dawit Isaac, alongside many other political prisoners.

It is significant that MEP Louis Michel voted in favour of the resolution, given that it strongly criticizes the policy that he himself put in place when he was a European Commissioner.

This policy was hoping that aid would convince the Eritrean government to do concessions on human rights and the release of the prisoners. While then Commissioner Louis Michel provided the aid, the Eritrean government released not one political prisoner and nor did it improve its repressive regime. It is an illustration of the reality that manipulating the use of aid for foreign strategic purposes does not work.

The resolution urges the EU to stop providing aid to the Eritrean government but support Eritreans.

These Eritreans are no longer in Eritrea which has become an open air prison.

Where do we find Eritreans?

There are many refugees held under most dire circumstances chained by human traffickers in the Sinai desert. There are refugees today on hungerstrike in Yemen and teargazed by the Yemeni police while UNHCR is not recognising them as refugees. There are Eritreans who have crossed to Ethiopia, despite an Eritrean shoot to kill policy at the border. There are Eritreans stuck in Sudan and Egypt, while the Sudanese and Egyptian governments refuse to give them travel papers and arrange their deportation back to Eritrea - against their will. There are Eritreans hiding in Tripoli, and Eritreans surviving in atrocious conditions in Israel. An Eritrean today has no place to go and nowhere to hide.

While the resolution is welcome, it failed to articulate what Europe’s responsibility is in order to give a home to these refugees.

The European Union must recognise that Eritrean refugees are fleeing a fascist state. The European Union must allow their entry as asylum-seekers and must direct its aid resources to support the refugees in the entire North African region.

Europe finally condemns Eritrea; but does it do anything to support the Eritreans?

Louis Michel asks today that the aid he approved for the Eritrean government is stopped. Will he also argue that the European Union must support the refugees that have fled the country in the mean time and have nowhere to go?

Prof Mirjam van Reisen, Tilburg University, 16 september 2011

Click here to download the Resolution from the European Parliament on the case of Dawit Isaak and the need to sanctioning the Eritrea government further.

Click here to read the full declaration by the High Representative Catherine Ashton on behalf of the European Union on political prisoners in Eritrea on the 10th anniversary of their detention.

War and corruption are responsible for famines, not droughts

I have neveThis Nov. 4, 2008 file photo shows members of Somalia's al-Shabab jihadist movement during exercises at their military training camp outside Mogadishu. - This Nov. 4, 2008 file photo shows members of Somalia's al-Shabab jihadist movement during exercises at their military training camp outside Mogadishu. | Anonymous/APr quite believed that simplistic formula invoked in so many modern famines: “caused by a severe drought,” explaines Thomas Keneally, Australian novelist and writer of the book Three Famines: Starvation and Politics in Saturday's Globe and Mail.

"Not that there isn't a severe drought now in southern Somalia, neighbouring Ethiopia and parts of Kenya. There undeniably is. Last October to December, rains did not appear at all in the area."

"My skepticism arises, though, because I come from perhaps the driest continent on Earth, which has suffered recurrent droughts from earliest settler experience, including the El Nino-influenced drought that seemed to run nearly non-stop from the early 1990s to last year (...) But no one starves."

"How is it the citizens of drought-stricken homelands in Somalia and the “triangle of death” have none of the guarantees my drought-stricken compatriots have? It's because, as the famed aphorism of Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen puts it, “no famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy.”

 Click here to read the full article of Thomas Keneally

Thomas Keneally, an Australian novelist and writer, is the Booker Prize-winning author of Schindler's Ark (which became the film Schindler's List), The Great Shame and, recently, Three Famines: Starvation and Politics.