Saturday, July 20, 2024

A smile and a thought….

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DIPLOMAT MAGAZINE “For diplomats, by diplomats” Reaching out the world from the European Union First diplomatic publication based in The Netherlands Founded by members of the diplomatic corps on June 19th, 2013. Diplomat Magazine is inspiring diplomats, civil servants and academics to contribute to a free flow of ideas through an extremely rich diplomatic life, full of exclusive events and cultural exchanges, as well as by exposing profound ideas and political debates in our printed and online editions.

By Eelco H. Dykstra, MD.

Because of his international background and his writing antics Eelco Dykstra has joined the editorial staff of Diplomat Magazine and writes a monthly column called “A smile and a thought…” The columns put a playful spotlight on the interface between the Dutch and the International Community it hosts. Yes, his musings may appear at times to be mildly provocative at first sight but they are first and foremost playful – with a little irony thrown in here and there… You be the judge!

His columns are intended to give you ‘a smile and a thought’. A smile because perhaps you hadn’t quite looked at something that way and a thought because the column may leave you wondering…

The National Security Summit (NSS) 2014 is over.

Time for a playfully-provocative look back at an event in The Hague which brought 58 world leaders together with 3000 journalists, 5000 delegation members and 13,000 (!) policemen.

The organizers of the NSS 2014 mentioned on their website the following reasons why the event would benefit the Dutch public:

“a safer world and therefore a safer Netherlands; confirmation of the role we fulfill internationally; positioning of the Netherlands in general and as a country of peace, justice and security in particular; positioning of The Hague as an international city of peace and justice.”

The venue of the Summit, the World Forum, was completely blocked off, disconnected from everyday life and massive security measures were in place throughout The Hague. The program and protocol left little room for public engagement or participation. This may explain why the NSS 2014 failed to inspire public enthusiasm. Aside from the many motorcades with police escort, downtown The Hague was quieter than even on a Sunday morning.

The Dutch media reported live from the Summit, including covering the visit by the US President to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and an introductory video extravaganza at the Summit itself which positioned the Netherlands and The Hague as… what exactly? Clearly in the video message emphasis was placed on historic events and the greatness of the Dutch (culture).

Reactions were mixed, as always. Some critics thought it was shameless to highlight the achievements of the Dutch Arts & Culture in a time that the government has singled out arts and culture for severe cost-cutting measures. Yes, the video show brought a smile from Obama and an applauding Angela Merkel could be seen, yet what these reactions really meant could still be open for discussion. Was this shameless self-promotion by the Dutch or did the video message create the right amount of the ‘feel-good’ sentiment necessary for a successful Summit?

Fact is that the video extravaganza, complete with choreography, music and singing, looked like a mini-version of the kind of visual spectacle we normally associate with opening ceremonies of events like the Olympic Games.

Olympic Games such as those in London in 2012 did raise the profile of the United Kingdom and that of the City of London. But, aside from the inevitable professional security forces, also around 70,000 (!) volunteers were drafted from the public at large. So, of course there was a lot of public engagement, participation and enthusiasm.

Hmm, let me mull this one over for a minute…

Number of volunteers at the London Olympics: 70,000

Number of volunteers at the NSS 2014:

Back to thinking about the tight security measures that surrounded the NSS 2014 in The Hague. What do you think: perhaps involving large numbers of the public as volunteers enhances the security of large scale events? Could it works as deterrent when the masses send out a strong signal along the lines of: “Don’t mess with this event because it is also our party – and not just a government thing”?

I don’t know; you tell me.

Oh yes, you might have observed that the header of this column reads ‘National’ Security Summit; of course this is an error, it should have read ‘Nuclear’.



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