Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visiting The Netherlands during the Nuclear Security Summit and meeting King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima.
Diplomat Magazine asked me recently to drop a few lines about the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) 2014. I was one of the group of 58 Dutch diplomats and other government officials who were selected by the NSS Secretariat to act as Delegation Liaison Officer (DLO) between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the embassies in the Hague. Two months have passed since the event took place on the 24th and 25th of March in The Hague. For some of us the summit might have been over, but the core group of the Dutch NSS project-team (responsible for the organisation of the summit), has been working since then to round off all the duties and activities which had to be dealt with after the summit.
When it was announced that the Netherlands would be hosting the 2014 Summit, our American friends wished us ‘good luck’…. They knew it entails to organize such a huge event. We did not know, but now we do ….
The Hague, also known as the legal capital of the world, hosted the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907. We have organised many conferences since then. We thought that it would be just like any previous conference we organised. But soon we found out that it was going to be an immense undertaking, it simply was the biggest summit ever organised in the Netherlands and Europe!
The NSS core team from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs started two years ago with the preparations and worked tirelessly and continuously together with other stakeholders at every level. From an organisational point of view, it was quite a challenge to meet our own goals, and at the same time, to try to satisfy all the 58 delegations. The embassies and representatives played a major role in helping their leaders to prepare for the summit. However, in this regard also the DLO’s played a very important rather pivotal role. They were the first point of contact for delegations on all matters. Together with the embassies we joined forces seven months prior to the summit to prepare hand in hand for the visits of their respective delegations. Detailed programmes and scenarios were drafted and rehearsed taking into account minutest details. Each and everyone of us had to go through trainings and repeated rehearsals. On March 21th, our general rehearsal at the World Forum, we even had our former Dutch Ambassadors act as Head of Delegations e.g. for the Family Photo of the NSS2014.
Personally, I had the honour to work as a DLO for Pakistan. I worked closely with Ambassador Khan and his team which was a wonderful experience. I not only enjoyed immensely but also learnt a lot. A little prior and during the NSS the DLOs left their homes and stayed a few days in the same hotel with their delegations in order to be available 24/7. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his spouse arrived on March 23th, the National Day of Pakistan, at Schiphol. I was impressed with the accessibility and relaxed manners of this worldleader and the whole of the Pakistan delegation. This made my work easy and, when I look back now, unforgettable. So much for my personal experience.
The NSS-2014 aimed at being an interactive and paperless Summit. In addition to the official part of the conference there was a leaders-only informal discussion about the future of the NSS-process. A special APP was produced in order to encourage online communication and save tons of paper.
At the end of the Summit, The Hague Nuclear Security Summit Communiqué was adopted and 35 countries pledged to observe the terms of a joint agreement, known as Strengthening Nuclear Security Implementation. In this last document signatories committed themselves to incorporate the Principles and Guidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to periodically evaluate their security procedures.
Apart from these results, and the overriding security reasons as to why it was important for the Netherlands to host this major event, the NSS was most important for us in terms of bilateral relations. More than 100 bilateral meetings were held in the World Forum between all the delegations. As regards the Netherlands, we also had a state visit (China), several official visits (United States, Vietnam, Kazachstan) and several working visits (South-Korea, Indonesia, Canada). His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen received in audience several worldleaders. Our Prime-Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and other Ministers from the Cabinet met with many Head of Delegations. 35 bilateral agreements were signed.
The Dutch public was well informed and largely positive about the goals of the summit.
By hosting the NSS we did our part to make the world and the Netherlands a safer place.