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UN Security Council listens to text by Leiden student

Leiden bachelor's student of International Studies Thomas wrote a text that was read out this year in the UN Security Council by the Netherlands representative. How did he manage that?

Thomas studies International Studies in The Hague

How come your text was heard in the Security Council?

‘This year the Netherlands is temporarily a member of the Security Council. Last semester I did an internship at Karama Europe in The Hague, a network of NGOs that promotes women's rights in the Middle East. I tried to get Dutch politicians and government officials interested in the issue through lobbying. We want to draw attention to the murder of Libyan activist Salwa Bugaighis. She was killed in 2014 because of her struggle for disarmament, and the perpetrators have never been punished. I wrote a legal text about the case that took into account the powers of the Security Council. I wrote the text in close discussion with the director of Karama Europe and Niels van Willigen, a researcher in international relations at Leiden University.’

UN representative Lise Gregoire-van Haaren during her speech on Libya.

How did it actually happen?

‘The text was put to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Lise Gregoire-van Haaren, deputy representative for the Netherlands in the UN. Earlier this year she used part of the text for her speech in the Security Council on the worrying situation in Libya.' 

What did you think about that?

‘I was really surprised that a student like me could become involved so easily. I also realised that Dutch MPs are interested in the work of an NGO like Karama. I'm originally from South Africa and Germany and there it's not so easy to come into contact with politicians.  This internship has made me realise that it's possible to achieve a lot more if you are a member of the right network. Karama may be a small organisation but that gives interns the opportunity to do and learn a lot more.' 

How did the case go? Are the perpetrators being pursued?

‘The immediate answer has to be"no", but it is being worked on. It's difficult to measure the effect and to find out whether the perpetrators know that their crimes have reached the UN Security Council. Together with the director of Karama, I will be having a discussion shortly with the International Criminal Court to discuss the issue. If these prominent institutions pay attention to such issues, it can make Libya safer for activists. Media attention is also important. A number of newspapers, such as the Telegraaf and several Libyan newspapers, reported on the speech in the Security Council.'  

Thomas with Karama colleagues in the Dutch House of Commons.

What are your plans for the future?

‘I'm going to finish my bachelor's and then do a master's. I'm already working as a volunteer for Karama and I'm researching activism and Facebook. Activists often use Facebook as a medium for spreading their message because there often are no other more suitable platforms. But if they use Facebook, they get a lot of hassle from people who think differently. In the coming years I want to travel to the Middle East and visit countries like Iran. That's why I don't want my surname in this article. In those countries they're highly likely to check up on youir background, which could make it difficult for me to get into the country.' 

Text: Linda van Putten
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