Blazing the trail…?

For our third workshop in the crash course lobbying against nuclear weapons by IKV Pax Christi, we paid a visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss Dutch policy-making with regard to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. After a very warm welcome we were being told that the Dutch government’s main aim when it comes to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament is to build proverbial bridges the world over.

By Alex ter Horst*

The Dutch government tends to see itself as a trailblazer when it comes to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and does whatever it can as one of our hosts said ‘to prevent a real life implementation of the movie Sum of All Fears’.

Today the civil servants that host us particularly underline the importance of transparency. Especially Iran, along with North-Korea and Syria the biggest concerns of the Dutch government when it comes to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, seems to be lacking transparency about its nuclear program, even though the Iranian government itself claims to have a nuclear program solely for peaceful purposes.

How ironic is it then that exactly the topic of transparency makes the Dutch government a fine example of the “pot calling the kettle black”. Whenever me and fellow crashcourse students question why the Dutch government accuses Iran for lacking transparency, yet the same government keeps its lips tightly sealed when it comes to informing the public about the hosting of U.S. nuclear weapons on Dutch soil (Volkel FYI), we receive no satisfying answers. Instead, the gentlemen point to the strict NATO policy on secrecy. And this is what made the entire conversation a bit uneasy, because how are you able to have an open discussion when half of the information is concealed from you?

A real eye-opener came when we were being told that the Dutch government did not sign the Swiss statement on the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that follow of any use of nuclear weapons simply  “because they were not asked to sign”. I don’t know about you, but that does not sound like a trailblazer at work to me.

* Alex ter Horst is a student Pro-Music Traing in Amsterdam and is one of the Nuclear Diplomacy Crash Course students of this year.