He wanted to build a wall between the US and Mexico, he used protectionism to defend US-industries from foreign competition and he withdrew from climate and trade agreements: Donald Trump is probably one of the most controversial political figures at the moment. Last February marked the first half of his Administration. That was opportunity enough for the Committee of Intellectual Activities to organize a lecture on this topic. Two of the most central questions that were discussed: Has Trump really made America great? And what’s going to happen at the next presidential election?
The two speakers were Frans and Paul Verhagen. Frans Verhagen is a journalist that focuses for more than 35 years now on US politics. He has also written two books on the history of the United States. Paul Verhagen is the son of Frans Verhagen and works as a data analyst at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. Obviously, the two speakers were a well-experienced team and complimented each other in their explanations: While Frans Verhagen focussed on the domestic politics in the US, Paul Verhagen analyzed the foreign policy of Donald Trump.
Both of them were not soft at judging the past two years of the Trump administration. Frans Verhagen started with analyzing the economic impact his presidency had: Government deficit in the US has increased despite Donald Trump had promised to reduce it, the income inequality has widened due to new tax cuts for the rich, and the purchasing power of US-citizens has not increased in the last years. In addition, many urgent problems remain unresolved or even neglected: There have not been new investments in urgently needed infrastructure, the health insurance Obamacare is slowly deteriorating and student debt is continuing to grow since the financial crisis of 2007.
Paul Verhagen’s analysis of Trump’s foreign policy was not optimistic either but carried with it many ironies and hidden jokes to brighten the mood in the audience. He started by describing the main ingredients for US foreign policy: American interests, values, and enemies. Its interests are America First, which means protecting Americans, Businesses, and Consumers. The values are democracy, freedom and – yes – apple pie. The enemies are those who threaten Americans (Iran, North Korea), challenge America (China) and “the Communists” (Venezuela, Cuba). Needless to say, in between all this, geopolitics matter as well: It is, therefore, no coincidence, that the ports of the powerful US-navy fleet are located right at the chokepoints of major oil routes.
Finally, Frans and Paul Verhagen discussed the question of who might follow after Trump. Names like the democratic politicians Joe Biden, the representative of Texas Beto O’Rourke or even the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, were mentioned. Great attention will be given once again to the Electoral College system, where each state gets a certain number of electors based on its total number of representatives in Congress. Which states will be decisive? “Ohio, Ohio, Ohio”, says Frans Verhagen. One question that probably many in the audience had on their minds finally concludes the evening: What if Trump makes it again? Frans Verhagen is sure: “It’s not gonna happen.”
-Jakob Pallinger, member of the Committee of Intellectual Activities
On January 15th SIB-Amsterdam went to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague. The OPCW is the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC or Convention), which entered into force on 29 April 1997. Currently the OPCW has a total of 193 member states and one member state (the United States of America) that is currently in the process of destroying their owned amount of chemical weapons. Under the nation states that did not sign the convention are North-Korea, Israel, Egypt and South-Sudan.
SIB-Amsterdam’s excursion to the OPCW started around 9.00 for most participants, who took a shared train from Amsterdam to The Hague, while others traveled separately and joined the group later. The visit started off at 11.00 with a quick tour through some of the halls and rooms of the building, during which the Nobel Peace Price (2013) was admired. Many participants took the opportunity to take a picture. After the tour the group was brought to a separate room and after a short informative video, a representative for the Political Affairs of the OPCW gave us some insight into the structure and way of operating of the organisation. After this introduction there was an opportunity to ask questions. The topics of the questions varied from topics as excluded nation states and the likelihood of them signing the CWC, to the judicial capabilities and the possibility for repercussions in the case of chemical weapons being used in any of the member states. Among the topics discussed were also different attacks in which chemical weapons have been used, such as in the Syrian Arab Republic and The United Kingdom. During this, the element of fear and the difference between chemical weapons and military weapons was also pointed out. The group gained some understanding about the difficulties of having a comprehensive insight into and control over the amount of chemical weapons that are stored, as nation states themselves are responsible for reporting the amount of chemical weapons owned and due to the fact that member states do not necessarily have insight into the amount of chemical weapons that non-state actors (such as terrorist groups) hold. Interesting to hear was also that the OPCW does not have the competence to do an independent investigation about the amount of chemical weapons being stored in a specific nation state until chemical weapons have in fact been used, after which a ‘’fact checking mission’’ will be initiated. The conversation was an interesting opportunity to learn more about the actual way of operating of an international institution as the OPCW and it’s admirable effect on the minimal use of chemical weapons worldwide.
After the visit the group enjoined some drinks in a café downtown, during which the consequences of the learned information was discussed. SIB-Amsterdam is grateful to the OPCW for its time and hospitality in receiving us and the organisation’s contribution in minimizing the use of chemical weapons worldwide.
Last weekend Mundunsa went to Hamburg Model United Nations where they spent four days representing a country in a mock session of the United Nations. This is their experience!
In the early morning at the Flixbus Station at a rainy and dreary Station Sloterdijk the delegation of Mundunsa was gathered for the bus to Hamburg. After a long bus ride to Hamburg – an opportunity for several delegates to sharpen their knowledge of the topic they would be discussing and the country they would be representing – they arrived for the opening conference, which hosted a speaker from NATO that was flown in by the organization. After the obligatory speeches and pounding of the hammer, the Mundunsa delegates were off to their different committees.
Kevin represented Botswana in the Economic and Social Committee. The main topic of the conference would be trade for which Kevin came prepared. Referring to Smith and Ricardo he addressed the committee often. Botswana might be a small country but within a MUN each vote counts for the same and Kevin made his vote count! Denis was representing Ethiopia in the United Nation Office on Drugs and Criminality (UNODC). His perspective was unique bringing the experience of his country with Khat-abuse to the table and he was instrumental at drafting the resolutions.
Hannah was in the United Nations Environmental Program. For most of the conference they discussed water scarcity, a very relevant topic for the country she was representing: Australia. While the committee might have agreed that it’s a problem, she often found herself disagreeing about the possible solutions. Konstantin and Liora were both in the European Council representing Lithuania and the Czech Republic respectively the main topic being migration. Both weren’t happy about the idea of reforming the Dublin Regulations and having to host more migrants. For a short period, Konstantin changed countries when Greece didn’t show up. When Greece (a day and a half too late) did eventually show up he graciously changed back. Both did extremely well in maintaining the Dublin Regulations as much as possible.
Two of our delegates were in a bit of a different committee: a crisis committee. This is a committee with less rules, focused on responding to a (historical) crisis with more personal freedom. Delegates represent a person and not a country. The goal is not to draft a resolution that reflects your views the most but to advance your personal goals the most, if necessary by bold-faced backstabbing. Bas was in the Austrian Cabinet during the Second Schleswig War playing a Hungarian noble. Thanks to his efforts Hungary erupted in revolution against Habsburg rule which led to him being expelled to Prussia. Jared was the main general of the Roman Empire: Aetius, defending against Barbarian invasions and the impending fall of Rome.
In between committee sessions there was plenty of room for social activities. On 3 out of 4 nights Bas managed to eat hamburgers in Hamburg. Every evening there were social activities ranging from a pub crawl through the historical city center of Hamburg, to a silent disco in a nightclub on the Reeperbahn [If you feel the Amsterdam Red Light District is dirty and shady, try visiting the Reeperbahn – Patrick], to a very fancy black-tie ball, ironically held in the left-wing anarchist squat neighborhood of St. Pauli. The social elements of the trip contributed to several delegates having to do dances or read out verses from Fifty Shades of Grey as punishment for coming in late.
Liora – one of our more experienced delegates, having earned her stripes at MUNs organized by Oxford and Harvard students – won a best delegate award in the European Council, leading the block of Eastern European countries into negotiations with the rest of Europe and managing to get a favorable resolution passed. No small feat in a committee where all decisions can only be passed unanimously. Denis got an honorable mention for his performance as Ethiopia in UNODC, being instrumental in drafting the resolution. In a committee with over 40 delegates and having never done a MUN before this is incredibly good.
Jared in his crisis committee also got a best delegate award using his language and problem-solving skills to help protect the Roman Empire from a barbarian invasion – at least temporarily. At one point he even had a rap battle with a Barbarian King. With two best delegate awards and an honorable mention our delegation has performed well in the awards, but it must be emphasized that all our delegates did extremely well, Bas and Jared doing crisis for the first time, and with the exception of Liora and Konstantin (who did it at high school before) all other delegates doing MUN for the first time. We are looking forward to our next MUN in Madrid. After this registration opens again and many in the current delegation are looking to Tel Aviv as a possible MUN destination this summer.
We couldn’t be prouder of our delegates and their hard work. On the bus ride back to Amsterdam few delegates were be able to keep their eyes open.
On the 19th of November, SIB Amsterdam visited the International Court of Justice in The Hague. We received a warm welcome by the First Secretary of the Court and Head of the Information Department Mr Andrey Poskakukhinin in the ICJ building, the magnificent Peace Palace. He guided us into the ICJ court room which is also known as the Great Hall of Justice. It was a privilege to seat in the courtroom where entry is restricted to the parties of the case and the others have to seat in the balcony. Mr Poskakukhinin then gave us information of the court, its proceedings and selection of the judges. He also pointed out some important cases handled by ICJ. We discussed about how the United Nation’s Security Council has influence in selection process of judges to ICJ. It is important to note here that the ICJ has precedence over court of a state as long as the state constitution allows it. We thanked Mr. Poskakukhinin for this opportunity. On the way back home, we took an ad-hoc tour of the Dutch parliament. Here we discussed the Dutch political parties and their representation in the parliament. The balance between the King and elected representatives was also a point of discussion. It was a wonderful day!
Abhijit Bhanudas Mahale,
member of the CEA
From the 13th to the 18th of November, SIB-Amsterdam got to explore the wonderful cities of Rabat and Fes, respectively the political and cultural epicenters of Morocco. Every year, SIB travels to a destination not too far from its origin during the late Autumn. This year we chose to focus on Morocco due to its unusual political position within Africa, often acting as a communicator between Africa, the Middle East and Europe. We learned more about the international relations, domestic hardships and the involvement of the Netherlands with the country.
We started our trip traveling from Amsterdam to Brussels South Airport, where we took a flight to Rabat, the current capital of Morocco. After arriving, we treated ourselves to a group dinner complete with tajines, incredible salads and traditional mint tea – poured from over a meter high! The next morning, we walked over to the Dutch embassy, where we spoke to a senior diplomat, who informed us of the numerous projects the Netherlands is doing in the country as well as the issues faced by Moroccans living in the Netherlands. In the afternoon, we hung out with Sahar, the former president of SIB-Amsterdam who is currently studying in Rabat, as she showed us around the medina and Kasbah of the Udayas. Afterwards we visited the NGO, Heinrich Böll, where we got a different view of current cultural trends, specifically in ecology and public services.
After a night in the city, we took late morning taxis to Fes, the previous and historic capital of Morocco. We were met by our Riad host, Mohamed, who took us past the Blue Gate through the souks and winding alleys to our humble abode. After settling in the Riad with a warm welcome of tea and hospitality, we were given a generous tour by another local, who showed us all the main historical sites, best places to eat and the wonderful handicrafts ranging from tanned leather to textiles and tapestry. After a night of sleep in our lovely medina dwellings, we received a luxurious breakfast, and after which, a small group of us traveled with our host to a Hammam, a traditional Moroccan bathhouse. Refreshed and revitalized, we indulged ourselves in a steaming plate of couscous to energize us for an afternoon of exploration. Some of us wandered through the souks while others took a journey out to a viewing point, which had a wonderful view of the distinctive shapes and colors of Fes. In the evening, we all met up for our final group dinner in a ornamental restaurant with lively tiles and boisterous ceilings – where we ate our last tajines before having a nights rest and heading back to Rabat the morning after. Following a train ride, a flight back to Brussels South, a night in Charleroi and a subsequent bus ride back to Amsterdam, we completed our trip with sleepy eyes and fulfilled hearts.
On the 14th of September, SIB Amsterdam departed from Sloterdijk station for the traditional trip to the capital of the European Union, Brussels. The introduction trip has already an established role inside the association, as it brings together old members with prospective ones, and gives newcomers the opportunity to discover both facets of SIB: the professional and intellectual side, ready to transform bright and curious youngsters into young adults with a deep knowledge about international relations, and the lively and inviting side, unable to say no to a challenge or a good party.🎉
The trip thus began in typical SIB fashion, with a packed group of people hurrying from Brussels North to the first activity on the list, VNO NCW, in formal attire and suitcases sliding rapidly on the pavement. Once there, we were introduced to two of the employees and one intern of the organization, that shared with us the process and challenges undertaken to represent the Dutch businesses’ interests in an international climate. Afterwards, we went directly to another lobbying firm, FleishmannHillard, where we amongst other things discussed more in detail the particular challenges faced when representing a client in the health sector, while also putting emphasis on the ethical side of the dealings. What followed was a walk among the European institutions, followed by a delicious meal at Café Novo and the indispensable beers at famous Delirium bar in the centre of Brussels. What better occasion of getting to know each other?
We started the next day early in the morning, equipped with rich coffees, and headed for a walking tour that included some of the best touristic spots in Brussels, such as the Manneke Pis and Grote Markt. Next, the traditional introduction game brought us to Grand Place, where we separated into small teams and spread through the city, in a quest that challenged our imagination (and French skills😉). We spent the last evening in one of the most fun bars of Brussels, Le Corbeau, and ended the night in Au Quai, an underground club that played a cool mix of electronic music and French rap, that oozed talent and good vibes!
The last day brought about a mix of activities that people could freely choose from, such as a visit to the Parlamentarium, the Atomium, the Palais de Bruxelles, or a laid back afternoon taking advantage of the international comic book festival in Parc de Bruxelles and the sports festival in Parc du Cinquantenaire.
So, if you’re considering joining SIB, you want to visit a city that offers the best mix between professionalism and boisterous activities, or you simply are into meeting a diverse group of people, be sure not to miss “Brussels 2019”!
From the 3rd to the 17th of August this year, SIB-Amsterdam – otherwise known as the Dutch United Nations Student Association – sponsored a trip for students within the organization to experience political and social stances in a critical region of the world. As an annual trip, the location is determined to be dissimilar each year to focus on a new region, with this year’s location chosen as Russia and the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Due to the history of the Baltic States being under Soviet rule, as well as having large Russian minority groups, there are still issues that affect both sides regarding local politics. As a group abiding by United Nations doctrines, we sought to create a non-biased understanding of the struggles and successes within each country.
Beginning our trip, we took a flight from Amsterdam to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. After arriving, we began our introduction of the trip with a traditional Lithuanian meal and many games to acclimate to the new group. While in Vilnius, we took a historical walking tour around the city, learning about the geopolitical importance of the city in the region. We also visited the micronation, the Republic of Uzupis, which is based on the eastern side of the river running through Vilnius. We were able to gain insight on the reasons for the existence of micronations as a social or artistic interpretation of government. After a couple days in Vilnius, we took a coach bus north-west to the Latvian capital, Riga. Once there, we were welcomed into the Residence of the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Latvia. With a lovely presentation, we learned about the local involvement of the Dutch government, as well as the benefits and challenges it faces with diplomatic relations between the bordering nations. Spending a couple of nights in the city, we allotted time to visit historically important museums such as the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia and the KGB Corner House. We also allowed free time to travel around the Riga Central Market and the Art Nouveau district of the city, both giving a better insight to the cultural and architectural hubs of Latvia, respectfully. Before leaving the city, we traveled to the NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence to learn about the workings within the Baltic region in relation to the tension with non-NATO states.
We walked through the medieval old town of Tallinn to attend a meeting with local diplomats at the Dutch Embassy. The group learned much about local and national initiatives using digital alternatives for government, health, and residency. After the Embassy, we had a short break before heading to the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. There, we were introduced to the world of cyber defense for potential large-scale attacks. With focuses on Cyber Law and Strategy, we learned of their operations and how military around the world benefits from their findings. The following day, our group had the decision between two different day trips: one to Helsinki and one to a village in the Lahemaa National Forest. For those who chose the Finnish capital, they imparted on a long boat ride in the morning before meeting with a fellow member who lives in the region. The students learned about local life, viewed government buildings, and visited important monuments within and around the city. For the students who visited Lahemaa, they departed later that morning toward the village of Käsmu, on the northern coast of Estonia. After learning about local life from the Maritime Museum in the town, they walked the forest trails while following guided signs teaching about local Estonian ecosystems.
On the tenth of August, we took a coach bus to Saint Petersburg, Russia. In the city, we visited the Hermitage Museum, learned about Peter the Great’s influence on Russian culture, and explored the Peterhof Summer Palace to understand the history of the government’s evolution. Before heading to Moscow, we met with diplomats at the Dutch Consulate to understand the involvement of government in assisting social programs throughout the northwest region. Taking a high-speed rail to the Russian capital, we formed an option for a day trip to one of the cities in the Golden Ring. A group of students took a tour through a monastery in the city of Sergiev Posad where Russian Orthodoxy planted its roots. The following day we took a tour of the Kremlin, the political hub of Russia., learning about how the fortress functioned since its conception. Time in the evenings was granted to explore, and some of our members chose to watch a ballet performance, one of the cultural pinnacles of the city.
Our last meeting with officials took place in the Dutch Embassy, where we held a large Q and A session about the political and economic standpoints of Russia and the Netherlands. After one last dinner together, we prepared for our early flight back to Amsterdam. Having no logistical difficulties, our group was able to travel across the Baltic States and the Russian Federation. Identifying the political stances of the two regions, we were able to form nonbiased understandings of the challenges that face each nation.
On the 26th of June, our members chose during the General Meeting the board for the next year 2018-2019. We are honored to present:
Chairman: Sean Nijlunsing
Secretary: Enrico Nuboer
Treasurer: Ryan Fernandes
Commissioner for Internal Affairs: Maxine Rubingh
Commissioner for External & Professional Affairs: Angela Barez
On Wednesday 6th of June, we held our Diplomat Drinks at the ‘Brug’ on Roeterseiland. We were honored to host diplomats from Germany, South-Korea, a Member of the House of Representatives, Achraf Bouali (D66) and representatives from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We began with an introduction speech by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about how to become a diplomat and what the work of a diplomat exactly entails. After that, we had four rounds in which more than thirty students could ask questions about international relations and diplomacy to high-level diplomats. During the conversations with the diplomats, we enjoyed drinks and snacks.
With the diplomat of South-Korea, we talked about the upcoming conversation between Kim Jong-un and president Trump. South-Korea is hoping to enter a new era with peace talks. Achraf talked about his career path and that he was asked by Alexander Pechtold to enter the second chamber. During the conversation with the diplomat with Germany and an employee of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we learned more about the ‘ diplomatic class’.
It was a good opportunity to get to know diplomats and learn more about the lifestyle of a diplomat. Afterward, we had some drinks and talked about this lovely evening.