Ambassador's blog: Drive and dedication

In my last blog I noted that the number of interesting people I get to meet seems limitless and that each member of the government, business community, civil society organizations or individual citizen has something unique to offer. After meeting yet more of these unique individuals in the period since my last blog, I noticed a particular quality that is shared amongst many of them; dedication and drive to make a meaningful difference for the economy or society.

This drive and dedication can be found, for example, in the founders of the Medical Committee Netherlands Vietnam (MCNV), which was established in 1968. With the support of more than 68.000 Dutch donators MCNV was able to build a hospital in Quan Tri Province from where they rendered support to the victims of the then ongoing war. A nice anecdote is that at that time two twins were born in this ‘Holland hospital’. Their mother was so grateful to the MCNV that she named her daughters Ha Lan and Lan Ha (Ha Lan is the Vietnamese name for The Netherlands). On the festive occasion commemorating the 50 year anniversary of the organization, on 16 November President Trong awarded MCNV with a Medal of Friendship thus recognizing the importance of MCNVs work then, now and in the future. As I see it, the key to MCNC’s effectiveness at the time was their courage to circumvent the established order and choose a path of solidarity over politics: ADMIRABLE!

Ha Lan and La Han - the first twins born in MCNV’s hospital, currently working for the organization.

Equally admirable is the work of Mr. Joris Ivens. His filmography was celebrated during a symposium on 22 November that encouraged its participants to ‘look back in history for a better future’. Via his many films - most of them inspired by political and ideological controversy or conflict - Mr Ivens showed us that although though we may often have different perspectives, we share the same reality. One important lesson to take from studying his work is to stay true to your own cause and never let your perspective, lens or political motivation stand in the way of another person’s freedom of expression.

In past period I also had the opportunity to meet and engage with several Dutch entrepreneurs doing business in Vietnam. In Lam Dong Province in the Central Highlands of Vietnam I met a number of fruit and flower companies producing for both the local and regional market. The Dutch involved all share a passion for Vietnam and its opportunities and see the challenges the (business) climate sometimes entails also as an incentive for innovation. I am also proud to have witnessed the signing of a Letter of Intent between Lac Duong District (in the same province) and the Dutch based Sustainable Trade Initiative on public-private cooperation for a deforestation-free agriculture. At the Food Expo in Ho Chi Minh City at which the Netherlands was this year’s country of honor we had a fantastic pavilion showcasing Dutch products as well as Dutch cuisine including Star Chef Michel Louws who prepared a true ‘taste expedition’ combining Dutch and Vietnamese products for all our guests.

A recurring theme over the last month was Human Rights. On the 14th and 15th of November,  the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) committee in Geneva held their Consideration of Vietnam. It was a thorough assessment of prison conditions and treatment of prisoners in Vietnam. From the UNCAT report it became clear that Vietnam’s justice system faces several challenges, which they foresee to address in the near future. For example, while I am writing this blog, the Dutch Clingendael Institute is in Hanoi providing a training to Vietnamese government representatives on an effective implementation of UNCAT. Our cooperation towards the eradication of torture and inhumane treatment is very important as people everywhere, be they free or detained, should be able to call upon their human rights.

This universality of Human Rights is something that our Embassy always underlined and keeps underlining in Vietnam. We actively supported the Hanoi Pride 2018, and participated in a video project with the United Nations and in a collective video-message with fifteen other Embassies in Hanoi: all to stress the importance of Human Rights for everyone, especially now.

The Hanoi Pride was an amazing success!

I do not regard it as mere coincidence that the color of the worldwide “16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence” Campaign was the same as our national color: Orange. The Netherlands is never quiet when it comes to supporting activism against gender-based violence. In Vietnam, violence against women remains a very relevant, yet not always discussable topic. In the spirit of freedom of expression, another Dutch priority, we actively spread our message of justice and tolerance.

What a team, what a cause!

On the lighter side, the past month was filled with celebrations as well. Early December we celebrated Sinterklaas with the Dutch community in Hanoi. It was a joy to receive all guests, including Sinterklaas himself, at the Residence and see the children’s excitement on this day full of candy, presents and family.

What was a real celebration as well, was Vietnam’s astounding victory over Malaysia in the final of the ASEAN-cup last weekend. The Embassy team has been following Vietnam’s national football team in their rise to glory. Every game they played better, every game we saw more spirit and every game we saw Vietnam playing as one, as a team. We’ll be sure to keep these lessons in mind for our own journey to Euro 2020.

The streets of Hanoi after winning the final.

With the end of 2018 nearing, also the year in which we celebrated 45 years of diplomatic ties is also coming to an end. In November we had a 4th and successful edition of the Dutch Days in Can Tho – dedicated to water management and agriculture in the Mekong Delta, and on the 4th of December, together with Vice Minister Son we held a closing reception, only to continue in 2019.

On behalf of the Team of the Dutch Embassy – Happy holidays!