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Change at the helm NHC : Kees van Rij takes over from Piet de Klerk as Chair of the Supervisory Board

28 February 2024

During the NHC’s quarterly board meeting on 14 February 2024, Kees van Rij officially took over the reins as Chair of the Supervisory Board of the organisation. Van Rij:

“I am honoured to be stepping into the role of Chairperson of the Board at the NHC at this important time for the organisation. With a background in the diplomatic service and an in-depth knowledge of the region where the NHC operates, I look forward to working together and further strengthening the profile of the organisation in ‘supporting catalysts of change for just societies’.”

Van Rij brings to the organisation close to 40 years of experience in the Dutch diplomatic service, having recently served as ambassador in Spain, Greece, Brazil and Turkey. Alongside his role as Chairperson of the Supervisory Board at the NHC, van Rij is currently also a member of the Commission on European Integration at the Dutch Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV); an independent body which advises the Dutch government and parliament on foreign policy, as well as Strategic advisor international affairs at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies.

Piet de Klerk will remain a member of the Supervisory Board until the end of June. He reflected on the past six years at the helm of the Board:

“I look back with satisfaction on the past six years – years in which we have grown from an organisation that initially carried out a number of separate projects, into an organisation with three very strong programmes – Human Rights Defence, Rights-Based Justice and Integrity & Accountability. And in particular the past year, in which the collaboration – for a number of reasons – was more intense than normally, the Supervisory Board continued to work together exceptionally well as a team.”

Acting Executive Director of the NHC, Joeri Buhrer Tavanier, also reflected on the change:

“Since joining the NHC in 2019, but especially since taking on the role of Acting Executive Director in September 2023, I have had the opportunity to work closely together with the Supervisory Board, and Piet in particular. The NHC will certainly miss his knowledge of the region and the topics that we work on, and his dedication to the cause and our organisation. However, I am certain that in Kees van Rij we have found a very worthy successor as Chair of the Board and I very much look forward to working together in promoting the rule of law, strengthening democracy and amplifying the voices of human rights defenders, in Netherlands and in wider Europe.”

In light of last week’s Munich Security Conference, Piet de Klerk and Kees van Rij published an opinion piece in Dutch newspaper ‘Nederlands Dagblad’ on 15 February, entitled “1975 Helsinki Accords: A blueprint for peace in Ukraine”.

As van Rij and de Klerk reflect:

“In order to better understand the current situation, a careful consideration of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act is a good starting point. By unleashing full-scale warfare in Ukraine in 2022, Russia has violated most of the Helsinki agreements […] The Final Act of Helsinki was the culmination of a rapprochement between East and West, mainly inspired by the German policy of ‘Wandel durch Annäherung’, which was supposed to put an end to the Cold War. Once again, a speedy end to the new Cold War would be desirable, but a first step should be respect for the 10 agreements in the Helsinki Final Act. President Putin’s recognition of the Zelensky government would only be a modest first step in that direction.”

Read the opinion piece (in Dutch).