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IN MEMORIAM: Former Chairman of the NHC Executive Board Tiddo Hofstee Passes Away

02 May 2018

Tiddo Hofstee, former Chairman of the Executive Board and the Committee of the NHC, passed away in The Hague, last Sunday, 29 April 2018 at the age of 77.

Ambassador Hofstee studied both Law and Arabic at the University of Leiden. Later in life he also learnt Russian and developed a great love of classical Russian literature. He had a distinguished career in the Dutch Foreign Service, somehow always present where historic changes took place. As a young diplomat he served in Cairo, Athens, Ankara, New York and Dar-es-Salaam. During the crucial final years of the Cold War he occupied senior positions, including Deputy Head of Mission, in the Netherlands Permanent Mission to NATO in Brussels, and in 1988 he was appointed as Deputy Head of Mission of the Netherlands Embassy in Washington. There he had a privileged position in observing American involvement in the transition process of the former Communist world.

In 1990 he returned to The Hague as Deputy Secretary General of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1994 he was appointed Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations at Geneva. Two years later he was recalled to The Hague to take up the newly created position of Director General for Bilateral Relations. In all three positions he was deeply involved in the reform of the Dutch foreign service and its adaptation to the new realities of the world after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

 

He had a distinguished career in the Dutch Foreign Service, somehow always present where historic changes took place.”

 

His final posting was his ambassadorship to Moscow from 1999 to 2005. Once again, he was a direct participant in the continuing political and economic transformation of Russia and the former countries of the Soviet Union. He actively promoted deeper involvement of Dutch investors and business interests in the Russian economy. At the same time, he also invested in supporting democratic processes and the rule of law in Russia. When the Dutch director of the relief operation of Doctors Without Borders in Dagestan Arjan Erkel was kidnapped by gunmen in 2002, Ambassador Hofstee and his staff tirelessly and, ultimately, successfully convinced the Russian authorities to put pressure on the shady officials and middlemen who could influence the release of Erkel.

After his retirement, Ambassador Hofstee for five years, from 2006 to 2010, chaired the NHC. This was not an easy period for the organization, as funding for its operations in Central and Eastern Europe became increasingly scarce. Outsiders believed that after the enlargement of the European Union with many Central European countries the transformation process in Europe was over, and that democracy and the rule of law would slowly but gradually establish themselves in the hearts and minds of all governments and voters. Ambassador Hofstee with his first hand knowledge of the region did not subscribe to these assumptions: he had a great love and admiration for the strengths and endurance of the Russian and the other peoples of Eastern Europe, but he also knew the weaknesses and risks of their systems of government. He therefore explored new sources of funding, while using his many friends and contacts to convince the outside world that NHC still had lots of work to do.

…he had a great love and admiration for the strengths and endurance of the …peoples of Eastern Europe, but he also knew the weaknesses and risks of their systems of government. He therefore explored new sources of funding…to convince the outside world that NHC still had lots of work to do”

Thanks to his organizational flair, personal charm and his commitment and efficient approach to the challenges faced by the NHC, he started a reform process within the organization that in the end put the NHC into a stronger and more independent position than before. He also showed a genuine interest in the position and views of the NHC staff.

At NHC we shall gratefully remember him for his friendship, his personal commitment to the organization, and his continuous efforts to support the aims and ambitions of the Netherlands Helsinki Committee.

We offer our deepest sympathies to his wife and his family.

Piet de Klerk and Ian de Jong, present and former Chairman of the Executive Board and the Committee of the NHC.