Blog post | 19-08-2022 | Meet our ambassadors and their work
The Netherlands and Egypt have a long-standing and strong relationship. In addition to collaborations in food security and water consumption, the focus is also on gender. Our Dutch ambassador to Egypt, Han-Maurits Schaapveld, is an EU gender champion. An important role with a focus on improving the position and conditions of women. ‘Important steps are being taken in this regard. For the first time, women have been appointed to the judiciary.’
What themes are the Netherlands and Egypt working on together?
“We have worked with the Egyptians on a wide range of topics for a long time. The Netherlands is known here for its expertise in water. This is reflected in collaborations in food safety, water consumption and irrigation, for example around the Nile, where 98% of the water , which Egypt uses, comes from At the same time, we are working on the development side with gender, SRHR and the discussion about the large population increase.
In addition, we work together in the trade area. There are exports from the Netherlands, and we want to increase that, but we are also trying to promote more and more investment here. Finally, we have cultural collaborations with the aim of preserving cultural heritage. For example, by showing how to make a historical exhibition as interesting and worth visiting as possible.
Is there also political cooperation?
‘Yes of course. Together with Egypt, we are looking at what our contribution can be to the peace process in the Middle East. Egypt plays a very important role between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Egypt also partially borders Gaza. That question plays a big role here.
In addition, neighboring Libya is a problem area in the region. Egypt also has an interest in stability in this country. The same applies to the underlying countries, Sudan and Ethiopia. It is quite messy in the region where stability in Egypt is important. We try to contribute to this by fighting poverty and promoting human rights. Fortunately, Egypt has now designed a human rights strategy that will play a major role.’
How committed are you to gender equality?
‘In a number of developing countries, especially Bolivia and Burkina Faso, I have always been chairman of the Donor Gender Club. This was partly due to our own politics, but mainly due to personal interest in issues such as female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage and women’s empowerment. A few years ago, agreements were made within the EU on: EU gender champions. It is EU representatives who have a special focus on gender and who also use it to improve women’s position and conditions.
After the departure of my Swedish predecessor, I wanted to take on this important role. We try to highlight substantive programs and see how we can take action. For example, women have been appointed to the judiciary for the first time, and institutions have been created for this purpose. Egypt’s president has been aware of the role of women. Previously he only talked about women in the context of our mothers and daughters. Today, he calls women ‘our partners in development’. He really does his best for that’.
COP27, the UN climate summit, is taking place in Egypt this year. What does that entail?
‘COP has a substantive and an organizational aspect. As an embassy, we will be particularly involved in the organizational aspect. Prime Minister Rutte will of course not come alone, but with a number of ministers and their delegation. There lies a big challenge. It will not be held in Cairo, but in Sharm El-Sheikh, on the other side of the Red Sea.
It is the first climate summit in North Africa. Egypt really sees itself as an African country at this COP. They will therefore also be aware of financing climate measures. The previous climate summit in Glasgow was mainly about how we fight climate change and emissions. At COP27, the emphasis will be more on how we deal with climate change: mitigation and adaptation. Holland has been thinking about adaptation for some time. For example, in 2021 we organized the climate summit. So there are definitely opportunities for us and we will do our best to present the Netherlands in a good way.’
How important is the MENA region to the Netherlands and what role does Egypt play in this?
“The MENA region is characterized by many problems, for example the wars in Yemen, Libya, Syria and the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis. It is an unstable region where something is always happening and where a stable Egypt plays an important role between the various major states nearby. Egypt itself is also looking at what they might mean between Europe, the US and China.
We have a long-standing and strong relationship with Egypt and cooperate on various issues, especially water and trade. We also work a lot together in a European context. I will do my best to not only increase Dutch investment in Egypt, but also to further strengthen the political cooperation between the two countries.’