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BIPR | Human Rights and International Affairs: How Can the International Community Right Wrongs?
Human Rights and International Affairs: How Can the International Community Right Wrongs?

December 11, 2023 - 18:30

Christophe Kamp, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, The Netherland

Event Recap

Professor Mark Gilbert hosted a discussion with Christophe Kamp, Ambassador of the Netherlands to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), on Monday, December 12. Ambassador Kamp reviewed his career in peacekeeping and international cooperation and discussed the future of human rights policy.

Ambassador Kamp began his career as a UN human rights observer in post-genocide Rwanda. After the UN had failed to coordinate an effective intervention during the genocide, with member states turning a blind eye to Rwanda and UN peacekeepers being under-supported and hobbled by their limited mandate, establishing trust and improving the human rights situation post-conflict was difficult.

"We would visit a detention center and the mayor of the town had lost all of his children in the genocide—it was five children," said Kamp. "And the person who had killed two of his children was actually sitting in the prison just behind his office. So, every day if he came to the office, he would be reminded of that… It was a very hard conversation to have with the mayor to improve conditions because he was personally so much affected."

Beyond the personal nature of the tragedy in Rwanda, the role of the UN in failing to prevent the genocide was a serious challenge in establishing trust after the conflict. Kamp recognized that he represented the UN as an organization, but that it had been the reluctance of individual countries that had prevented the UN intervening.

"We tried to explain that you have the UN as an organization, and you have the UN as an international community of member states," said Kamp, "And we represented very much, of course, the UN as an organization, with a mandate to work on human rights issues in Rwanda, but it was not the UN as an organization that stopped member states from intervening during the genocide."

Kamp left the UN and served in the Dutch Foreign Ministry and the European Union delegation to the African Union, where he witnessed firsthand the development of African institutions in the mold of the EU to facilitate economic integration across the continent.

He then became Director of the Office of the High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).This office was established during the Yugoslav Wars to help European countries de-escalate ethnic tensions. The office embodies the critical nexus between human rights and security and these principles' codependency.

"I'm very convinced [that] sustainable peace requires both security and human rights, and it's a balance," said Kamp. "The way you conduct security operations, or the way you […] treat minorities, or the way you have a conversation has an impact on if people are loyal citizens or if people want to be part of the state… If you expect national minorities to buy into the authority of the state, they need something back from you as well."

The OSCE serves as a forum to facilitate cooperation between its 57 member states across Europe, Central Asia, and North America. Its mandate extends to a range of human rights and security issues, and its decisions carry considerable political weight, despite not being legally binding. The OSCE's broad membership gives it unique status as a bridge-builder, though intra-membership conflicts, such as the Russian Invasion of Ukraine, have challenged the institution.

"It's very difficult since the war in Ukraine to have a meaningful conversation with our Russian counterparts," said Kamp. "I think if there is a breakthrough in this war, […] it will not be in OSCE meetings."

Kamp's human security philosophy reflects that of the OSCE; for him, human rights are located at the confluence of many different issues, and achieving a humanitarian outcome requires a holistic policy engagement strategy. Kamp's on-the-ground experience in Rwanda continues to shape his perspective in his role as Ambassador from the Netherlands to the OSCE.

"When I left Rwanda, I thought it was [purely] an issue of human rights, but I have come to realize that this government and people […] also have other problems," said Kamp. "[F]or me [this] was a reason to not continue in another UN human rights mission, but to reflect on what are these other issues, and how to work on this broader agenda… For me, human rights […] goes to the basis of things; it talks about really individual needs and the right of people to have a life and dignity."

Human Rights and International Affairs: How Can the International Community Right Wrongs?

hosted by Professor Mark Gilbert

Christophe Kamp
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, The Netherland

Christophe Kamp is the Ambassador of the Netherlands to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

He has over 25 years of experience as an international civil servant and diplomat of the Netherlands Foreign Ministry and the European External Action Service in Europe and Africa. Prior positions include Director of the office of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Deputy Permanent Representative of the EU to the OSCE, Spokesperson for the Netherlands Foreign Minister and for the Minister for Development Cooperation and European Affairs, and Head of the Political Section of the EU Delegation to the African Union.

Before joining the Netherlands Foreign Ministry in 2001, Kamp worked at the UN Department of Political Affairs in New York, as a human rights observer with the UN Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda and with Conflict Management Group, an NGO dedicated to negotiation and conflict resolution.

Kamp has a Master's in Political Science from Leiden University and a Master's in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School.
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