Last weekend representatives from all over Europe gathered at Place Luxembourg in Brussels. At the foot of the European Parliament I met with the delegations from Spain, Luxembourg, Bulgaria and others. The bi-annual meeting of the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) took place in Belgium this year. This global network represents and coordinates the work of over 100 UN associations. I was in Brussels to represent the United Nations Association for the Netherlands. With an informal meeting we kicked off the conference to discuss the coming year. This weekend we focused on deepening European collaboration.

I had the pleasure of accompanying Carlota Núñez Strutt, President of the European Student Think Tank, which I presided last year. The meeting offered us a good opportunity for a reunion and to discuss the Dutch strive to get the European Union a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. For the current two countries filling a seat in the Security Council, France and the United Kingdom, are all but a good representation of the EU as a whole. As the Brexit will probably only lead to further variation in the positions of European countries on international issues. In his speech at the UN last month Dutch minister Koenders, justly in my opinion, opted for a permanent seat to be filled by the EU. Núñez Strutt and myself debated the fact that also between Member States the differences were perhaps too fundamental to come to one central position. But we eventually agreed that the shared values, proven international cooperation and importance of a broader EU representation outweigh this obstacle.

A more common critique of this most important organ of the UN is that the worldwide representation is covered even worse. For the Security Council lacks permanent members from both Africa and South-America, offers no permanent position for upcoming powers like India and Brazil and is thus still based on the power structure of the post-World War II era. With the winners of the war still filling the permanent seats, along with the veto power that comes with them. Different representatives expressed their hope at the conference that a strong, female, successor to Ban Ki-moon could bring change to this composition and bring the indispensible changes to the UN. Naturally, the preferences for his successor varied at the conference, because the delegations came from such diverse countries. It was fascinating to get to hear the views of the delegations from these European countries on how the UN should be improved and whom they wish to see as its future leader.

When we returned to discussing the central goal of the conference, finding ground for strengthening cooperation, I focused on ‘our neighbours’ first. With the UN associations from the Benelux we agreed to share content that is interesting for all three and to keep each other au courant about upcoming projects and events. And along with the Belgian delegation we stressed our interest in co-organizing Model United Nations, in both Antwerp and Roosendaal. Many other interesting plans and projects were presented throughout the day as well, from catchy videos to guidelines for courses about the UN at schools. The various ideas and creativity from the different UN associations made me think of the potential of working closer together. The potential in all the viewpoints expressed in Brussels this week I found to be comparable to the potential of the European Union. I am convinced that, true to the motto of the European Union, ‘united in diversity’ the Member States are capable of overcoming the current tide. And that this same striking motto, is applicable for the future cooperation between the UN associations in Europe, United Nations in Diversity