Toespraak van Prins Constantijn ter gelegenheid van het 15-jarig bestaan van het Prins Claus Fonds, Den Haag, 6 september 2011

6 september 2011

De toespraak is uitgesproken in het Engels.

Prince Claus Fund 15 years

Pretty young actually. In fact it is much too young to be 'Royal' in this country, for which you need at least 100yrs. But it is definitely not a 'start up' anymore.

Looking back 15 years seems a life time. So much has happened geopolitically, socially, economically; all of which has impacted the mission of the fund; whilst in many ways increasing its justification.

Nobody will dispute the role of culture in development anymore particularly when linked with religion. At the same time culture has lost much of its innocence. As a concept it is not value free and can exclude people, as well as keep communities together; build bridges, but also be divisive.

Prince Claus Fund has sought to support culture and creative expression in people and communities; where these meet with resistance. We used terms like the amnesty for culture; culture as a basic need; giving voice to the unheard in the zones of silence. They are all expressions of the central idea that culture is what makes us human. Development without it cannot be sustainable and is meaningless.

The Fund is small; the world is big and time is short. So we need to move fast without too much red tape and build on the knowledge and contacts of others. The Fund has built an impressively diverse global network of excellent people, many of them role models in their own societies. This network of mutual respect has been and will continue to be the backbone of the Fund.

In the end it is all about people; which is exactly why this Fund was so dear to my father. Colourful, brave and engaged people who stand up for their ideas;  showing how rich the world is; and also how little we know and what potential goes to waste in many of the societies across the world due to oppression, conflict natural disaster and poverty.

For the Fund this has been 15 years of adventure: building the network, growing our expertise, and developing new initiatives, like the Sahel Opera, our Partnership programme and the CER.

The Fund may seem a bit pompous with its crown and royal pedigree, but in fact it has continuously renewed itself and gone to unexpected places; like post-conflict areas where regular structures and communities have been disrupted.

As said, CER was one such innovation. As the authors of this book attest, culture and preservation of cultural heritage are also essential in post crisis situations. The Fund - and particularly Els van der Plas and her CER steering group - pioneered the concept of CER a few years ago, which has taken flight since.

By now there is a certain acknowledgement that CER is an integral part of  crisis relief. This was demonstrated in Haiti where we worked with the humanitarian support organisations on saving cultural heritage and archives, after the Earth quake. The CER can act fast and get to places under difficult circumstances like Burma after cyclone Nargis, Yemen after the mudslides, Atjeh after the Tsunami and Bagdad right after the fall of Saddam Husain. Cash money was effectively smuggled into Iraq in small packages to pay for rehabilitating the university library in Baghdad.

I hope this book helps to engage other parties in CER activities, and to convince others to support the work of the CER. In a short time frame the CER has done over 80 projects across 40 countries. But the area is vast and crises never stop.

Among us today are a number of people and organisations which share our passion for cultural heritage, and have supported CER as 'torchbearers'. I am happy that there still are risk takers among investors as the CER would qualify as a risky investment; nevertheless payback so far has been phenomenal.

I thank you for taking this leap of faith with us, for which I want to ask you to come forward and receive the first copy of this book as a sign of gratitude.