Toespraak van Prinses Margriet op de McMaster University, Canada

16 november 2012

De toespraak is uitgesproken in het Engels.

President Deane, Chancellor Wilson
First of all I would like to thank you, for your kind words and the honorary degree that McMaster University has bestowed on me.

This honorary degree underlines the valuable partnership between McMaster University and Maastricht University. Both universities use Problem Based Learning as educational method.
They aim to offer innovative and international educational programs such as the Global Health Program, which gives graduates a better understanding of this domain and equips them to handle new challenges in global health; thus contributing to the goal of the WHO: equitable access to essential care for all.

Health care and humanitarian issues have been my main interests for many years. They are particularly close to my heart in view of my work with the Red Cross in the Netherlands and internationally.  
The reason I was asked to become the Honorary Chair of the Advisory Board on Global Health was due to the fact that I have been involved in the Red Cross for more years
than actually I care to disclose here.
 

We in the Red Cross are committed through our Fundamental Principles, to bringing assistance to the most vulnerable and threatened people of this world, people threatened by diseases, hunger, malnutrition, caused by man-made or natural disasters.
Making the voices of the victims of these vicissitudes heard has been - and is - the underlying motive for my involvement with the Red Cross Movement.
In 1966 I started my work for the Netherlands Red Cross, and since 1967 I have been involved internationally. I took part in all International Conferences and most international meetings, giving me the opportunity to enlarge my understanding
of all angles of Red Cross work.
What made me choose for the Red Cross was its guiding Fundamental Principles . They are Humanity - Impartiality - Neutrality - Independence - Voluntary service- Unity- Universality - , of which Humanity and Impartiality are for me the most inspiring. These impressed me and I took them into my heart. I was hooked, hooked for life. They are universal in that they represent universal values, which touch a chord in all of us. They are valid in different cultures and through different religions or political environments. 

These principles are endorsed in more than 187 countries, which have a Red Cross or Red Crescent Society.
They are the basis on which a total of 225 million members, volunteers and dedicated staff operate throughout the world, both locally and globally.

I firmly believe in these principles, which inspire, encourage and facilitate at all times all forms of humanitarian work by the Red Cross, with the aim to prevent and alleviate
human suffering; thereby contributing to the maintenance and promotion of human dignity and peace in the world.

We are often the first responders in health emergencies.
When fate strikes, Red Cross volunteers on the ground often risk their lives while bringing assistance to the victims. That this is courageous, yet extremely dangerous work is proved by the loss of already seven Red Crescent volunteers, killed in action in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and more cities in Syria.

As we all well know, the needs are greater than ever, with a growing number of people affected each year by disasters, disease and conflicts, often in combination. The call for- and expectations of- an effective response are growing and so is the need
to find lasting solutions.

In 2011 the International Red Cross launched a campaign - Health Care in Danger - that aims to address the widespread and severe impact of illegal and sometimes violent acts that obstruct the delivery of health-care, damage or destroy facilities and vehicles, and injure or kill health-care workers and patients, in armed conflicts and other emergencies such as urban violence.
Violence against the wounded and the sick, and against health-care facilities and personnel, is one of the most crucial yet overlooked humanitarian issues of today. In conflicts and upheavals all over the world, violence disrupts health-care services at the moment when they are needed most. Combatants and civilians die of injuries
that they ought to survive because they are prevented from receiving the timely medical assistance to which they have a right.

One of the aims is to raise awareness of this issue and lobby for the adoption and implementation of specific measures to ensure that health-care can be delivered safely in armed conflicts and other emergencies. This will help build a community of concern among health-care practitioners, health-oriented NGOs and others who can influence the current situation.

The mission of the International Red Cross is consistent with the activities and aims of the Global Health Program: to study the global impact of health-affecting events like epidemics, natural disasters and inequities in access to health services.
Access to those affected by these events is an every day challenge for all of us. The need to partner with all those concerned is greater than ever.

I am honored to be involved in this program, especially because of its partnering  with McMaster University in Canada, my country of birth. My mother and two sisters found shelter in Canada during the second World War.

As you heard, I was born in Ottawa in the Civil Hospital, where the room was declared Dutch territory, thus denying me Canadian nationality. Nevertheless, I feel Canada is my second homeland.
In the Netherlands we keep alive the memory of Canada's pivotal role in the liberation of our country. Schoolchildren tend the graves of Canadian soldiers who paid the ultimate price to bring us freedom.

What makes the Global Health program so interesting is that it also includes the exchange of students and staff with Manipal University in India and Thammasat University in Thailand. By working together either by virtual interaction or participation in joint field projects, the program is not only global in terms of content, but also in people to people contact enabling meeting colleagues with different backgrounds worldwide.
In my position as Honorary Chair, I had the opportunity to meet with some of the students and I was inspired by their enthusiasm and dedication. They told me about their cooperation in online learning pods. They told me too how they perceived their different backgrounds as a rich resource, and how interaction with their peers not only enabled the acquaintance with different perspectives, practices and circumstances, but also provided an enriching intercultural learning experience.
They have learned that borders and boundaries are there to be crossed.

The networks and friendships formed in this way are the basis of long lasting cooperation and can be a great support in the students' future careers and jobs.

I encourage the international cooperation in health-care worldwide.
I am delighted to hear that the partnership is considering including new partners, so that in the end all continents will be represented in this unique global program.

The honorary degree bestowed on me today serves as recognition for both Maastricht and McMaster University to engage enduringly in the pursuit of scientific knowledge and training of professionals, in order to contribute to the promotion of health and health-care worldwide.

It is a tremendous honor for me to receive this doctorate.
For just  following my passion and stand for what I believe in.
I want to reiterate that I am very, very grateful.

To conclude, I wish to congratulate the graduates of today!
May we hear your voices, your multiple voices, in unison or responding to each other, working together for a better world.
Care, share and dare!