'For a sustainable and just world, also in the Caribbean'
If you can go to the Caribbean with your students every year, you have a dream job! But ask lecturer Marcel Daniëls where he prefers to be, in the Caribbean or in front of the class, and he will not hesitate for a second. “In front of the class. The classroom is the place where I feel at home.” Since 2019, he has been contributing to a sustainable and just world for the entire Kingdom of the Netherlands with his education. He does that innovatively and in co-creation with the professional field. He finds his ambitions reflected in the new Strategic Plan.
How wonderfully beautiful the Caribbean is according to the countless tour operators. Marcel Daniëls shows two photos. There are no swaying palms on a Bounty beach. Each photo shows a dilapidated hut and harrowing poverty. “Elderly people live in both huts.” He took the first photo himself when he worked in poverty-stricken Laos. The second photo on Bonaire, a Dutch municipality, is of the National Ombudsman. “The elderly people who live in this hut have to go into the sea, because they don’t have toilet or washing facilities. How is it possible that such a situation continues in the Netherlands?”
Venezuela as a neighbouring country
The Statute for the Kingdom of the Netherlands regulates relations with the Caribbean Islands. For example, our Kingdom has four countries, four languages and the average citizen sadly knows little about them. Marcel: “Ask anyone what our Kingdom's largest neighbour is and most will unquestioningly say Germany. But Venezuela is within sight distance of Curaçao. Hardly anyone knows that Saba, St Eustatius and Bonaire are Dutch municipalities, where Dutch laws and regulations apply. We have a great history, but not when it comes to the Caribbean. We have not shared all of that with each other. It wasn't until 2022 that the government apologised for the history of slavery, an existential issue for countless people in the Caribbean and in the Netherlands. This special part of the Dutch Kingdom ten thousand kilometres away has been a forgotten file for too long in our education and in public administration.”
Since 2019, Marcel Daniëls has developed the Kingdom Affairs curriculum within the Faculty of Public Management, Law & Safety: the introduction minor, the in-depth minor and the course for professionals 'Knowledge and understanding of the Caribbean region of the Dutch Kingdom.’ Because even for civil servants who work within Kingdom Relations, one world appears to be winning. “The goal is to better understand each other in the Dutch Kingdom. We are talking about two completely different worlds. For example, if a storm causes damage to homes in the Netherlands, there is help that same day. When a Category 5 hurricane passes over Sint Maarten, the island is completely unreachable for the first week. But we are all in the same Dutch Kingdom. That's not a choice; it's a given. We need to discuss this relationship with the Caribbean region of the Dutch Kingdom, especially if you are studying at the Faculty of Public Management, Law & Safety.”
Together with the professional field
Marcel has no trouble talking passionately about his specialisation. How does that passion affect his enthusiasm for the new Strategic Plan? “I have a report from the Council of State here. It advises the government to invest more in mutual knowledge and understanding and in the quality of administrators. A concrete recommendation of the Council of State is to ensure a further strengthening and professionalisation of the administration and civil service by providing a structural range of courses. That's exactly what we do together with the professional field. And we do that in co-creation, which is an important concept in the new Strategic Plan.”
Commissioned by ministers
“See this group photo? In the front row are the three ministers plenipotentiary of Aruba, Sint Maarten and Curaçao. In the second row are our students and officials from different departments. The ministers plenipotentiary are the students’ clients. The department professionals give guest lectures. That's co-creation. As a student, you can easily talk to ministers of a country within the Dutch Kingdom. Fantastic! These ministers come up with authentic learning assignments, directly from the government of their country. We take on these assignments together with the professional field. Can it get any better than that?”
The administrator and the pastor
For Marcel, the implementation of the new Strategic Plan is not an issue. “Just do it. If you want co-creation, then sit down with professionals in your specialisation. Ask what their problems and challenges are. Work on that by giving students authentic learning assignments. Develop innovative, relevant and practice-oriented education together. Draw the professional field close to you. At the Faculty of Public Management, Law & Safety, we work on that inclusive, just and sustainable world. If you ask an administrator how things are going on their island, they will say: ‘great’. If you ask the pastor this question, he will tell you a completely different story. Our students talk to the administrator and the pastor. Once they have completed the degree programme, they can tackle the problems of the Caribbean regions in the Dutch Kingdom with more than average knowledge in public administration. They make a practical contribution to that sustainable and just world, which is the subject of the new Strategic Plan. Why? Because we don't want to let those elderly people in that hut on Bonaire languish in hopeless poverty.”
In Stories of The Hague, we share portraits of colleagues and students, in which they talk about the connection between their own motivations and the Strategic Plan.