Ruud Lubbers

Ruud Lubbers

Infobox Prime Minister

name =Ruud Lubbers
| imagesize =
order =Prime Minister of the Netherlands
term_start = 4 November 1982
term_end = 22 August 1994
deputy =
predecessor = Dries van Agt
successor = Wim Kok
birth_date =Birth date and age|1939|5|7|df=y
birth_place =
death_date =
death_place =
spouse =
constituency =
party = Christen-Democratisch Appèl
languagesspoken =

Rudolphus Franciscus Marie Lubbers or Ruud Lubbers (born 7 May 1939) was prime minister of the Netherlands from 1982 – 1994. A political conservative, Lubbers was regarded by many during his time in office as an ideological heir to Margaret Thatcher; one of his campaign slogans was: "meer markt, minder overheid" (more market, less government). After that, he was the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, from 2001 until 20 February 2005, when he resigned because of continuous press attention about an allegation of sexual harassment. In July 2006, Lubbers acted as "informateur" of a new cabinet, after the second Balkenende cabinet handed over its resignation to the Dutch Queen.

Life and career

Lubbers was born in Rotterdam. He studied economics at the Erasmus University Rotterdam and was a student of the first Nobel Prize Laureate in economics Jan Tinbergen. As suggested by the title of his 1962 thesis - "The influence of differing productivity trends in various countries on the current account of the balance of payments" - his main interest was in monetary affairs. He originally planned an academic career, but was compelled by family circumstances to join the management of Lubbers' Construction Workshops and Machinery Fabricators Hollandia B.V.

Dutch politics

From 11 May 1973 to 19 December 1977 he was Minister of Economic Affairs in the Den Uyl-government and a member of the Catholic People's Party (KVP). He was an effective, if sometimes somewhat bad-tempered minister. He chose to return to Parliament on the formation of the Van Agt-government in 1977, becoming Senior Deputy Parliamentary Leader of the CDA, the alliance between the KVP and the other two main denominational parties. His career got an unexpected boost when the leader of the parliamentary faction of the CDA, Willem Aantjes, had to resign in 1978 on accusations that he served in the Germanic-SS during the Second World War. Lubbers took over the position of Aantjes and suddenly found himself in a powerful political position.

In 1982 after the general election won by Prime Minister Dries van Agt, a similar thing happened when Van Agt suddenly announced he would not be available for a third term. Lubbers took over the post, a position he held three successive governments through to 1994, making him the longest serving prime minister in the history of the Netherlands.

Major aspects of his time in office:
* Extensive cutbacks in public spending
* The launch of far-reaching deregulation and privatization programs
* A massive demonstration in The Hague (1983) against the planned installation in the Netherlands of nuclear-armed US cruise missiles (which was cancelled after all due to arms reduction talks between the US and the Soviet Union)

After leaving office, was put forward as a candidate for the head of NATO, but the US vetoed his appointment.

Ecological activities

In the follow-up of the Earth Summit in 1992, Mr. Lubbers engaged with the "Earth Charter Initiative" in cooperation with Michael Gorbachov and Maurice Strong. The Earth Charter document was launched in the Peace Palace in The Hague in June 2000. Mr. Lubbers is an active member of the international Earth Charter Commission and reaches out, especially to youth in the Netherland, with the message of the Earth Charter for a sustainable and peaceful world.


From 1995 to 2000, he taught Globalization Studies at Tilburg University in the Netherlands and at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in the United States. He was also vice-chairman of the Independent World Commission on the Oceans and chair of Globus, the Institute for Globalization and Development based in Tilburg.

UN High Commissioner

On 1 January 2001 he became the ninth United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He succeeded Mrs. Sadako Ogata of Japan. In October 2003, his three year term was extended for another two years, to 31 December 2005. He annually donated some $300,000 to the refugee agency since he assumed his post in 2001, thereby covering his own $167,000 annual salary and travel expenses. He resigned for this job on 20 February 2005 due to ongoing media pressure even after a sexual harassment allegation has been found unsustainable.


At the end of the year 2000, Mr. Lubbers was appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, to succeed Mrs. Sadako Ogata as UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).Mr. Lubbers was appointed 1 January 2001 to head an organization which was concerned with an estimated 21 million refugees and internally displaced in over 120 countries world wide. He led a UN agency that comprised over 5,000 employees who work across the globe. During his tenure, the number of refugees worldwide decreased by almost 22% from 21.8 million in 2001 to close to 17.1 million at the beginning of 2004.

Mr. Lubbers also favoured a generous refugee policy for the Netherlands and he was critical of the Foreign Citizens Law (Vreemdelingenwet). Part of his achievement is that since he took on his duties as High Commissioner, the persistent criticism of UNHCR dating from before that time, subsided.Fact|date=October 2007 He also managed to stabilise UNHCR’s financial situation and to greatly increase the financial means for the sheltering of refugees.Fact|date=October 2007

exual Harassment Complaint

In May 2004, Mr. Lubbers was accused by Cynthia Brzak, an American UNHCR employee, of sexual harassment following a meeting in his office that was attended by two other UNHCR staff members. The complaint was reported in the media, [ [,%20Ruud New York Times 18 May 2004] ] prompting Mr. Lubbers to inform UNHCR staff about the accusation. On this occasion, he denied any wrongdoing and rejected the allegation against him.Fact|date=March 2007 On 2 June 2004, the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) which was tasked with investigating the accusation, sent its report to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. [ [ OIOS Investigation report] ] [ [ Supreme Court Annex 1 p.35] ] In its public annual report to the UN secretary general (presented to the UN General Assembly), the OIOS reported concerning the case that it had “submitted a report to the Secretary-General supporting the allegations and recommended that appropriate actions be taken accordingly.” [ [ A/59/359* Report of the Office Internal Oversight Services to the UN General Assembly, p. 31] ]

The OIOS report criticised

Mr. Lubbers responded to the OIOS report in a letter (a)setting out to deny acts of sexual harassment or abuse took place; (b) to establish that such evidence of the alleged misconduct as is said to exist is insufficient and flawed; and (c) to conclude that the report itself would appear to be based on an irregular statutory basis and also flawed by errors of law and reasoning." [ [ Lubbers memo pp 2-4] [ Lubbers Memo pp 5-8] [ Lubbers Memo p 9] ]

Mr. Lubbers asked Max van der Stoel, former high commissioner for minorities, to comment on the confidential report. [ [ Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General 2005-02-22] ] He concluded that: "the OIOS report is deficient in objectivity and impartiality." He added “that the only two other persons in the room did not provide evidence confirmíng the version given by the complainant.” Furthermore he accused UN officials of leaking information to the press and recommended that an investigation of the leaks be undertaken. [ [ van der Stoel memo p 1 (after Lubbers p. 9)] [ van der Stoel memo pp 2-4] ]

Complaint "not substantiated"

The Secretary-General reviewed the report and the responses of the High Commissioner and the senior manager to the report, and decided that the complaint could not be substantiated by the evidence and therefore closed the matter." [ [,%20Ruud New York Times 2004-07-16] ] He is also reported to have consulted with Stephen Schwebel, an American judge and former President of the International Court of Justice.Fact|date=October 2007 The Secretary-General failed to order an investigation of the deliberate leaking by OIOS itself to the media as recommended by Max van der Stoel.


In February 2005, the case was in the news again when the British daily the Independent obtained a copy of the flawed OIOS report and published its contents. [ [ Independent 2005-02-18] ] Inter alia, the report stated that:

the allegation against Mr. Lubbers is substantiated in that Mr. Lubbers did engage in unwanted physical contact with the complainant, a subordinate female staff member. New allegations that came to OIOS’ attention during the investigation, were also examined and indicate a pattern of sexual harassment by Mr. Lubbers, OIOS is also of the view that Mr. Lubbers abused his authority as High Commissioner by his intense, pervasive and intimidating attempts to influence the outcome of this Investigation. [ [ Supreme Court Annex 1 p.35] ]
Mr. Lubbers met with the Secretary-General on 18 February 2005, and resigned as High Commissioner on Sunday, 20 February 2005, stating to the press: "For more than four years I gave all my energy to UNHCR. To be frank, despite all my loyalty, insult has now been added to injury and therefore I resign as high commissioner." The UN secretary general's office issued a statement the same day which stated, that the High Commissioner's resignation was in the best interests of theUNHCR. [ [ Washington Post 2005-02-21] ] In his letter of resignation, Mr. Lubbers stated that his resignation constituted no expression of guilt, but that he had become the victim of smearing, adding that he had resigned “in the interest of the organisation”. [ [ Resignation letter] ] In October 2005 Kofi Annan reiterated that he had come to the conclusion that "the evidence did not support the accusation" but that because of ongoing media-pressure Mr. Lubber's resignation was in the best interests of the UNHCR. [ [ Geneva Press Conference 2005-10-10] ] In a letter to UNHCR staff, Kofi Annan wrote, “My decision to accept his resignation should not be interpreted as a finding of guilt” [ [ 2005-02-23] ] .

During a farewell meeting for Mr. Lubbers as High Commissioner for Refugees he received from Acting High Commissioner Wendy Chamberlin the first annual UNHCR Achievement Award for exceptional services to UNHCR and for the world’s refugees.Fact|date=March 2007

Netherlands Prime Minister Balkenende in a formal statement called the departure of Mr. Lubbers “bitter” since the complaint against him had been dismissed as unsustainable.Fact|date=October 2007

Honorary doctorate

Ruud Lubbers has received honorary doctorates from Georgetown University (U.S.A) and the Radboud University Nijmegen.

External links

* [ UNHCR website]
* [ Ruud Lubbers unofficial website]


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