Dutch appoint more women as ambassadors in Arabic countries

The Netherlands has appointed several women to ambassadorial positions in the Middle East and North Africa as part of efforts to increase the number of women in senior diplomatic roles, the Volkskrant said on Wednesday.

At the end of August, Willemijn van Haaften will take over as Dutch ambassador to Algeria. Also this month, Birgitta Tazelaar becomes new director of the foreign ministry’s Middle East and North Africa division after three years as diplomatic representative to the Palestinian Authority.

Foreign affairs ministry secretary general Renée Jones-Bos says it is strategy to appoint more women to top jobs. However, ambassadors are named on the basis of their ‘knowledge of languages, earlier experiences and diplomatic qualities,’ she told the Volkskrant.


Women working in the diplomatic service in the Arabic world do not think it naïve to appoint them, the Volkskrant said. ‘There is great respect for the diplomatic corps and it does not matter if you are male or female,’ says the ambassador to Lebanon Hester Somsen.

Yvette van Eechoud, the Dutch ambassador to Qatar, says local officials may find her less threatening than a man. It is also ‘useful’ that she is accepted by both men and women, she says.

Of the 116 Dutch ambassadors, 29 will be female by the end of the year. The ministry hopes to ensure 30% of its top jobs are filled by women by 2017.

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