35th Anniversary of the Netherlands Senior Experts Programme (PUM)

Speech by the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Lilianne Ploumen, on the occasion of the 35th Anniversary of the Netherlands Senior Experts Programme (PUM)

Ladies and gentlemen,

Some time ago I saw an interesting article in The Washington Post.

It was written by Jean Case of the Case Foundation an NGO she founded with her husband Steve Case, a super-rich businessman.

She wrote that ‘more often than not,

the most valuable asset a company can provide is their people,

and those skills can have a much broader and more impactful reach through volunteering employees’ time to nonprofits in need of extra support’.

The Washington Post summarised this rather complex sentence in six simple words:

Keep the cash, give us talent. 

This is a refreshing approach.

Not only for NGOs in the US, but for development cooperation as well.

Too often development cooperation is reduced to a question of money.

But of course it’s a skills issue too.

Companies and other organisations have plenty of people with great skills.

And those people can make a real difference in building strong economies across the globe.

In the last 35 years the Netherlands Senior Experts Programme, known as PUM, has set an excellent example in this field.

Dutch experts have really made a difference.

By modernising a brewery in Eritrea,

cleaning up a lake in Bolivia,

and helping a bakery in Pakistan to diversify to name just three examples.

But PUM’s impact is much bigger than this.

Even in booming markets, key elements are needed for enterprise to flourish.

Good law-making is an absolute must.

A reliable and competitive tax system is also important.

And without sound infrastructure, economic growth won’t take off.

My government tries to help non-Western countries in these and other fields.

With their hands-on mentality, PUM experts have significantly enhanced our programmes.

And there’s a third reason to applaud PUM’s efforts.

They pave the way for Dutch companies wanting to invest in non-Western countries.

They pave the way by demonstrating their skills abroad.

And by sharing their unique experience back home.

So, in sum: embassies and the government will continue to support PUM in the future.

But of course, ladies and gentlemen, there’s always something to wish for.

Women are rare at PUM. 

This is a man’s world to quote James Brown.

I would like to say to all the companies and other organisations involved:

Keep the cash, give us your female talent.

For this may be a man’s world, but it’s nothing without a woman or a girl.

Happy anniversary and thank you.