SER International Summer School 2009
From 16 until 22 August 2009 the SER International Summer School was held in Noordwijk, on the remarkably sun-drenched seashore of the Netherlands. At this first Summer School for young professionals involved with the work of Economic and Social Councils, 59 participants were present from over 30 countries and international organisations. The Summer School was organized by the Dutch Economic and Social Council SER.
Sunday 16 August – Meeting one another
The Summer School started with a welcome dinner on Sunday. Words of welcome were spoken by SER chairman Alexander Rinnooy Kan, SER secretary-general Veronique Timmerhuis and by deputy secretary-general Steven Duursma, who would act as a general moderator during the Summer School. The participants gladly took the first chance to get to know one another and exchanged experiences with social dialogue in their respective countries.
Monday 17 August – World Bank – SER - CESC
The formal programme started on Monday morning with a lecture in two parts by Milan Vodopivec from the World Bank, discussing the impact of the current global economic crisis in middle- and low-income countries and possible policy options. Alexander Rinnooy Kan presented the vision of the Dutch by means of 3 conclusions and 3 recommendations from the SER’s 2008 advisory report on globalisation.
Later that day, participants introduced themselves in small groups and exchanged their personal ambitions for the Summer School. After this, the Chinese participants shared well-prepared information about the Chinese Economic and Social Council (CESC) - the first ‘country presentation’ of the programme.
The day’s programme concluded with a workshop in which participants were challenged to express and train their debating skills on such varying topics as the role of economic and social councils in times of crisis, smoking policy on the workfloor, and the desirability of a man on Mars. It proved an excellent method to defy upcoming jetlag.
Tuesday 18 August – SER - ISS - CPB – a visit to The Hague
On Tuesday, the Summer School picked up sticks and moved to The Hague. In the SER-building international developments in social dialogue were presented by SER-officer Alexandra van Selm and Rolph van der Hoeven, professor at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS). An international group of master-students from ISS joined this session and exchanged views with Summer School participants.
After lunch, it was time for a visit to the beautifully decorated international courts at the Peace Palace. On their return in the SER-building the participants found various stakeholders of the Dutch Economic and Social Council ready and waiting to be interviewed: representatives from the three confederations of trade unions and from employers’ organisations, two of the (independent) ‘crown’ members of the Dutch council, and two representatives from the CPB (The Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis).
The day concluded with a reception where participants were joined by personnel from embassies, members of the council, and representatives from the two sponsors of the Summer School: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Stichting Instituut Gak (Foundation Institute Gak). After a brief tour of the old city centre of The Hague around the Houses of Parliament the bus returned to Noordwijk.
Wednesday 19 August – AICESIS – ILO – CDES
On Wednesday, Patrick Venturini, Secretary-General of AICESIS, kicked off with a warm welcome to the Summer School participants and presented the highlights of AICESIS’ medium-term plan. Ludek Rychly from ILO illustrated his presentation on the response of social partners to the current economic crisis with vivid examples from many countries. He drew lessons from earlier crises (including the sinking of the Titanic) and rounded off with what he called a ‘crisis driving license test’ pertaining 5 questions on the role that organisations of employers and workers created for themselves. To round off the morning session, the Brazilian participants provided inside information on the Conselho de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (CDES).
In the afternoon, Harry Starren, director from De Baak, led an inspiring workshop on leadership skills. After a brief midterm feedback session, the rest of the afternoon was used for sports and fun such as building rafts, yoga and playing soccer on the beach.
Thursday 20 August – FNV – ING – a visit to Amsterdam
The Thursday programme brought the participants to Amsterdam. At its headquarters, Peter Gortzak, vice-chairman of the largest Federation of Nederlands Trade Unions FNV, answered a multitude of questions concerning the structure, the position, the opinion and the international activities of FNV. At the innovatively designed shoe-shaped headquarters of global financial institution ING in the financial district of Amsterdam, Harm ter Haar Romeny challenged the participants with various theses on corporate responsibility. Jacqueline Stevens and Gerlinde Korterink explained ING’s labour relations within the Netherlands and Europe. Apart from a few who preferred shopping, most participants joined the cultural programme in the afternoon that brought them to the Van Gogh museum, a canal tour of Amsterdam, and food and drinks in the picturesque city centre of Amsterdam.
Friday 21 August – DECP – CES – minister Development Cooperation – Great Exchange
Friday was the final day of the official programme. Ronald de Leij of the public-private Dutch Employers' Cooperation Program DECP discussed requirements that employers’ organisations have to meet and how DECP - in a specified group of developing countries - can strengthen the presence and performance of these organisations. After that, the Spanish participants gave an insight into the working of the Spanish Economic and Social Council - the Consejo Económico y Social (CES). During the ‘Great Exchange’ that followed participants were challenged to get their message across to all by means of a poster stating what is that makes their native council or other organisation special and explain this in a simulated market place situation to fellow participants wanting to know more. The ‘grand finale’ in the afternoon consisted of one-minute statements by each and every participant outlining how they would strengthen the social dialogue in their country. The diversity of participants was mirrored by a great variety of statements: some highly ambitious, others more modest but no less worthwhile. Certifications were handed out after an enthusiastic and well-informed speech by the Dutch minister of Development Cooperation Bert Koenders in which he emphasized “the enormous added value that social and economic councils (and similar organisations) can have” and that “developed and developing countries alike can benefit from this form of institutional consultation”.
The farewell dinner on Friday evening meant good food and good fun, because during and long after the barbecue many participants were eager to treat their colleagues to music and dance from their home countries. The ease with which cultural boundaries were crossed, switching between Belgian tango, Central African blues, Brazilian samba, Romanian house and the Thai Rain Dance (to name but a few), was exemplary and a beautiful way to finish an intensive week that participants unanimously have evaluated as inspiring and worthwhile. A song that was written and performed during the Summer School stated the one remaining relevant question: “next year, or maybe two, which country?”.