Jeroen de Lange in our next issue

Development Policy12 Dec 2009Frans Bieckmann

In the next issue of The Broker (number 18), we will publish an article by Jeroen de Lange. Why is it important to announce this now, almost two months before publication date? Let me explain.

This week, a tweet (‘Unbelievable. Foreign Affairs fires my husband after my pieces in NRC’) by Dutch journalist Marcia Luyten caused a lot of turmoil. The tweet was forwarded to thousands of people. It even urged the Dutch minister of foreign affairs Maxim Verhagen to deny it via Twitter! Read Marcia’s account on her website (in Dutch) of what happened.

I do not always totally agree with Marcia’s articles (although we often have similar views, see for example this debate about idealism a few years ago), but they are always thought-provoking and touch upon a lot of hot topics within development cooperation that are worth discussing. Apart from that, I think that journalists should not be pressured at all regarding the content of their work. Even less so when they are critical of the mainstream thinking in development.

Of course, I also see that there is a strong current in the Netherlands of the underbelly’s resentment against aid at the moment. The mass media think they are missing out anew the feelings of the street (see my recent blog post) and publish whatever accusation or opinion piece that can throw down this ultimate bastion of political correctness. And there are populist politicians and publicists that make use of these dubious arguments to take advantage of these sentiments in Dutch society. But in my opinion, Marcia Luyten is a serious journalist with an honest drive to shake up the debate on development cooperation. Not for political or personal interests, but for the sake of the people that (should) benefit from development aid.

But this blog post is not about her. It is about her husband: Jeroen de Lange. I know Jeroen as a person that is very dedicated to this same cause. He has worked for the Dutch ministry in Rwanda and is now based at the Netherlands Embassy in Kampala, Uganda. He is a development economist – a specie that is quite rare within the Dutch development ministry – and a good one.

Above all, he is one of a minority in the ministry that is anxious to learn, to develop and take in knowledge, to challenge existing practices and to rethink policies – at conceptual level but also, very importantly, at practical levels. He is not the typical bureaucrat that scans some ministerial handbooks and then switches to execution mode, but a person with intellectual hunger, reading all kinds of new and relevant literature that is being published, and taking account of the many debates among academics in the development sphere (which reminds me of the late Dutch prince Claus, but I will come back to him in another blog post).

Such people should be cherished by a ministry that urgently needs independent thinkers, knowledge producers, innovators, people that are able to combine deep analytical insights with strategic vision.

We had already been planning Jeroen’s article for some months. But now there is even more reason to publish it.