Liberia honors Mirjam van Reisen

Mirjam van Risen.
(Photo: Tilburg University)

The government of Liberia has honored Mirjam van Reisen, occupant of an endowed chair at Tilburg University, with a Golden Image Award, in recognition of her efforts to help women end conflict in Liberia and other countries. Van Reisen, also founder and director of Brussels-based Europe External Policy Advisors (EEPA) and a member of the coordinating committee of Social Watch, has been instrumental in helping women leaders in Africa and other conflict regions demand their rights under UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

Liberian Vice-President Joseph N. Boakai presented Van Reisen with the award during a ceremony in Monrovia attended by a large gathering of Liberian and international guests, which also included Rector Magnificus and Professor Philip Eijlander of Tilburg University.

Among other things, Resolution 1325 calls for the institution of legal proceedings against anyone who commits violence against girls and women. As the frequent victims of armed conflicts, women can play an important role in resolving and preventing conflict situations.

The rule recognizes this, investing women with the right to take part in peace negotiations. Prof. van Reisen dedicated her Golden Image Award to the victims of armed conflicts and their continuing faith that there is a light at the end of the tunnel of violence.

Van Reisen’s current research focuses on the impact of UN Resolution 1325. She has authored numerous publications on the role of Europe in the post-Cold War international political arena and is also the founder of the Brussels-based EEPA, bringing together European foreign policy expertise.

As professor of International Social Responsibility, she was appointed to the Marga Klompé endowed chair at the Tilburg School of Humanities in October 2010. Working in collaboration with Prof. Ernst Hirsch Ballin and Dr. Conny Rijken of the Tilburg Law School, Van Reisen is also involved in a study on the victims of human trafficking, which is being commissioned by the inter church organization for development cooperation, ICCO.


Van Reisen and Eijlander were in Monrovia for several days to discuss possibilities for cooperation with the University of Liberia. With its recent history of civil war, Liberia is facing a severe shortage of academic staff.

Tilburg University hopes to help alleviate this shortage in fields that are in high demand in Liberia in which the university can provide specialized training, including economics, management and international law. During the Monrovia visit, Prof. Eijlander stressed that rebuilding the country's education infrastructure represents a real linchpin of national reconstruction.


Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became Africa’s first female president in 2006. In 2011 she and two other women, Leymah Gbowee (Liberia) and Tawakkul Karman (Yemen), were honored with the Nobel Peace Prize for their non-violent work championing the safety of women and women’s right to full participation in peace-building efforts.

Though her political activities in Liberia span back to the 1970s, prosecution and imprisonment ultimately forced Sirleaf to flee the country. In the years that followed she rose to become an influential economist at the World Bank and, subsequently, African director of the United Nations Development Program in the 1990s.

President Sirleaf is keenly aware of the role that education can play in rebuilding Liberia after its many years of civil war. On November 9, 2012 she will be presented with an honorary doctorate from Tilburg University.

Marga Klompé

In 2012 it will be 100 years since the birth of Dutch politician and Catholic People’s Party (KVP) member Marga Klompé (1912-1986). A dedicated and ardent advocate for the ideals of humanity, justice, peace and women’s emancipation, Klompé also took part in the Dutch underground resistance during World War II.

Alongside her work as a teacher, Klompé was active at various international organizations, where she worked on human rights and peace issues. In 1948 she was appointed a member of the Dutch House of Representatives. As part of the Dutch delegation to the United Nations, Klompé was involved in negotiations leading to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Later she would go on to become the Netherlands' first female representative to the European Parliament and also the country’s first female secretary of state, serving as secretary of Social Affairs from 1956 until 1963 and as secretary of Culture, Recreation and Social Affairs from 1966 until 1971. Marga Klompé is widely renowned for her efforts to promote human rights, peace, public welfare and international social responsibility.

Marga Klompé Foundation

The Marga Klompé Foundation was established to preserve the ideological legacy of this Dutch luminary. Among the Foundation’s initiatives has been the designation of the Marga Klompé endowed chair in International Social Responsibility, a chair with an explicit Roman-Catholic grounding, at Tilburg University.

As the endowed chair’s current occupant, Prof. Mirjam van Reisen is working to give tangible expression to Marga Klompé’s intellectual legacy in the world of today.

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