Countess of Wessex visits the Netherlands to champion the women, peace & security agenda

It was Sophie's first overseas visit of the year

The Countess of Wessex has carried out her first overseas tour of 2023 by visiting the Netherlands last week, to help raise awareness of a cause that she has been advocating for over the last few years. Sophie’s visit focused around the women, peace, and security (WPS) agenda.

On Thursday, Sophie was received by Joanna Roper, the British Ambassador to the Netherlands. Ms Roper was the former U.K. Special Envoy for Gender Equality.

Sophie visited the International Criminal Court. (UK in Netherlands)

The Countess and Ambassador Roper then visited International Criminal Court, where they heard from President Piotr Hofmański, Registrar Peter Lewis, and Prosecutor Karim Khan KC about the Court’s work in holding perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) to account.

After a tour of one of the courtrooms, Judge Piotr Hofmański thanked the Countess for her visit to the Court and said: ‘The support of the international community is of crucial importance for the ability of the International Criminal Court to carry out its vital mandate of justice and accountability.’

Sophie also heard about the work the Court and of the Trust Fund for Victims, particularly in relation to sexual and gender based violence, as well as the protection of victims and witnesses, understanding more about how victims are supported.

HRH heard about the work of the court. (UK in Netherelands).

Sophie learnt about how the UK supports not only the Court’s capabilities to effectively investigate and prosecute CRSV crimes, but also sensitively seek to prevent re-traumatisation of survivors.

Acting Executive Director Franziska Eckelmans said: ‘It was a great honour to meet HRH The Countess of Wessex to discuss transformative reparations & support for survivors of conflict related sexual violence CRSV through TFV projects.’

The Countess of Wessex then took part in a speaking opportunity alongside Princess Mabel, Kitty van der Heijden and representatives from the Mukwege Foundation about tackling conflict related sexual violence, highlighting the importance of survivor voices and why the issue must be kept alive. 

Sophie took part in a speaking session about why sexual violence in conflict must not be an issue to disappear. (UK in Netherlands)

To conclude her first day in the Netherlands, The Countess of Wessex met with leading Dutch women in business to hear more about their experiences of being female leaders in the country. 

They discussed the importance of gender equality, leading by example, and how women should always support other women.

On Friday, the Countess continued her visit to the Netherlands, where she first visited the International Commission on Missing Persons. 

She learnt about how the Commission is addressing the global issue of missing people and heard about their work in their DNA laboratory. 

The Countess of Wessex presenting Duke of Edinburgh Awards. (UK in Netherlands)

The visit also saw Her Royal Highness present Duke of Edinburgh Awards to 24 young people, who had been participating in the scheme. She spoke to the participants about their experiences conducting the Award.

The Countess was appointed as the first Global Ambassador for the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award in 2013.

The Countess planting a tree in memory of her late mother-in-law. (UK in Netherlands)

Concluding her visit to the Netherlands, The Countess of Wessex planted a tree at the British Ambassador to the Netherlands’ Residence, in memory of the late Queen. 

Sophie and her late mother-in-law developed a close relationship over the years, especially with the pair living close by, and having a shared interest for military history.  

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