Far before the social media era, young Europeans used to travel a long way to find out about things that you can readily have access to in a split second today using a phone App.
An Inter Rail trip around Europe at the age of 19 was an eye opener for EUCAP Somalia’s Senior Legal Advisor Christiaan Moll, today in his early 60s. He travelled to Geneva, Switzerland, and visited the United Nations Human Rights headquarters. Through an informative guided tour he learned about some good that could be done in the world, advocating for the respect of Human Rights and protecting the vulnerable and less well off.
Already as a schoolboy, Christiaan, who is from The Netherlands, was an avid newspaper reader. His favourite pages were the foreign affairs ones. In those years, the world was divided by an Iron Curtain. The cold war between East and West was perceived as a very real and imminent threat. The fear of a missile landing in one’s bedroom was a frequent nightmare in Amsterdam as well as in Moscow.
This was one of the reasons Christiaan wanted to become an aviator in the Airforce. However, during the 80’s dire economic times meant placements for Dutch aviation recruits was very limited and Christiaan didn’t get in. The Naval College was his second option with the idea of aiming to be selected as an aviator at a later stage. After all, water sports were part of his life as he sailed from an early age and was also a keen scuba diver, windsurfer and kite surfer.
The passion for international relations, international law and the security sector was the driving force behind his decision to study International Law at the University of Amsterdam, where he enrolled in 1986.
The Dutch Ministry of Defence would be the following step of a journey started years earlier on an Inter Rail train. Christiaan’s career would take him to specialise in subjects such as International Legal Development, policy advisor on public sector labour governance, workplace ethics-dispute resolution and international capacity building projects on regulatory governance and reform. He co-founded and directed the European Academy for Law and Legislation (EALL), aimed at creating an international community of professionals in law and legislation -in Europe and beyond.
Needless to say, with such a background, international organisations are an environment where Christiaan Molls feels at home. In fact, he worked for many: the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the European Union, the United Nations and the World Bank. The list is not exhaustive.
This extensive experience brought Christiaan to ask himself over and over how to deliver a common good? Sound institutions and sound leadership is the answer.
According to Christiaan, without these pre-conditions it is hard for international engagement to work where efforts are needed.
“I came to acknowledge more and more that integrity and good leadership come before good governance and Rule of Law,” says Christiaan, while sipping coffee at the canteen of the International Campus compound, located in the perimeter of the Mogadishu International Airport (MIA), where he lives now and works.
“Even with the best intentions and money spent, projects can hardly work without political will and commitment,” says Christiaan, explaining that this fact brought him to specialize at the International Anti-Corruption Academy.
Christiaan joined EUCAP Somalia as a serving diplomat for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to come as Senior Legal Adviser/Chief of Rule of Law Advisory Unit in our Mission in 2018.
Somalia to Christiaan is the place making the stars align, as his knowledge and experience in international law, anti-corruption, international development plus his navy background (as the Mission focuses on Maritime security) will be most utilised.
The Mission’s Rule of Law Advisory Unit main interlocutors are Somalia’s Attorney General, the Ministry of Justice and the Courts. When working with his Somali colleagues from these institutions, the echo of the quarter of century of civil war spills into the activities, one way or the other, says Christiaan.
“The more senior among our colleagues can compare how things were before and after the war. A war which brought total destruction. Then there are the Somalis of the Diaspora who left easier places to live to re-build this country. Finally, there are young men and women who grew up here and never saw anything than war,” he continues.
Asked how he copes and deals with such situations in his work, he answers: “I try to be modest and humble as we come from very privileged situations”. “The reality is that it is only possible to go ahead in small steps as the constraints are what they are,” adds Christiaan.
Christiaan Moll has been a board member of Transparency International Netherlands (TI-NL) since 2012 and has worked closely with TI-UK and the TI International Secretariat (Berlin) on advocacy and as a peer reviewer. He also served the Board of the Institute for Financial Crime (IFFC, The Hague), from 2016 to 2018. The organisation deems Somalia as the country with the highest rate of corruption worldwide. The drive to help his fellow Somali Rule of Law specialists and advocates made him come to Mogadishu. He had another job offer in Kiev, Ukraine at the same time. He chose what he felt was the right thing to do.
His journey to try and make good in the world started on the Inter Rail about four decades ago is still far from reaching its destination.