Ad Melkert

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Ad Melkert
PvdA - Ad Melkert2002.jpg
Ad Melkert in 2002
Extraordinary Member
of the Council of State
Assumed office
20 January 2016
Vice PresidentPiet Hein Donner
Thom de Graaf
(from 2018)
Special Representative of the
United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq
In office
7 July 2009 – 1 October 2011
Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon
Preceded byStaffan de Mistura
Succeeded byMartin Kobler
Associate Administrator of the
United Nations Development Programme
In office
1 March 2006 – 7 July 2009
AdministratorKemal Derviş (2006–2006)
Helen Clark (2009)
Preceded byZéphirin Diabré
Succeeded byRebeca Grynspan
Parliamentary leader in the
House of Representatives
In office
10 July 1998 – 16 May 2002
Preceded byJacques Wallage
Succeeded byJeltje van Nieuwenhoven
Parliamentary groupLabour Party
Leader of the Labour Party
In office
15 December 2001 – 16 May 2002
Preceded byWim Kok
Succeeded byWouter Bos
Minister of Social Affairs
and Employment
In office
22 August 1994 – 3 August 1998
Prime MinisterWim Kok
Preceded byBert de Vries
Succeeded byKlaas de Vries
Member of the House of Representatives
In office
19 May 1998 – 17 October 2002
In office
3 June 1986 – 22 Augustus 1994
Parliamentary groupLabour Party
Personal details
Adrianus Petrus Wilhelmus Melkert

(1956-02-12) 12 February 1956 (age 63)
Gouda, Netherlands
Political partyLabour Party (from 1982)
Other political
Political Party of Radicals
Mónica León Borquez
(m. 1986; div. 2013)
Children2 daughters
ResidenceThe Hague, Netherlands
Alma materUniversity of Amsterdam
(Bachelor of Social Science, Master of Social Science)
OccupationPolitician · Diplomat · Civil servant · Nonprofit director · Trade association executive · Sport administrator · Activist

Adrianus Petrus Wilhelmus "Ad" Melkert (Dutch: [ˈɑt ˈmɛlkərt] (About this soundlisten); born 12 February 1956) is a Dutch politician and diplomat of the Labour Party (PvdA) and nonprofit director. He is a Extraordinary Member of the Council of State since 20 January 2016 and the Chairman of the Hospitals association since 1 January 2019. He also serves as Chairman of the Supervisory board of football club ADO Den Haag since 17 February 2018.

Melkert was elected as a Member of the House of Representatives after the election of 1986, he served in the House of Representatives from 3 June 1986 until 22 August 1994. After the election of 1994 Melkert was appointed as Minister of Social Affairs and Employment in the Cabinet Kok I, serving from 22 August 1994 until 3 August 1998. After the election of 1998 per his request he was not considered for ministerial post in the Cabinet Kok II as he wanted to focus on his candidacy to succeed Wim Kok as the next Leader of the Labour Party. Melkert returned to the Member of the House of Representatives on 19 May 1998 and became the Parliamentary leader of the Labour Party in the House of Representatives on 10 July 1998 and became the unofficial Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and the presumed de facto next Leader in all but name. After the incumbent Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party Wim Kok announced his retirement from national politics before the election of 2002 he endorsed Melkert as his successor. After Kok stood down on 15 December 2001, Melkert was chosen to succeed him en became the Leader of the Labour Party and Lijsttrekker (top candidate) of the Labour Party for the election of 2002.

Melkert and Hans Dijkstal were the front runners to become the next Prime Minister in the early stages of the campaign, but the unexpected arrival of Pim Fortuyn of Livable Netherlands (LN) and later the Pim Fortuyn List (LPF), turned the polls. Fortuyn blamed the problems in the country on the Purple cabinets (in which both Melkert and Dijkstal served as ministers) and depicted Melkert and Dijkstal as two bureaucrats who were out of touch with the voter's concerns. During the election Fortuyn accused Melkert of the demonization of his character and personal integrity. After a heated campaign Fortuyn was assassinated in Hilversum a mere nine days before polling day. The Labour Party suffered a landslide defeat in the election, losing 23 seats, Melkert was blamed for the defeat primary because of his technocratic leadership in contrast to the more charismatic Fortuyn. After Fortuyn's assassination Melkert received death threats and sequentially left national politics. He resigned as Leader and Parliamentary leader of the Labour Party in the House of Representatives on 16 May 2002 and gave up his seat in the House of Representatives on 17 October 2002.

Following his career in Dutch politics, he worked at the World Bank and the United Nations.


Early life[edit]

Adrianus Petrus Wilhelmus Melkert was born into a Roman Catholic middle-class family in Gouderak, a small village situated in the province of South Holland. His father was a barber. Melkert attended a Roman Catholic primary school in Moordrecht until 1968, after which he continued his studies at the Coornhert Gymnasium in Gouda, a state school specialising in the arts. In the final year of his secondary education, he worked for a greengrocer at the local market. Melkert graduated in 1974 and went on to study political science at the University of Amsterdam. During this period he became active within the radical left-wing Christian Political Party of Radicals (PPR) party and served as a member of the board of the youth organisation of the PPR between 1978 and 1980. He went on to become a member of the general board of the Dutch branch of the European Movement, the chairperson of the Council of European National Youth Committees and the chairperson of the Dutch Platform for International Youth Work. In 1979 he was elected into the party board of the PPR, and was 3rd candidate on the PPR's list for the 1979 European Parliament elections. He graduated in 1981 and received the Dutch Society for International Relations prize for best Master's thesis of 1981, the subject of which dealt with the foreign policy of the Den Uyl cabinet.

In 1981 he became general secretary of the youth forum of the European Community in Brussels. In this capacity he attended an illegal youth conference in Chile, then ruled by Pinochet. Meanwhile, tensions within the PPR had escalated. Melkert was a member of the so-called, 'Blues' or 'Godebald' group of radicals, which favoured closer cooperation with the social-democrat Labour Party (PvdA) and the social-liberal Democrats 66 (D66) party. The conflict came to an end in 1981. The 'Reds', who favoured closer cooperation with the left-wing socialist Pacifist Socialist Party (PSP) party and the communist Communist Party of the Netherlands (CPN) party, and the 'Greens', who favoured an independent Green Party, joined forces. Many 'Blues', including Melkert, left the PPR for the PvdA. In 1984 he became director of international affairs at Oxfam Novib, the Dutch branch of Oxfam, and moved to The Hague. He also became a member of the board of the local PvdA branch. In 1986 he published a book on international development in the Netherlands titled: The Next Minister: Development Cooperation with the Cabinet, 1965 – 19?


In 1996 Melkert was elected into the House of Representatives. In the early years, he was the party's spokesperson on foreign affairs, development cooperation and environmental affairs.

After the 1989 elections he took the post of financial spokesperson of the PvdA, becoming the party's primary spokesperson in the debates on the national budget. Between 1990 and 1994 he was vice-chairman of the parliament's committee on finance.

As an MP, Melkert also participated in several boards of civil society organisations. He was a member of the board of advisers of the Foundation for Communication on Development Cooperation, chairman of the Foundation for Development Cooperation Almere-Port Sudan, and vice-chairman of the Atlantic Committee. Also, he wrote a column in the region newspaper, De Gooi- en Eemlander, that covered Hilversum and the Almere region.

In 1994 Melkert became the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment in the first cabinet of prime minister, Wim Kok. He held responsibility for one of its main goals, which, in the words of those who shaped the cabinet was: Employment, Employment, Employment. As minister, Melkert was known for his work ethic. Each Friday he would fill a postman's cart, which he had bought specifically for that purpose, with dossiers. Upon his return to work the following Monday all the dossiers would have been read. His work ethic was also noticeable in the vast amount of policies and laws he initiated during his tenure as minister.

  • In 1995 he initiated a plan to employ 40.000 long-term unemployed. They would be offered a so-called, Melkert-job, mostly in the public sector e.g. tram conductor, high school janitor etc. These jobs were subsidised by the national government.
  • In 1995 Melkert also published a note, The Other Side of the Netherlands, in which he proposed several plans to combat silent poverty and social exclusion. This led to the 1997 law: Prevention and Combat of Poverty and Social Exclusion. It changed the social security and the old age pension laws, giving municipalities more ways of offering special social benefits to the poorest citizens.
  • In the same year he also wrote the note, Flexibility and Certainty, in which proposals for a more flexible labour market were made.
  • In 1997, in collaboration with Frank de Grave, the VVD (Liberal) state secretary of social affairs, he published the note, Working on Security, in which the future of the social security system was researched. It included plans to reform the way old-age pensions were financed.
  • In the same year he also initiated a White Cleaners plan, which stimulated the hiring of cleaners by individuals with the added responsibility of paying taxes and social benefits. The plan was intended to combat unemployment of the least educated, and the informal economy.
  • In addition, he united all employment laws, such as the Youth Work law, as well as the 'job-pools' into one Law Activation Working-Seeking, which offered municipalities more possibilities to employ the long-term unemployed.

As minister of Social Affairs he often came into conflict with the VVD's (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy) Minister of Finance, Gerrit Zalm.

Following the 1998 general elections in which Melkert was the PvdA's fifth ranking candidate, he became leader of the PvdA in parliament. He also served as chair of the parliament's committee on Information and Security Services. During his period as chairman, the party discipline tightened. The PvdA's image appeared arrogant. A conflict situation between Melkert and Rob van Gijzel, a popular PvdA MP, regarding the post of spokesperson on fraud in the construction sector, resulted in Van Gijzel leaving parliament. Despite concerns regarding Melkert's policy of marginalising and isolating the Socialist Party, he was seen as a competent politician, and was designated to succeed prime minister, Wim Kok, who officially retired as leader of the PvdA in 2001.

Special Representative of the United Nations Ad Melkert and Vice President of the United States Joe Biden during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on 5 January 2010.

Elections of 2002[edit]

Melkert became the PvdA's top candidate for the 2002 elections. It was widely anticipated that either he or the leader of the VVD, Hans Dijkstal, would become the next prime minister, and that the elections would revolve around the question as to whether the conservative liberal VVD or the PvdA would become the largest party.

However, the elections took an unexpected turn when Pim Fortuyn, a flamboyant populist, entered the political arena. Focusing his campaign on issues of immigration, integration and the state of the public sector, Fortuyn was intent on exposing the PvdA as being responsible for what he termed, Eight years of Purple ruin – referring to the red and blue combination of the social and liberal coalition that had governed the Netherlands during the preceding eight years. In several television debates between Melkert and Fortuyn it became apparent that Melkert was no match for Fortuyn's rather unconventional, though highly charismatic debating style. In the now infamous debate on the night when the results of the 2002 municipal elections were telecast, Fortuyn, having just won the elections in Rotterdam, made a lively, enthusiastic impression, rarely missing an opportunity to mock his opponent who appeared to sit with a degree of discomfort. The incompatibility of the two men dominated the rest of the election campaign. In a one-on-one debate during the programme, Network, their vastly different styles were once again highlighted. To every question posed by the host, Melkert responded with a detailed course of action. With regard to Fortuyn's plans, Melkert demanded 'footnotes!', implying that his opponent's contribution was unrealistic and devoid of detail. There were those who perceived this as arrogance on his part.

Steps were taken to redress the possibility of a negative, bureaucratic image and it was revealed that Melkert was an avid follower of Feyenoord football club and enjoyed culinary pursuits: a cookbook was published on his personal website. In May 2006 Melkert revealed to politician-turned-television personality, Paul Rosenmöller, that perhaps by being too entrenched in the confines of the governmental tower, his demeanour had come across as somewhat patronising: something that did not appeal to the voter.

On 6 May 2002, nine days before the election Pim Fortuyn was assassinated by a 32-year-old environmental activist. A few relatively minor riots erupted in The Hague where Melkert was at the time, urging him to make a quick departure from the city. After receiving death threats, including a loaded gun in the mail, he and his family temporarily went into hiding.

Melkert's PvdA lost nearly half its seats, decreasing from 45 to 23 in the 150 seat House of Representatives. The party fell from 1st to 4th place. Melkert resigned as political leader on election night and was replaced by former speaker of the House of Representatives, Jeltje van Nieuwenhoven. Melkert remained in parliament for a short time afterwards. His last major parliamentary debate was on the state of the European Union.

World Bank and the United Nations[edit]

In November, 2002 Melkert was appointed executive director of the World Bank. In April 2005 he was a serious candidate for the post of Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It went, however, to the Turkish economist and politician, Kemel Dervis. In January 2006 Melkert was appointed Associate Administrator of the UNDP. In 2009 Melkert was appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Iraq. He was a candidate to succeed Juan Somavía as Director-General of the International Labour Organization but lost to Guy Ryder.[1]


Ribbon bar Honour Country Date Comment
NLD Order of Orange-Nassau - Officer BAR.png Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau Netherlands 30 October 1998


  1. ^ ‹See Tfd›(in Dutch) Melkert geen topman bij ILO, NOS, May 28, 2012

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Jacques Wallage
Parliamentary leader of the
Labour Party in the
House of Representatives

Succeeded by
Jeltje van Nieuwenhoven
Deputy Leader of
the Labour Party

Succeeded by
Jeltje van Nieuwenhoven
Preceded by
Wim Kok
Lijsttrekker of the
Labour Party

Succeeded by
Wouter Bos
Preceded by
Wim Kok
Leader of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
Wouter Bos
Political offices
Preceded by
Bert de Vries
Minister of Social Affairs
and Employment

Succeeded by
Klaas de Vries
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Pieter Sterk
Executive Director of the
World Bank Group

Succeeded by
Herman Wijffels
Executive Director of the
International Monetary Fund

Preceded by
Zéphirin Diabré
Associate Administrator of the
United Nations Development Programme

Succeeded by
Rebeca Grynspan
Preceded by
Staffan de Mistura
Special Representative of the
United Nations Assistance
Mission for Iraq

Succeeded by
Martin Kobler
Business positions
Preceded by
Yvonne van Rooy
Chairman of the
Hospitals association

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Hui Wang
Chairman of the Supervisory board
of ADO Den Haag