Royalty and the UN, the two phases of Queen Máxima

 Edition 30 October 2018, by Bárbara Luque Alanís

Queen Máxima has been working a side job for several years now. Since 2009, apart from her duties as a member of the Dutch royal family, she has taken on the UN role of Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA). In contrast to her royal role, in which she primarily draws public attention by her fashion choices as a queen and by her support to the head of state, her duties as a UN advocate have her working worldwide to make financial services accessible to everyone and to improve consumer protection and financial skills.

As a UN consultant, Máxima is based in New York, where she makes speeches and speaks with heads of state, ministers and top bankers on the primary issues that have to do with her assignment. “The ultimate goal of our work is to improve the lives of people with low incomes,” she stated in the Annual Report to the Secretary-General, published in September 2018. Annette Herfkens, managing director at Banco Santander for many years, has expressed her admiration for the way Queen Máxima does her job, by calling attention to not so obvious social problems. “It’s very self-evident to us, having a bank account and a credit card, but imagine that you do not have one, which brings with it a lot of difficulties. People do not realize how much time it takes to be poor,” says Herfkens. “And in large parts of the world it is not for everyone, and there is plenty of abuse of people who have to arrange everything with cash.” As years pass and technology advances, people without access to banking services are at a clear disadvantage. That is why in this capacity Queen Máxima advises the UN Secretary-General, as she is committed to help low-income groups and small and mediumsized companies.

Máxima aspires to achieve that everyone can enjoy services that range from simply opening a bank or savings account to taking out insurance or loans. She argues that access to these services is crucial for creating and accelerating sustainable economic growth, job creation and promoting social development, as well as the selfdevelopment of people. In her speeches, the Queen explains in detail what financial services mean for social benefits, by discussing topics such as entrepreneurship, innovation, climate change, sustainability, consumerism, emancipation of women, (banking) payments, economic growth, start-up companies and financial education throughout the world. According to Herfkens, Máxima has excelled in drawing attention to these issues.

When she was asked to be a UN advocate, Máxima received criticism for being a European royal in a role that didn’t mean much in terms of content. But since then, she has been able to silence her critics, as she is not someone who accepts a job consisting of empty ceremony and takes her commitments very seriously. To separate her from her role as European royal, during her visits to the UN she doesn’t wave the Dutch flag, as she is not there on behalf of the Netherlands. Although in her royal functions she is always accompanied by a ladyin- waiting, this is not the case at the UN. Neither does she draw attention to herself by wearing ‘royal fashion’, as her attire is much more businesslike.

Of course, being a queen opens doors for her, and she knows how to use this to her advantage. There’s no question that Máxima uses her reputation, charisma and status in a very productive way, primarily in benefit of the UN. “I really believe that if we give people the opportunity, they will always take the opportunity to make something better out of their lives. That is something I have always tried to do. It is not about a financial service, that is a means. Ultimately, the goal is that people’s lives really get better. That they can take care of themselves. And, like everyone else, I want the whole country to benefit from it. That is the ultimate goal,” the Queen told Max Magazine in June 2017.