26 October 2017: the Netherlands announced its new government, known as Rutte III. Who is the new minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation? And what will the government’s plans mean for development cooperation in the near future? An overview.
Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation
The new minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, is a high-flying diplomat who speaks six languages and has a long track record in the Middle East. In 2013 she was appointed Special Coordinator by the Joint Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations for the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria. From 2015 to 2017 she served as the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon. Kaag has also worked for Unicef and in 2016 she was awarded the Dutch Carnegie Foundation Peace Prize.
Development budget reversal
After years of cuts in the Dutch development budget, the new cabinet has reversed this trend. Whereas last period saw a one billion euro budget reduction, the new government will make available at least 400 million euros extra annually. This is still not enough to reach the international norm of 0.7% of GDP, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Focus on migration
Within the development budget, extra funds will be devoted to the causes and consequences of migration. The cabinet intends to focus on improving shelter for migrants in their region of origin. Education for refugee children will be a priority, together with creating employment opportunities for refugees.
Revision of country policy
The list of countries that the Netherlands focuses its assistance efforts on is under review. As a first step Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq will become focus countries. Further discussion is ongoing as to which countries will be added and which countries will be removed from the list for development cooperation.
The current 15 focus countries are:
Aid recipients: Afghanistan, Burundi, Mali, Yemen, Rwanda, South Sudan and the Palestinian Territories.
In transition: Bangladesh, Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique and Uganda.
The former minister for Aid and Development Cooperation Liliane Ploumen announced last year that the development cooperation relationship with Indonesia, Kenya and Ghana would come to an end in 2020.
Aid to refugees will be increased. In addition to providing urgent humanitarian assistance, the Dutch government will increase its focus on improving resilience, prevention and accessibility. The Dutch Relief Alliance, through which urgent humanitarian assistance is coordinated and of which ICCO is a partner, will be continued.
The central themes of the government’s poverty alleviation policy remain the same: 1) sexual and reproductive health and rights, 2) agriculture (formerly food security), 3) water and 4) promotion of rule of law.
The efforts of Dutch civil society organizations and the private sector will be continued for their specific expertise and their sphere of influence.
The International Responsible Business Conduct (IRBC) Agreements will be continued. In two years’ time a review will be held to assess whether compulsory measures should be taken, and if so, what these should be. ICCO participates in the negotiations concerning the Food Industry Agreement.
The funding for tackling child labor will be increased within the development cooperation budget.
A national climate fund will be established within the development cooperation budget to ensure that internationally agreed public and private climate finance is used as efficiently as possible.