This issue contains 4 sections.
Freedom and prosperity
Respect for human rights often goes hand in hand with economic development. When people can govern their own country together in freedom, it generates peace, stability and confidence in the future – important conditions for a good business climate. That benefits not only the people of the country but also international businesses that invest in the country, including Dutch companies.
Fundamental labour standards (ILO) and a level playing field
The Netherlands argues forcefully for the universal ratification and implementation of the four fundamental labour standards of the International Labour Organization (ILO): the elimination of child labour, a ban on forced labour, non-discrimination and the freedom of association. By promoting these fundamental labour standards the Netherlands helps increase economic opportunities for companies. Good working conditions at Dutch businesses encourage motivation and loyalty on the part of staff and thereby productivity. In addition, encouraging foreign companies to respect labour standards contributes to a level playing field. If international standards like those of the ILO are respected worldwide, Dutch companies will not be at risk of losing part of their market to companies that can offer lower prices by exploiting their employees.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR)
The Netherlands attaches great importance to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and wishes to support the business community where possible in responding adequately to human rights challenges. Companies that operate internationally have a major responsibility in terms of CSR. The Netherlands will give extra support to the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on business and human rights, John Ruggie, who recently drew up UN guidelines on the responsibility of companies in complying with international human rights standards. One relevant initiative in which the Netherlands is involved is the Voluntary Principles for Security and Human Rights for the extractive sector. The Voluntary Principles were drawn up in response to concerns of governments, the business community and NGOs about the social environment and conditions in which this industry often operates in terms of safety and human rights. They offer companies active in this sector practical guidelines on how to promote human rights and a safe working environment.
Human rights as a contribution to development
The Netherlands is working to ensure that human rights, such as land rights and the right to food and water, are observed in relation to development.
The Netherlands uses development aid to improve the human rights situation in other countries, for example by supporting education, health care or water supply. Providing information on human rights is also a form of development aid. People can only stand up for their rights if they know what their rights are.
Human rights clauses in development aid agreements
As human rights violations occur regularly in many countries that receive development aid, EU member states include a human rights clause in all their development cooperation agreements. The clause states that the member state will only provide aid if the recipient country improves the situation in respect of human rights, democracy and justice. If a developing country does not comply with the terms of this clause, the EU can suspend its aid.
The Millennium Development Goals and human rights
In 2000 the member states of the United Nations agreed to achieve substantial progress in the fields of poverty, education, health and the environment before 2015. These aims were laid down in eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs are closely related to human rights, such as equal opportunities for women and girls, the right to water, and mothers’ and children’s right to care.