Knapen: businesses and NGOs are working together for economic growth
Dutch businesses and civil society organisations are working to help promote economic growth and self-reliance in developing countries. And enthusiasm for such activities is growing, as international cooperation minister Ben Knapen revealed on Monday 4 July 2012 during a debate with the House of Representatives.
According to Mr Knapen, this trend is illustrated by the many applications for new funds for public-private partnerships in the areas of water and food security. These funds give NGOs, businesses and knowledge institutions from the Netherlands and developing countries a helping hand in their efforts to boost enterprise.
After taking office, the Minister introduced a change in policy. There is now more focus on sustainable economic development and support for entrepreneurs like small farmers in developing countries, and this involves governments, business, knowledge institutions and NGOs working together. 'Hundreds of African and Asian small and medium-sized enterprises are profiting from our policy. I believe that the poverty reduction in developing countries is powered by economic development. Providing long-term economic prospects doesn't just help those farmers and small businesses – our own future also looks brighter. If these people can earn a decent living, they can send their children to school. And if that gives us access to sustainable products, that's good for our children's future, too.'
Studies show that businesses still believe investing in Africa to be a risky business. That's why the Netherlands is also using development cooperation to invest in local government accountability, efforts to fight corruption in developing countries, and security and the rule of law. 'This allows us to help create a climate in which economic growth is honest, fair and sustainable. People, planet and profit are all part of the equation.'
International agreements on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability criteria provide the guiding principles for this approach. Big multinationals like Unilever and DSM are already taking the lead. But firms like Rabobank, backed by development funding, are also helping small farmers’ organisations to get access to banking facilities in four African countries and have built up a customer base of around 25,000 clients. To help SMEs meet CSR criteria, Mr Knapen has made vouchers available with which they can offset the cost of advice. CSR Netherlands assists them in this process.