Human rights policy – Justice and respect for all

‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.’ Martin Luther King, Nobel Laureate and champion of the American civil rights movement.

Human rights are the cornerstone of human dignity, freedom and development, and form the basis for open and free societies all over the world. There can be no democracy or rule of law if these rights are not promoted and protected. The Netherlands has a rich tradition of defending human rights, both at home and abroad. Doing so is a moral and legal obligation, besides which respect for human rights leads to a more stable and prosperous world, which also benefits the Netherlands.

Universal values − on which all our efforts are based − are the point of departure for a proactive human rights policy. These values remain the same, but the context has changed. The rise of new, self-assured actors on the world stage, combined with the ever greater role played by the European Union, make it imperative for the Netherlands to find the best way of shaping its human rights policy in the international arena.

Credibility is another important precondition for operating effectively in an international context. This means maintaining an attitude of openness to recommendations and criticism from outside. It also means shaping a European Union in which we are able to call each other to account where improvements are needed.

Within overall policy, the emphasis lies on protecting human rights defenders, equal rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people (LGBT), and equal rights for women. Other areas in which the Netherlands maintains a strong profile – such as internet freedom and freedom of religion and belief − remain of undiminished importance.

We now intend to establish more strategic alliances with new partners, in order to support progressive forces together. We will do so in innovative ways. The Netherlands will consistently aim to forge partnerships with emerging non-Western countries in the region at issue, so as jointly to broach the issue of the human rights situation in a third country. This trilateral approach achieves better results, besides which it enables our partners to adopt a prominent human rights profile in the region and the world at large. In this context, the Netherlands will make maximum use of innovative solutions – social media, apps, and other internet-based opportunities – to denounce human rights violations.

It is only by cooperating with partners that we can achieve concrete results. By speaking with one voice, the EU can present its message far more forcefully. In bringing specific human rights issues to public attention, it is crucial to be able to rely on UN instruments that are working smoothly. We also make strategic use of our embassies, the Human Rights Fund and the Human Rights Ambassador.