International cooperation for peace, security and prosperity

Working for peace, security and sustainable development: this is the core of the Netherlands’ integrated foreign policy for the coming financial year as presented on Prince's Day. Diplomacy, development cooperation, defence and trade are all tools for tackling the root causes of poverty, irregular migration, terrorism and climate change. By working closely with our partners in the EU, UN and NATO, we can act effectively and make a difference.

Image: Valerie Kuypers
The briefcase containing the budget statements in the House of Representatives.

Prevent and protect

In the years ahead, the government will invest additional resources in diplomacy, so as to tackle the root causes of migration and human trafficking, work more closely with the Netherlands’ European partners and keep our country safe. ‘By continuing to pursue dialogue, we wield an effective tool for preventing conflict,’ says foreign minister Stef Blok. The planned spending increases on the mission network are already well under way, having been in progress for several months now. The €10 million increase announced for 2018 will be spent among other things on hiring new staff in focus countries like Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. Over the next few years this spending increase will rise further, to €40 million annually, to equip the foreign ministry better to defend Dutch interests and the interests of Dutch nationals abroad.

If we cannot prevent conflict by diplomatic means, Dutch interests must be defended in other ways. The government’s international security policy therefore focuses on the countries and regions with the greatest significance for the Netherlands’ security and the security of other parts of the Kingdom. This means that it will continue to be active in Lithuania, Iraq and Afghanistan. ‘With additional spending on cybersecurity and our role as Co-Chair of the Global Counterterrorism Forum,’ adds Mr Blok, ‘we’re also defending the Netherlands against new threats.’

The government is also stepping up its efforts to protect the many Dutch nationals abroad. Dutch people make a total of roughly 20 million foreign trips each year. There are also about one million Dutch nationals living in other countries. They sometimes need Dutch government assistance, for instance if they experience difficulties as a result of natural disasters or accidents. They sometimes need help as well in obtaining a new driving licence or passport, child benefit or student finance. The government seeks to create a one-stop shop where Dutch nationals abroad can get information about Dutch central government services. This International Desk, available to Dutch nationals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, will be established in the next few years.

Investing in Prospects

For foreign trade and development minister Sigrid Kaag, crisis prevention and offering people hope for the future are central to her policy, ‘We have to give people a chance to lead better lives,’ she says. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed at the UN are the guiding thread in Dutch efforts to these ends. For example, the Netherlands will be spending an additional €60 million on education, jobs for young people and better opportunities for women. Responding to the sharp increase in the number of refugees and displaced persons, the Dutch budget for humanitarian aid will rise by €165 million in 2019, to €370 million. Ms Kaag will also launch a new initiative for psychosocial care. ‘Refugees experience terrible things, and are at high risk of traumas,’ she says. ‘This problem has not been sufficiently recognised, but needs to be tackled quickly.’

Strengthening Dutch foreign trade

In further strengthening Dutch foreign trade, increasing access to international markets is key. The specifics of Dutch efforts will be outlined in the forthcoming policy document on trade. Linked to trade policy, service provision will be improved to SMEs and startups that seek to do business internationally. For trade policy, too, the SDGs are the point of departure. ‘With their knowledge and skills, our Dutch top sectors are pre-eminently suited to boost our efforts to achieve greater prosperity and security, a healthier living environment and a better climate for billions of people,’ says Ms Kaag. ‘The SDGs provide a model both for improving policy and earning money in these fields – for SMEs as well as big companies.’

In 2019 the investment institution Invest NL will set to work. It will use its €2.5 billion in capital to support companies in bringing products to market worldwide and financing international projects.