Dutch development policy

Development cooperation is still necessary. The world faces immense challenges. The coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine put a strain on progress made in recent decades, and this is also a critical time as regards the climate issue. 

Need for development cooperation

Development cooperation helps reduce poverty. It also helps improve healthcare, hygiene, nutrition and water quality. This leads to fewer people being malnourished and increases life expectancy. In the space of 20 years, extreme poverty has been halved worldwide. In the last 25 years, child mortality has fallen from 27,000 to 15,000 deaths a day. Moreover, there has been a sharp rise in child vaccinations. 

The government continues to see a need for development cooperation. Worldwide, more than 100 million people have fled their homes to escape conflict and violence. Some 805 million – one in nine people – still face the threat of hunger and malnutrition. In 2020, one in four people around the world had no access to safe drinking water. 

On top of that, the poorest countries are the hardest hit by climate change. Droughts and floods are becoming more common. In 2022, for instance, Pakistan experienced devastating floods as a result of climate change. Thousands died. Many were made homeless, and harvests were lost. Yet at the same time, the east of Africa is experiencing extreme drought.

Development policy targets

Through its development policy, the government seeks to:

  • Prevent conflicts and instability 
    Fragile states and countries in conflict fall far behind in terms of development. The Dutch government seeks to tackle the root causes of terrorism and undocumented migration. The Netherlands is working to combat human trafficking and people smuggling, improve border control and promote the voluntary return of failed asylum seekers. 
  • Reduce poverty and social inequality 
    There are still people living in extreme poverty. Existing social inequalities have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and the war in Ukraine. The Netherlands supports organisations that champion human rights, gender equality, food security and climate action. In this way, the Netherlands invests in fairer opportunities.
  • Eliminate HIV and tuberculosis worldwide 
    The government aims to eliminate HIV and tuberculosis by 2030, as stated in the Dutch Global Health Strategy. The Netherlands will increase its contribution to the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), as well as to WHO and UNAIDS.
  • Promote sustainable growth and climate action worldwide
    From 2023, the government is earmarking an extra €109 million a year for measures to tackle climate change in developing countries. The money will also be used to combat deforestation. The Netherlands is investing in green energy in Africa, as well as working with businesses to raise €1.8 billion for climate funds by 2025. 
  • Achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 
    The government is making an extra effort to work with developing countries to achieve the United Nations’ SDGs. For example, through digitalisation and increased partnership between government and businesses. 

Main changes in development policy

In 2022, the government modified its development policy. The main changes are as follows:

  • An increase in the development budget. This will amount to an extra €300 million a year in the 2022-2024 period, and an extra €500 million a year as of 2025.
  • A greater focus on combining foreign trade and aid. 
  • Concentrating efforts on themes where the Netherlands has special expertise, like water and agriculture, as well as sexual and reproductive health and rights. The Netherlands intends to do more, in fewer countries, with a focus on fewer themes. 
  • Considerably greater investment in international climate policy. The Netherlands wants to increase its total climate funding to more than €1.8 billion in 2025.
  • Greater investment in global health: from €106 million in 2023 to €125 million in 2025.
  • As of 2023, an extra €150 million a year for humanitarian aid. 
  • Extra investment in the reception and protection of refugees in the region. The Netherlands has earmarked extra funding for this purpose: up to €195 million as of 2025.  
  • Greater investment in vocational education, to train young people for jobs.

How the government intends to achieve these goals is set out in the policy document ‘Do what we do best’.

Combining foreign trade and development cooperation

To enhance results, in the coming years the Netherlands will be investing more in efforts to combine foreign trade and development cooperation. Dutch businesses possess a great deal of expertise on innovative solutions for global challenges such as climate change. The government is incentivising businesses to launch operations in developing countries, thus helping these countries to develop further. This will cause an increase in prosperity, making it easier for these countries to develop into trade partners. This also has advantages for Dutch businesses, facilitating their access to new markets. 

The Netherlands is focusing on 14 ‘combination countries’ where the government will combine development cooperation efforts with trade and investment. These are countries where Dutch expertise can make a positive contribution to sustainable economic development. The main focus is on boosting climate resilience and connecting people to digital infrastructure. To this end, the government is working with Dutch businesses, civil society organisations and local partners. In 2023 the government is investing €84 million in these efforts, a sum that will increase to €190 million annually.  

Funding development policy

Dutch expenditure on development policy is set out in the Budget, in the policy document Homogeneous Budget for International Cooperation (HGIS) (in Dutch). HGIS expenditure consists of:

  • spending categorised as Official Development Assistance (ODA);
  • spending on international policy (‘non-ODA’).

Official Development Assistance (ODA)

Official Development Assistance (ODA) is an internationally agreed indicator of government aid provided to developing countries. It refers to money, goods or services that promote the economic development and welfare of such countries. For example, the Netherlands uses ODA to support programmes providing education for refugee children, access to facilities, protection for vulnerable groups and jobs for refugees.

The countries and regions that receive support are listed by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Funding given to international development agencies like the United Nations (UN) is also categorised as ODA. The Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation is responsible for coordinating ODA resources.

Agreement on countries’ contributions 

UN member countries have agreed to spend 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on Official Development Assistance. This is sometimes referred to as the OECD norm. The OECD keeps an annual record of countries’ ODA expenditure and how it is disbursed. The added investments earmarked by the government for climate, health and migration brings the Netherlands closer to the international norm.