Dutch policy

Development cooperation is still vitally needed. There are still millions of people living in extreme poverty. Many people still have no access to clean water. There is high unemployment among women and young people. Moreover, poor countries are the ones hardest hit by climate change.

Need for development cooperation

Development cooperation helps reduce poverty. As a result, fewer people are undernourished, more people get an education and more people have jobs. Worldwide, poverty has been halved since 1990. Of children in developing countries, 90% now attend primary school. The spread of malaria and tuberculosis has been halted. And 2.3 billion people now have access to clean drinking water.

The government believes that development cooperation is still needed because there are more conflicts, refugees and migrants than ever before. Over 68.5 million people around the world are fleeing from war, violence and persecution. There are still 736 million people living in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.90 a day. Almost three quarters of the people in the least developed countries are unable to wash their hands in clean water. Maternal mortality is still high, as is unemployment among women and young people. Furthermore, climate change is making many areas around the world less liveable.

Goals of development cooperation policy

Through its development cooperation policy Dutch central government seeks to achieve the following goals in developing countries:

  • prevent conflicts and instability
    Especially in fragile states and conflict-affected countries, development is lagging. These regions are breeding grounds for radicalisation and migration.

  • reduce poverty and social inequality
    Despite the decline in global poverty, extreme poverty still exists. The government seeks to take targeted measures to reduce poverty even more. Despite the progress that has been made, inequality has increased due to social exclusion, discrimination and violence. The Netherlands is investing in giving everyone a fair chance by supporting organisations that defend human rights, women's rights and the environment.

  • promote sustainable growth and climate action worldwide
    Starting in 2018, the government is spending an additional amount of up to €80 million a year for measures in developing countries to fight climate change. Each year €40 million of this amount will go to a new national fund for climate and development. The fund is intended for Dutch companies with great expertise in water security, sustainable farming, sustainable energy or circular economy that seek to invest in climate projects in developing countries.

Main changes in development cooperation policy

The government made changes to development cooperation policy in 2018. The main changes are:

  • Dutch development cooperation will now concentrate mainly on the unstable regions near Europe: West Africa/the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and North Africa. More aid to these focus countries should address the root causes of poverty, migration, terrorism and climate change.
  • An additional €290 million will be spent each year on emergency aid and the reception of refugees in their regions of origin.
  • There will be a stronger focus on equal opportunities for women and girls.
  • Each year €60 million will be spent through new programmes aimed at education - particularly vocational education - employment and income for young people and women in the focus countries.
  • Up to €80 million extra will be spent each year to fight climate change, half of which will go to the new Dutch Fund for Climate and Development for investments in developing countries.
  • More grants will be available for businesses and knowledge institutions that seek to invest in developing countries, especially in sectors where Dutch trade and industry are global leaders (the Dutch 'top sectors').
  • Government-led trade missions will focus more on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and startups.
  • The government will support Dutch business via NL Trade & Innovate with the Dutch (in Dutch), NL International Business (in Dutch) and Invest NL (in Dutch)
  • The government will grasp the opportunities that digitalisation presents for sustainable growth.

The policy document Investing in Global Prospects: For the World, for the Netherlands explains how these goals will be achieved.

Aid mainly to unstable regions near Europe

Since 2018, the Netherlands has been giving aid mainly to unstable regions near Europe: the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, North Africa and the Middle East. The Netherlands seeks to use this aid to reduce conflicts and terrorism and prevent migration to Europe. Young people in particular are more likely to stay in their own countries if they can develop their talents and earn enough to support themselves and their families. The Netherlands funds programmes for, among other things, education, employment for young people and women, emergency aid and the reception of refugees in their own regions.

Guiding principles of Dutch policy: the UN Sustainable Development Goals

The guiding principles for Dutch development cooperation policy are the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) for 2030.

These SDGs are:

  1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  2. End hunger, achieve food security and promote sustainable agriculture
  3. Healthy lives for all
  4. Inclusive and equitable quality education for all
  5. Gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls
  6. Water and sanitation for all
  7. Access to affordable and sustainable energy for all
  8.  Inclusive economic growth, employment and decent work for all
  9. Infrastructure for sustainable industrialisation
  10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
  11. 1Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. Sustainable consumption and production
  13. Urgent action to combat climate change
  14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans and seas
  15. Protect ecosystems, forests and biodiversity
  16. Promote peaceful societies, effective institutions and access to justice for all
  17. Revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development

The SDGs promote peace and stability in fragile and unstable regions. They can eliminate the breeding grounds for conflicts and radicalisation and restore trust between citizens and the state.
You can read more about the 17 Sustainable Development Goals on the website sustainabledevelopment.un.org.

Financing development policy

The funds that the Netherlands spends on development policy are set out in the Homogeneous Budget for International Cooperation (HGIS) (Dutch), a component of the Dutch central government budget. HGIS expenditure consists of:

  • spending that meets the criteria for Official Development Assistance (ODA)
  • other, non-ODA spending on international policy

The Netherlands uses ODA funds to support education for refugee children, access to social services, protection of vulnerable groups, employment for refugees, and other development programmes.

Official Development Assistance (ODA)

Official Development Assistance (ODA) is aid that meets the criteria set by international agreement for countries’ contributions to development cooperation. The international agreement defines ODA as funds, goods and services that promote economic development and prosperity in developing countries. The countries and territories that qualify for ODA are given on a list issued by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). ODA funds may also be contributed to international development organisations like the United Nations (UN). The Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation is responsible for coordinating the spending of ODA funds.

Agreements on countries’ contributions

The UN member states have agreed that developed countries will spend at least 0.7% of their Gross National Income (GNI) on development cooperation. This is called the OECD target. The Netherlands meets this target. The OECD keeps track of what ODA donors give each year, and how ODA funds are spent.

Theories of Change

To make its development cooperation policy effective and sustainable, Dutch central government works with 'theories of change'. This is a model that gives information about how a process of change works. It shows what the goal is of activities, or of policy in general, and what approach fits this goal. If something decisive changes in the situation, the process of change changes as well.

Read more: Theories of Change for Dutch development cooperation policy (in Dutch)