Koenders presents new policy letter 'Our Common Concern'

As part of its development cooperation policy, the Netherlands is to invest more in those fragile states that are lagging the furthest behind in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Development minister Bert Koenders announced this in the new policy letter, ‘Our Common Concern: Investing in Development in a Changing World’, presented on 16 October to the House of Representatives.

Global changes and trends make development cooperation essential, says Koenders. Fairer worldwide distribution of welfare, ownership, environmental space and security is a shared priority. Globalisation has necessitated political repositioning and a rethinking of development cooperation. In this connection Koenders announced an intensification of policy in four areas: security and development; growth and distribution; rights and opportunities for women and girls; and sustainability, climate and energy.

Security and development

The good governance criterion has resulted in a lack of funding for the countries that need it the most. Investing in fragile states like Congo gives a major boost to security and development in those countries and creates regional stability. Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, the Great Lakes region and the Middle East will all be receiving extra attention and funding in the coming years.

Equal rights and opportunities for women

Very little progress is being made on Millennium Development Goal 3: promoting gender equality and empowering women, and Millennium Development Goal 5: reducing the maternal mortality rate. An important element of this is sexual and reproductive health and rights. Equal rights for women and girls are an absolute priority for the Dutch government and a precondition for the other Millennium Development Goals.

Economic growth and distribution

In order to help bridge the gap between rich and poor, greater emphasis on growth and the distribution of growth is vital. Countries need to work together to encourage developing countries to participate in the world trade system, and help them to do so. Developing countries themselves need to stimulate both private-sector growth that will benefit the poor, and growth in sectors on which the poor rely, such as agriculture and the informal sector.

Sustainability, climate and energy

In the coming years there will be more focus on the importance of the environment and energy in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It must be recognised that climate change and biomass represent opportunities for developing countries. This must not, however, negatively impact on the access of the poor to scarce natural resources, biodiversity and energy.