Top priority for the Netherlands: supporting human rights defenders

The Netherlands supports human rights defenders and organisations in their efforts to secure respect for human rights. In his address to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in Geneva, foreign minister Frans Timmermans stated that this is one of his main priorities.

‘Human rights defenders and organisations are having to deal with more and more obstruction and being treated as criminals,’ Mr Timmermans said. ‘In many more parts of the world, repression directed against bloggers, journalists and members of the public is increasing. This is simply unacceptable.’

Women’s rights

Women’s rights are another of Mr Timmermans’ priorities. The Netherlands takes a stand against every form of violence against women – from rape to honour killing and human trafficking. It is also actively promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights and the participation of women in society. ‘Men must be less self-centred and give women more rights,’ Mr Timmermans continued. ‘This helps the world to move forward – and men benefit from it.’


A third Dutch priority is to promote the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT). In about 80 countries, same-sex relations are a criminal offence and in seven countries, punishable by death. ‘There are three things we need to do,’ said Mr Timmermans. ‘Promote acceptance, fight discrimination and stop the criminalisation of gay people.’

High Commissioner

In Geneva, Mr Timmermans met with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navanetham Pillay. They discussed ways of opposing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. For many years the Netherlands has been one of the biggest donors to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. After his meeting with Ms Pillay, Mr Timmermans had talks with NGOs actively involved in promoting LGBT rights.

Humanitarian aid

Mr Timmermans also talked to the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross about the need for humanitarian aid in Syria and Mali, and to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan about the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Kenya.