Human rights a Dutch foreign policy priority

Human rights are a priority for Dutch foreign policy. This was foreign minister Frans Timmermans’ message at a meeting on Dutch human rights policy held at Maastricht University.

‘If we want to enjoy human rights ourselves, we need to ensure we stand up for the rights of others, too. Millions of people the world over cannot live as they would wish, cannot be open about who they love, cannot speak out against the authorities, and cannot find a job because they are the wrong religion, colour or gender. It is our duty to stand up for them,’ Mr Timmermans said.

‘Where there are problems with human rights, political and economic instability follows. You can’t build a sustainable society without human rights, the rule of law and democracy. Just look at the Arab world today.’

The meeting was the final step in a consultation process on the 2013 letter to parliament on human rights. In recent weeks, organisations and individuals alike have been invited to share their ideas about Dutch human rights policy by submitting them via the website. This spring the minister will submit a letter detailing his human rights policy to the House of Representatives.

The meeting was opened by guest speakers with experience in the field of human rights. Menno Kamminga, Professor of International Law at Maastricht University and Director of the Maastricht Centre for Human Rights, a student, two Syrian human rights defenders and Koen van Dijk, Director of the Dutch Federation for the Integration of Homosexuality COC all set out their views on the policy and on the Netherlands’ global role.

Questions were welcomed from the floor, via the minister’s Facebook page and via Twitter, using the hashtag #MR2013. The meeting was live streamed on Facebook and on Maastricht University’s website.