Greater efforts needed to ensure respect and justice for all, says Koenders

‘Protecting global human rights means more than ticking off items on a list or making grand pronouncements. Instead of indulging in empty rituals, we need to truly help victims of human rights violations.’ Foreign minister Bert Koenders delivers this message in the Human Rights Report 2014, which he sent to parliament today. The report summarises the government’s human rights activities in 2014.

Mr Koenders says that current international developments and their impact on human rights are confronting the Netherlands with new challenges. Huge numbers of civilians are affected by national or regional conflicts and often face extreme forms of violence. Human rights are also coming under serious pressure in many countries that are free of conflict. Civil society organisations face growing restrictions, the right to voice criticism is under attack, human rights defenders are being threatened, and those guilty of assaulting or murdering journalists are not being brought to justice.

 ‘Now is the time to redouble our efforts to ensure respect and justice for all, as set out in the government’s human rights letter of June 2013,’ writes Mr Koenders. ‘We are committed to engaging in dialogue and cooperation to advance the cause of universal human rights throughout the world.’

In 2014 the Netherlands made a major effort to promote humans rights worldwide. In its direct contacts with countries and in international organisations it focused on the following priority themes: human rights defenders, equal rights for LGBTs, equal rights for women, the most flagrant violations (including torture and the death penalty), freedom of expression and internet freedom, freedom of religion and belief, human rights and development, and business and human rights.
To achieve results, the Netherlands is seeking to work with a wide range of partners at different levels. They are often non-Western partners, because those familiar with the local context and sensibilities often know how human rights issues can best be tackled.

The Netherlands also works closely on human rights with the European Union, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the United Nations. Its main instruments for promoting human rights are the embassies, the Human Rights Ambassador and the Human Rights Fund. Human rights are also raised during visits abroad by Dutch government ministers.