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Communication & Engagement Blog

Blog Liana: Rethinking the role of citizens in sustainable development is badly needed

Best wishes for the new year! I am writing this on the train after a CONCORD meeting from Brussels and on my way to Sara Kinsbergen’s inaugural speech in Nijmegen. In Brussels, it is beautifully white from yesterday’s heavy snowfall. The sky is blue and the sun is shining. I am enjoying it when I look out of the window. It is important to do that very consciously every now and then. Enjoy the little things and draw energy from them, I read in a magazine the other day. When the world’s problems are too big to grasp, it is easy to keep worrying about them and become pessimistic. It helps to take a moment and consciously enjoy. So this train ride that falls very inconveniently in the middle of Thursday is actually exactly what I need.   

18 January 2024

I noticed yesterday that NRC signalled fragile confidence among Wilders in the formation process. I find that worrying. Mark Vermeulen, director of the Aids Fund, aptly said in his New Year’s speech: you must not forget that the PVV is a far-right party. Their election manifesto excludes people based on their orientation, religion and beliefs. If this party comes to power, it will have an impact on many people. The PVV is not a democratic party. In what they advocate, there is a danger of excluding population groups and encouraging own people first sentiment.  

That sentiment, by the way, turns out to be amazingly European

I noticed this in Brussels, where I was at CONCORD’s Policy Forum. This is the European umbrella for member and network organisations for development cooperation, such as Partos. In the run-up to the European elections, we are looking at what we want to emphasise from this network in lobbying at both the national and European levels. It is very clear from various forecasts that a significant increase of the extreme/conservative right is also feared in the European elections.  

At the European level, exactly the same trends are at play as in the Netherlands

This is not ridiculous, of course, but we in the Netherlands sometimes act as if the whole world revolves around us, and if you are not careful, you start believing it. It is good to realise that the right-wing wind has been blowing everywhere. The trick now is to still be able to convey the narrative of international solidarity and cooperation and not go along with the narrative that everything must be solved and/or dealt with at home first before we look beyond our borders. This is not an easy task for our sector, but a necessary one. 

The appeal of the underdog

And so I come on my journey to Radboud University in Nijmegen, where Sara Kinsbergen, who was appointed professor in July last year, is giving her inaugural address today: The appeal of the underdog: on the role of citizens in sustainable development. People in the Netherlands can (again) get more involved in sustainable development. Stopping Development Cooperation, as the PVV and other right-wing parties want, would be disastrous for people in disadvantaged positions worldwide. Daar zijn we van overtuigd.  

How to proceed now?

Hopefully, after this afternoon, I will know better how to approach this from Partos. In any case, we have started several lines of action from Lobby and Communication. For instance, prominent figures are being deployed to support our message in the political arena. A communications core group is also working on short-term sector communication and support building. Would you like to participate in this? Then give a call to Sera Koolmees ( Here, we prioritise the short-term actions we can put out now, given the political playing field we are in. The longer-term issue approach, which we discussed at the AGM, will thus start a little later (end of Q1). Together, we remain committed to strengthening our sector.