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Lobby & Advocacy News

OECD: “Netherlands doing well on development cooperation but must continue to pay attention”

The OECD-DAC peer review of the Netherlands is a high-quality report with very good analysis and recommendations. The peer reviewers signalled that the Netherlands is leading the way in a number of areas. SRGR sets a good example for the Netherlands. For example, the Feminist Foreign Policy was cited as good practice, and with its commitment to making trade chains more sustainable, the Netherlands is showing its best side. The report aims to anchor policy strengths and learn how some things can be improved. The OECD gives 10 recommendations, all of which are important and relevant, and from which Partos picks out three that require extra attention. 

05 October 2023

Reccomandation 1 – Development budget

To ensure the continuity and predictability of commitment to development cooperation, the Netherlands should continue to limit the effects of fluctuating asylum costs on ODA and maintain the positive trend towards 0.7% of GNI.  

The OECD asks the Netherlands to be cautious in applying the rule that first-year reception of asylum seekers is paid from the ODA budget. Partos cannot underline this enough. In any case, we would like to see the Netherlands increase the ODA budget to 0.7% and be among the progressive countries in Europe.  

In the situation we are in now, the ODA budget is increasingly being planned to pay for asylum costs. In other words, it is budgeted to pay for costs. But this is not the intention of this rule. It is meant to meet unforeseen costs in emergencies. Meanwhile, the Netherlands should be able to estimate and budget for first-year asylum reception costs in its regular budget, which lies with the Ministry of Justice and Security and not BHOS. Increasing costs in the Netherlands should not come at the expense of budgets for the poorest countries.  

Partos calls for a cap on these costs paid from the BHOS budget in the short term. We want predictability for the sector. Organisations make agreements with partners for long-term programmes and want to be able to honour those agreements. We really need a long breath for system change, and then cuts halfway through a period are more than unpleasant.  

Recommendation 9 – Policy Coherence & Global Citizenship

To increase engagement for all stakeholders on development policy coherence challenges, the Dutch government should ensure that line ministries systematically test and evaluate the global and cross-border impacts of their policies, increase the use of multistakeholder consultations for policy coherence, and continue to invest in global citizenship.  

Especially that last sentence; investing in global citizenship, cannot be overemphasised. Policy coherence is critical. And the Netherlands is already making good efforts in this regard under the keen eye of the SDG coordinator. Civil society also plays an essential role by using campaigns to highlight inconsistent policies (think of the anti-Fossil Subsidy campaign). But global citizenship has disappeared from the agenda, and it is precisely for support among the Dutch population that this is crucial.  

Arguments such as “the ministry finances its own support”, as once raised by one party, must be actively refuted. It is of common interest to look beyond the borders of the Netherlands and Europe. Climate change is not happening at its fiercest in the Netherlands. What we are experiencing is nothing compared to what African, South Asian and Southeast Asian countries are currently facing. What we decide to do in terms of policy and pollution in our hemisphere has a lot of impact on climate change. If you want to enable people to make good choices, choices that sometimes hurt, you will have to make them understand what is happening elsewhere in the world. Global citizenship is a means to that end. The government’s contribution is necessary because the seeds of this awareness can be laid in education.  

Recommendation 10 – Help and Trade Agenda

The Netherlands should ensure that in cooperation with the private sector, maximum development impact continues to weigh more heavily in decision-making than commercial goals. In private sector development, coherence between initiatives for systemic change is increased.

What has been identified in several evaluations recently is that Dutch development policy regularly suffers from wishful thinking. We want to work magic with money and devise all kinds of constructions to avoid saying: we give money to poor countries in the hope that it will alleviate poverty. That is too non-committal and too politically sensitive. We hang everything on the various SDGs and their sub-goals, but forget that SDG 1, fighting poverty, should be the main driver of everything we do.  

With regard to the Aid and Trade agenda, this is no different. Surely, the countries being reached are mainly middle-income countries because that is where trade can be done. There is an assumption of a trickle-down effect, but the IOB evaluation shows that there is no evidence of this as yet. For the poorest countries, it is much harder to enthuse the Dutch business community to do business there. There is too much risk, and it is not always obvious that investments made will show a return. Development impact is also not the core business of companies.  The Aid and Trade agenda struggles to get off the ground because of this persistent wishful thinking. In the context of policy coherence, achieving the SDGs, and the OECD’s recommendations, this is undesirable. Therefore, be realistic about the contributions of Dutch business to the SDGs.

In conclusion

For the next government, this peer review report offers recommendations that will help make development policy more realistic and even more effective. The main message is that we must pull out all the stops to achieve the SDGs. We won’t get a framework like the one we have now anytime soon in this rapidly changing world, so we should cherish it.