Development cooperation is one of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ principal tasks. The Netherlands contributes four billion euros per year towards the development of poor countries around the world. In October 2007, the Netherlands development policy, emphasises more Dutch investment in fragile states and in countries which have the most ground to make up in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
The Netherlands annually spends 0.8% of its gross national product on development cooperation, making it one of the few countries to meet the relevant international norm. Half of this money goes to Africa, since this is where poverty is most deep-seated.
Dutch policy has an enhanced focus on four areas:
Security and development
Peace and security are relevant to all the Millennium Development Goals. Although fragile states and conflict areas are home to only 10% of the global population, they account for nearly 30% of children worldwide who have not had primary education and more than a third of all infant and maternal mortality.
Security and stability are conditions for sustainable poverty reduction. A country in conflict has few means to combat poverty and often lacks good governance as well. Such countries lag furthest behind in the MDGs. Conversely, the risk of conflict is greatest in countries where water and food are scarce and development is lagging. Countries that are vulnerable to conflict thus pose a security risk to other countries in the region too.
Growth and equity
While globalisation and worldwide economic growth have reduced poverty, affluence is still very unevenly divided between countries as well as within countries. In many developing countries, MDG1 – halving extreme hunger and poverty – will not be reached without greater efforts. The fact that 2.5 billion people still live on less than two dollars a day proves this. In many countries where there is economic growth, it does not benefit everyone. The Netherlands believes that growth and the distribution of wealth should go hand in hand.
Good opportunities for trade enhance a country’s economic growth. Growth means jobs and income, so that people can afford to send their children to school and pay doctors’ bills. In other words, economic growth increases people’s opportunities for development. We help integrate disadvantaged groups and regions into the world trade system.
The Dutch government also aims to strengthen the role of the private sector as a driving force in creating jobs and growth, for instance by improving entrepreneurs’ access to loans, financing infrastructural projects, enhancing the knowledge and skills of the business community and helping to reduce red tape. The agriculture sector, a key sector for the poor, receives special attention, but it cannot provide jobs for everyone. Moreover, a robust economy is not dependent on a single sector but on several flourishing sectors. A more diverse economy also results in more jobs, enabling more people to earn their own income.
The Dutch government also calls on Dutch businesses to contribute to development through, for instance, socially responsible purchasing and business methods in developing countries. They can also provide incentives for education and health care, and use their knowledge and experience to the local population’s benefit.
More rights and opportunities for women and girls
Eight years after the signing of the Millennium Declaration, little progress has been made in achieving equal opportunities and rights for women and girls (MDG3). While more girls are starting school, many of them, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Arab countries, do not complete their primary education.
In recent years, due in part to the power of conservative political forces, the world seems to have lost interest in improving the rights and opportunities of women and girls, and budgets have likewise suffered. Yet progress in these goals would combat poverty in the broadest sense. Healthy, educated women who can participate in society contribute to economic growth and to their children’s futures. Contrary to the international trend, the Netherlands has made achieving equal opportunities and rights for women and girls a top priority, based on the conviction that it is an important precondition for achieving all the other Millennium Development Goals.
Sustainability, climate and energy
The Netherlands has chosen to focus on several key issues:
- greater coherence among international agreements on trade, the environment, climate and poverty reduction;
- an environmentally-friendly, modern energy supply by 2015 for 10 million people who are currently dependent on traditional fuels;
- an additional investment in sustainable energy of €500 million during the government’s present term so as to increase access to energy by the poor;
- a contribution towards sustainable production chains and certification schemes in Bolivia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Mali and Mozambique for biofuels such as palm oil, soybean oil, fishmeal and fish oil;
- improved forest management in the Congo basin, the Amazon and Indonesia.
The Netherlands also believes in the importance of an adequate energy supply for development, but at the same time we recognise that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels are a major factor in climate change. Development of sustainable energy at home and abroad is actively promoted. Countries with the highest emissions, including the Netherlands, should take the first steps to reduce emissions. And in keeping with the polluter pays principle, The Netherlands also contributes to climate adaptation in poor countries.
Information provided by DGIS