NIMD Executive Director urges Dutch minister to prioritise democracy

NIMD’s Executive Director Thijs Berman took the opportunity of a meeting with the Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra last week to urge him to ensure that strengthening democracy worldwide remains a top priory for the new Dutch government.

Thijs met the minister as part of a delegation of the Breed Mensenrechten Overleg (BMO), a partnership of Dutch human rights and development organisations. Other organisations present were Oxfam Novib, Free Press Unlimited, Amnesty International NL, and the Netherlands Helsinki Committee.

A pivotal moment in history

“We need to invest in democracy as a strategic asset,” Thijs said after the meeting.

“What we are witnessing worldwide is a negative trend in democracy, and in the quality of democracies, and we have seen this trend go from a gradual erosion of democracy to the direct attack on democracy by the Russian invasion and war in Ukraine.

“We all acknowledged this pivotal moment in history, and that the Dutch government must give support to democratic actors and institutions in countries that are most under threat from backsliding.

“Connected to this needs to be the struggle against corruption. There must be policy coherence between trade and other policies that have an impact on democracy.”

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Other topics discussed included the increase in repressive anti-NGO legislation in some countries and the crucial and positive role of Dutch embassies in promoting human rights worldwide.

“It is very important that the same decisiveness Europe has shown in response to the Russian attack on Ukraine is also seen in policies regarding human rights, democratization, strengthening the rule of law, and peace building,” said Pepijn Gerrits, Director of Programs at Oxfam Novib and the current BMO chairperson.

The BMO members also emphasized the importance of effective, proactive and coherent implementation of foreign policy. The BMO therefore advised the minister to develop a long-term strategy in which the roles at the various ministries are clearly set out.

The BMO members are looking forward to the new human rights memorandum from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and hope it reflects the sense of urgency they conveyed in their meeting.