Dutch policy to ensure coherence between the political, security, humanitarian, development and economic dimensions of foreign policy goes back to the early 1990s. The 1993 policy paper ‘A World in Dispute’ (Ministry of Foreign Affairs 1993) noted that conflicts had become more complex in the post-Cold War era and required an integrated response of the instruments of foreign, defence and development policy, which in turn required these ministries to cooperate more closely. In 1994, this led the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to decide to reorganise and integrate the departments that had previously worked specifically for the minister of foreign affairs or the minister for development cooperation. This process of integration was taken one step further in 1997 when the Homogenous Budget for International Cooperation (HGIS) was created, which brought together the foreign affairs budgets of all relevant ministries into one budget overview in order to formulate a coherent, integrated foreign policy and stimulate inter-ministerial cooperation.
The concept of the integrated approach was further developed in subsequent policy documents in the late 1990s and particularly in the early 21st century. For example, there was a 2003 document on civil-military cooperation and a 2005 document on reconstruction after violent conflicts. The Advisory Council on International Affairs also produced ‘Failing States: A Global Responsibility’ (AIV 2004), a report which led to the establishment of the Stability Fund. This fund combined ODA and non-ODA budgets to allow for flexible financing in the security sector in fragile countries, and it became an important instrument for bridging the gap between development and security support.
However, an important driver of the practical development and operationalisation of the integrated approach were the significant military deployments in Iraq (2003–2005) and in Afghanistan (2003–present) and, more specifically, the deployment of provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) to Baghlan and Uruzgan provinces. The deployment of PRTs under the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan led to the Dutch ‘3D’ (development, diplomacy and defence) policy as a way to develop and operationalise the poorly defined PRT concept. Although other countries were developing similar policies, 3D became something of a Dutch brand, as the Netherlands pushed the integration of military and civilian personnel further than most others. Politically, the 3D policy was also a useful instrument in that it allowed the different political parties in the Dutch coalition government to stress different aspects of the mission.
Eventually, 13 civilians were deployed with the mission in Uruzgan at any given time under a civilian representative who shared responsibility for joint civilian-military efforts with the military commander. Although the 3D label was eventually dropped, it has had an important legacy. First, it put the integrated approach to the test under difficult circumstances. Different perspectives that could be papered over in the abstract had to be confronted in the field, and pragmatic ways of deconflicting and coordinating with NGOs and IOs had to be worked out. The high political profile and the joint reporting to parliament by the relevant ministers necessitated compromises and common language. Detailed aspects of the integrated approach were discussed in parliament on a regular basis.
Second, it also meant that a significant number of diplomats, military and police personnel, and aid workers had first-hand experience of working with counterparts from other departments and thereby often gained mutual understanding and appreciation. After taking this experience back with them into the relevant ministries and organisations, they were subsequently instrumental in further developing the integrated approach both at a national and international levels.