Netherlands Report


Main Actors

The key actors that cooperate in the context of the integrated approach are: the prime minister and the ministers of foreign affairs, defence, development cooperation & foreign trade, and justice & security. The term ‘whole-of-government approach’ is therefore a bit of a misnomer, as other ministries may sometimes provide specific expertise or information, but they are rarely substantially involved in formulating and implementing of policy regarding external conflicts and crises.
At the political level, the Council of Ministers has a number of sub-councils. Most relevant in this context are the Council for Defence and International Affairs (RDIA) and the Council for Security and Intelligence (RVI). The RDIA deals with issues regarding foreign and defence policy as well as foreign trade and development cooperation. The RVI deals with developments regarding national and international security, including terrorism and cybersecurity, but also participation in military missions. Senior officials of the military, intelligence services, police and public prosecutor, as well as the national coordinator for security and counterterrorism, may attend sessions, as required.
At the senior official level, the Steering Group Missions and Operations (SMO) is the most senior coordinating body. It meets weekly and includes representatives (generally at the level of director-general or director) of the Prime Minister’s Office and the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence (both civilian and military), and Justice & Security. Its focus is on Dutch participation in military and civilian missions within an integrated approach, and it advises the relevant ministers. The role of the SMO is crucial in that it anchors a range of inter- and intra-departmental working groups on relevant issues and provides a forum for discussing developments and resolving issues at the most senior official level.
Although these ministries form the core of the integrated approach, they do not operate in isolation. The implementation of the civilian aspects of an integrated approach is to a large extent done by international organisations and NGOs through funding of their programmes or projects. Through a number of ‘knowledge platforms’, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs engages academics and NGOs on themes related to foreign and development policy. Particularly within the Security & Rule of Law knowledge platform, there is an exchange of information that is relevant to an integrated approach to specific crises and conflicts.
In the field, the Netherlands has made arrangements to deconflict, coordinate and cooperate with NGOs that are active in the same areas where Dutch military or civilian personnel are deployed. The local embassy or embedded diplomats are generally involved in these coordination mechanisms with the added aim of ensuring coherence with bilateral programmes and projects in the same areas.
More generally, the Netherlands does not implement an integrated approach in a country or region on a bilateral basis. As mentioned above, as a strong believer in multilateralism, the Netherlands supports and advocates for UN-led coordination efforts, particularly in fragile countries. Where possible, the Netherlands will channel financial support through multi-donor trust funds or support policy priorities that have been drafted by or with the government of the country concerned. Deployment of military and civilian staff will usually take place in the context of missions or operations of, among others, the UN, the EU, NATO and the OSCE or sometimes in ad hoc coalitions of like-minded countries. It follows that the Netherlands is actively engaged in policy discussions in these multilateral frameworks on the integrated approach.
Finally, the Dutch parliament provides oversight and is actively engaged in debates regarding the integrated approach, and will sometimes provide guidance to the government through motions. Different parties generally prioritise different aspects of the integrated approach, and NGOs will often have their own interactions with parliament to call attention to specific concerns that they may have.
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