Netherlands Report



At an institutional level, the Netherlands has taken a number of steps to ensure policy coherence. In 1994, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was restructured and the departments that worked specifically for the minister of foreign affairs or the minister for development coordination were de-compartmentalised (‘ontschotting’), creating regional and thematic departments working for both ministers. In 2012, the portfolio for foreign trade was transferred from the Ministry of Economic Affairs to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under a minister for foreign trade and development cooperation. This means that the instruments for foreign policy, development cooperation and foreign trade have been integrated into a single department under two ministers.
On the ministerial level, decision-making on crisis management and deployment in fragile states takes place in the weekly Council of Ministers. Sub-councils, on the other hand, only meet when required, are chaired by the prime minister, and have a composition that depends on the specific sub-council, but can include the ministers of defence, foreign affairs, development cooperation & foreign trade, and security & justice.
On a more operational level, the Steering Group Missions and Operations (SMO) meets weekly and brings together the most senior military and civilian officials of these same ministries. At the working level, there are a number of inter-departmental working groups, such as the Working Group Civilian Missions, the Inter-Agency Working Group Early Warning & Early Action, and working groups for countries or regions with a significant degree of Dutch engagement, such as Afghanistan, Libya and the Sahel. Relevant embassies and representations will join meetings of these working groups by video conference. Besides the formal working groups, which have clear reporting lines, compositions and meeting schedules, there is a range of more informal groups that may be formed to deal with a specific issue for a limited period of time and will include relevant colleagues from various departments.
Policy is formulated in integrated notes to parliament, which are then presented by the relevant ministers. Annual or multi-year plans, which include input from the relevant departments, are drawn up for specific countries and regions.
In financial terms, the Homogenous Budget of International Cooperation (HGIS) was created in 1997 to combine the foreign affairs budgets of the relevant ministries into a single budget overview. This principle was taken one step further in 2013 with the creation of the International Security Budget (BIV), which covered the costs of contributions to international security in a broad sense. The ministers for foreign affairs, defence, and foreign trade & development cooperation and, when appropriate, the minister of security & justice made joint decisions on the allocation of BIV funds to ensure that the various ministries’ interests and perspectives were weighed and that joint context analyses were taken into account while preparing decisions. Although this decision was partly reversed in 2017, when parts of this budget were reallocated to the relevant ministries, a common budget of EUR 190 million was retained for the financing of international deployments.
On a more operational level, since 2004, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has had a specific financial instrument, the Stability Fund, to finance activities at the nexus of security, stability and development cooperation. This fund, with a current budget of EUR 90 million, is made up of both ODA (EUR 55 million) and non-ODA (EUR 45 million) funds, which allows for greater flexibility to finance activities in the security sector. It is jointly managed by the Stabilisation and Humanitarian Aid Department and the Security Policy Department.
In terms of personnel management, a number of steps have been taken to facilitate exchange and cooperation. The integration of development cooperation and foreign trade into the structures of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has meant that no separate personnel structures exist, and that staff can move and bring expertise from one area to another. Furthermore, since 2007, the ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs have been exchanging advisers who contribute to relevant planning and decision-making processes.
In 2004, a list of individuals who could serve as volunteer foreign policy advisers (POLADs) to be embedded in military missions and operations was drawn up. These POLADs have been deployed on a range of missions, and have been complemented with development and cultural advisers to help ensure an integrated, holistic perspective in the field. In the context of ISAF, this concept was expanded with the deployment of a civilian representative alongside the military commander of the mission in Uruzgan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also keeps a roster of external civilian experts (the ‘Civilian Missions Pool’) who have been pre-selected for secondment to international missions, such as ones of the EU, the UN, NATO and the OSCE. If a candidate is selected by the organisation in question, he or she is then offered a temporary contract with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the duration of the deployment and then seconded to the relevant mission. Experts may be active in the non-governmental or private sector, but they can also be active judges, prosecutors or civil servants from the Ministry of Justice & Security. At present, some 50 experts from this pool are deployed each year, although the ministry aims to increase this number.
The police organisation and the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee (gendarmerie) manage their own rosters of volunteers for deployment to international missions, particularly for the purpose of capacity- building. The inter-departmental working group Civilian Missions ensures coherence among the relevant departments. There is no overarching Dutch structure for training or exercises. The police and Marechaussee generally organise pre-deployment training for their own staff. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides so-called hostile environment awareness training (HEAT) to diplomats who are to be deployed in high-risk areas, and it will also provide its staff and the volunteers on the roster for civilian missions with access to training and courses provided by others bodies, such as the European Security and Defence College.
The first ‘Common Effort’ exercise was organised in 2010 by 1 German/Netherlands Corps as a civilian-military exercise based on a realistic scenario and involving diplomats and representatives from the UN and NGOs, among others. These exercises have been held annually since 2014.
Back to Top