In this week full of election fever around the globe, we look back at a remarkable political debate in the Netherlands. On October 28th, all Dutch political parties shared their views on the Dutch policy that combines aid and trade and on our future relations with Africa. This is what they had to say.
The Netherlands is currently ruled by a coalition of four political parties, led by the largest one, the VVD. You can read the vision of the coalition parties first.
VVD. (Liberal party). Mr. Arne Weverling of the VVD, who recently visited the office of the Netherlands-African Business Council to discuss the next steps to be taken when it comes to the Africa Strategy, stressed how important foreign trade is for the Netherlands. Mr. Weverling called for an even deeper integration of the aid and trade agendas, showcasing how seeds, provided by Dutch seed companies, can boost the harvest in many countries around the world. He also called it ‘unavoidable’ that the amount of money the Netherlands spends on development cooperation reduces in the coming years. This is because that amount is tied to the Dutch GDP, which is shrinking due to the Coronavirus.
CDA. (Christian Democrats). The Christian Democrats were represented by Mr. Mustafa Amhaouch, who called on the Dutch minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Ms. Sigrid Kaag to form an ‘Africa Coalition’ in 2019. This plea resulted in the launch of the Africa Strategy in November 2019, which was co-written by NABC. The other CDA speaker was Ms. Anne Kuik. The two MPs visited the NABC this summer, to discuss the progress of the Africa Strategy.
Mr. Amhaouch called for a partnership of equals between the Netherlands and Africa, and once again stressed the importance of more focus among the Dutch business community for Africa. He asked minister Kaag how much progress has been made on the ‘Africa Taskforce,’ that was set up in 2019, and called on the minister to be in close contact with employers’ federation VNO-NCW and the Netherlands-African Business Council about this.
Ms. Kuik underlined that her party would strive for a higher budget for development cooperation in case they will play a role in the new government after the March 2021 elections.
D66. (Liberal Democrats). Since minister Sigrid Kaag hails from D66, her party member Mr. Achraf Bouali spent most of his time pointing out the good things that have been achieved in the past four years. Much as Mr. Bouali seemed to be of the opinion that more budget could be allocated to development cooperation, he fell short on making that a hard pledge.
ChristenUnie (Union of Christians). On behalf of his party, the smallest of the coalition parties but traditionally one that finds a lot of importance in foreign affairs, Mr. Joel Voordewind said his party would like the Netherlands to spend 0.7% of its budget on development cooperation. Currently it close to 0.6%. Mr. Voordewind also mentioned the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility. ‘I have been advocating for more CSR for fourteen years now, but I feel the companies are not moving quickly enough. I suggest we implement new legislation to force companies to act in a more sustainable way,’ Mr. Voordewind said.
Of the political parties that did not make it to the coalition, the PVV (Party for the Freedom) stands out. Despite being the second-largest party since the 2017 elections, other parties refuses to work with them because of their different and at times far-right stances. On behalf of her party, Ms. Danai van Weerdenburg voiced the opinion of her party. ‘We do not want any coin to be spent on development cooperation. Instead, we prefer spending that money to boost our own economy.’
The PvdA (Labour), GroenLinks (Green left) and the SP (Socialist Party) all stressed the importance of more budget for development cooperation, and said they would look for a parliamentary majority in order to allocate extra funds for it. They also focused on a number of well-publicised instances where Dutch companies were found not acting ethically and condemned minister Kaag for a recent interview in which she said she knew ‘only law-abiding companies,’ calling her ‘naive.’
Views of the other parties, with four or less seats (in a parliament of 150 in total) are left out of this overview. Minister Sigrid Kaag was supposed to defend her budget in a follow-up debate the following day, but went into quarantine instead due to a Coronavirus threat. For us as NABC, we were glad to see that Mr. Amhaouch and Ms. Kuik, on behalf of their CDA party, stressed the importance of doing business with Africa and that follow-up questions to the Minister have been asked.