In preparation


2017-2019 Work Programme

Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV)

In accordance with the evaluation of the AIV by consultancy firm KWINK and the government’s response to that evaluation, this AIV work programme is multi-annual (covering three years) and flexible. The government will adopt an annual programme update.

Proposals on issues concerning European integration

1. Institutional

Since the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU institutions have developed in constant interaction with one another and in light of current political, economic and social trends. Who could have predicted that the European Commission would seriously tackle prioritisation and clustering? The question arises as to whether or not the Commission should play a more political role. The European Parliament is also being more vocal, taking on a range of roles, and not only in policy areas where the Treaties give it an independent role. The Council of the European Union has also seen new developments that flesh out its official role, including the use of various mechanisms and theme-based discussions. During the Netherlands EU Presidency, theme-based discussions in the Council focused on better implementation of agreements. Continuing along the same lines, this raises the question of how the Commission, the European Parliament and the member states can cooperate more effectively on implementing EU-level policy. And what role does the European Council’s strategic agenda play in this constellation of forces? This leads to the fundamental question: what sort of institutions does the EU need to operate effectively and democratically, and what sort of powers and instruments do these institutions require? This question must be considered in the context of current events. What consequences does the UK’s exit from the EU have for the institutional balance, themes and balance of forces on the European continent?

2. Financial and economic governance

As regards economic governance since the Treaty of Lisbon, a range of additional rules, many emergency measures and procedures were created as a result of the financial and economic crisis in Europe. New dynamics have arisen, including the introduction of the European Semester, the Six-Pack, the Two-Pack, the Fiscal Compact and the Banking Union. Within the Economic and Monetary Union the Eurogroup has taken on an active role, which has been unquestioned since summer 2015. Within the EU there is a divide between the EU28 and EU19. The Five Presidents’ Report looks ahead to themes and future issues on which our country, like the others, will also have to adopt a national position as soon as is opportune. These include:

- Now that the Europe 2020 goals have faded into the background, which long-term goals help guide the EU’s financial and economic policy?
- In terms of economic governance, the AIV could now be asked to consider how the EMU could be strengthened so as to contribute more to growth and convergence.
- What scope exists for a fairer, more social and deeper single market within the EMU, and how can this help reduce inequality?

3. Support for Europe

In Europe, referendums have regularly dominated the headlines in recent years. The crucial question for policymakers and politicians now seems to be how to strengthen or maintain support for government policy in general and for European cooperation or integration in particular. This question goes beyond a focus on institutional balance between democratically elected and executive bodies. It mainly concerns European society itself. What is the source of the inertia facing the European ideal? How can the disinterest or distrust of large parts of the European population be turned into increased involvement and growing trust in European governments and their orientation towards cross-border solutions? New sociological research and omnibus surveys in Europe have provided many insights into population groups and their preferences as regards the European project. However, these insights have not yet led to a reversal of the centrifugal trends that Europe has faced in recent years.

- Can the AIV distil an overarching synthesis from existing studies that offers tools for creating a new European narrative? Or for creating a European identity that matches the zeitgeist? Where in Europe are people thinking about this in a groundbreaking way?
- To what extent can innovative methods strengthen public involvement with and trust in governments?
- In this connection, what is the impact of forces such as individualisation and an increased focus on self-interest in relation to the equally present trends of increased international interdependence, increased mobility and globalisation?

Proposals on issues concerning human rights

4. SDGs and promoting human rights

In September 2015 in New York the 193 UN member states reached an agreement on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (also known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the global goals). For the first time in the history of the UN, a comprehensive agreement was adopted on tackling major global challenges and all countries committed themselves at the highest political level. The SDGs apply not only to governments, but also to the business sector, civil society, knowledge institutions and other actors. In addition to the economic dimension, the global goals emphasise the importance of rights, respect and dignity, under the motto ‘leave no one behind’. The SDGs’ solid foundation in a human rights framework is something new; the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) had a much smaller human rights component. There is a particular focus on the rights of women, children and migrants.

Human rights can be used as an instrument to help achieve the SDGs, but the SDGs can also be used as an instrument to promote human rights. While universal international human rights agreements and standards are increasingly seen as a ‘Western’ concept, the recently adopted global goals can provide new impetus for the human rights dialogue with third countries. Advice could be requested on how the SDGs could contribute to improving the human rights narrative and create new ways of engaging third countries.

5. Territorial limitations of ratification

On 10 October 2010 the constitutional relationship between the Netherlands and the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom changed. In addition to the three autonomous countries of Aruba, Curaçao and
St Maarten there are now three public bodies – Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba – that form part of the Netherlands. The administrative structure of these public bodies is based on the Municipalities Act. If the Netherlands ratifies human rights conventions, they should also apply to the Caribbean Netherlands. In practice however, human rights conventions are often only applied in the European part of the Netherlands. Two examples are given below.

In the Caribbean Netherlands, the government sought to delay the application of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The main reason given for this is that the Caribbean part of the Netherlands does not have any equal treatment legislation, meaning that implementation legislation is required. Before a decision can be made on when the convention will apply to Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba, current legislation and policy must be assessed in the light of the obligations set out in the convention. The islands themselves will also need to be consulted on the convention’s application. The government proposes determining how and when the convention can also apply to the Caribbean Netherlands after this research has been completed.

As regards the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (the Istanbul Convention), the government seeks to avoid applying the convention to the Caribbean Netherlands because the Caribbean Netherlands has no specific policy in this regard and, here too, implementation legislation will be necessary. The legal and practical measures needed to introduce the convention in the Caribbean Netherlands have been assessed. The findings were submitted to the House of Representatives in May 2014. The government concludes that far-reaching measures are needed before the convention can apply to the Caribbean Netherlands. At the same time, the decision has been taken to separate implementation legislation for the Caribbean Netherlands from that relating to the European part of the Netherlands.

The Council of State is of the opinion, however, that the government must take active steps to ensure that the human rights in question also apply to residents of the Caribbean Netherlands and must consult the island governments on this issue. The Council of State recommended setting a reasonable deadline for the conventions’ application.

It is striking that, in its foreign policy, the Kingdom applauds or promotes these conventions’ application in countries that have considerably less economic and organisational potential.

In addition, there are important treaty relationships from which the Caribbean countries of the Kingdom are exempted. Yet remarkably, other states in the Caribbean region, Central and South America, and Oceania have acceded to them.

Questions: What might be the legal and geopolitical considerations when deciding whether or not to exclude the Caribbean Netherlands and the other Caribbean parts of the Kingdom from treaties that apply to the European part of the Netherlands, and what does this imply for the specific agreements mentioned above? Is there an obligation to establish a timeline for applying agreements in the Caribbean public bodies if their application is excluded at the time of ratification? Is it necessary to set out how conditions will be created for their application in the Caribbean public bodies?

Proposals on issues concerning development cooperation

6. Nexus between humanitarian and structural assistance

The World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on 23 and 24 May 2016 was held because ‘civil strife and conflicts are driving suffering and humanitarian need to unprecedented levels’. As a consequence of violent crises, there has been a sharp increase in the number of displaced people and refugees and they are reliant on support for longer. Calls were made to protect human rights and humanitarian principles and, at the same time, move towards a more systemic, long-term approach that focuses on prevention and increasing resilience among these groups. The advisory report will address the question of how the Netherlands, as a medium-sized donor, can contribute to better coordination and cooperation between emergency and structural assistance, both in its own policy and internationally. In addition, attention will be paid to issues such as the rapidly changing context of humanitarian assistance and the growing importance of non-state actors.

7. Changing nature and role of civil society in development

Historically, the Netherlands has led the way in helping to establish civil society organisations as part of its development cooperation efforts, and it has a long tradition of actively promoting this. At the same time, big changes are afoot in the field. The ministry has firmly moved away from the traditional financing system in order to respond to the changing context. A new relationship has been created between local organisations and both international and Dutch NGOs, as well as between governments’ responsibility and sovereignty, on the one hand, and the necessary scope to influence policy in an empowered society on the other. Concerns about security, controlling international illicit financial flows, transparency and respect for human rights require new instruments in order guarantee stability while encouraging an empowered society.

The central question addressed by this advisory report will be how the Netherlands can continue to play a role in opening up political space and promoting a government that listens, so that active citizens can contribute to the development process.

Proposals on issues concerning peace and security

8. Developments relating to security policy in the Caribbean region and their impact on the Kingdom

The Dutch state is responsible for the international relations and defence of the entire Kingdom, including the Caribbean parts (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, St Maarten, St Eustatius and Saba). The Dutch armed forces, the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee and the Coastguard therefore have a permanent presence and carry out tasks such as protecting borders and providing protection against international crime, including drug-related crime. However, the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom does not fall under the NATO treaty area.

The threats in the region are primarily related to international crime and its effect on the Kingdom, both in the Caribbean and in Europe. Other factors also play a role, such as destabilisation in countries in the region, which could lead to migration flows to the US and the Kingdom. The situation in Venezuela, for example, is cause for concern.

A vital question in this connection is: how is the Kingdom’s security architecture functioning in the Caribbean region? In the light of real and current threats, is it robust and effective? Are current Dutch efforts in this regard sufficient? Attention should also be paid to cooperation with countries like the US, France and the UK and the Pact of San José.

9. Integrated Dutch policy for conflict prevention

Prevention is better than cure. Perhaps this applies most to large-scale violence like wars, genocide, violent uprisings or terror attacks on the general public. For policymakers, conflict prevention is crucial not only as a humanitarian imperative, but also with a view to the Netherlands’ vital interests like national security, human rights, migration management, the international legal order, trade and development cooperation. Unfortunately, preventing conflicts is easier said than done. Even when an emerging crisis can be identified in good time, it proves very difficult in practice to mobilise enough political will and capabilities to prevent the violence from escalating. The violent and protracted conflicts in Syria, Libya, Yemen and South Sudan are recent examples which make this painfully clear, in light of the human suffering and great impact on our own interests. Despite this – or perhaps because of it – conflict prevention is receiving increasing international attention. The new UN Secretary-General has named conflict prevention and more sustainable peacebuilding as one of his priorities. In the EU, NATO, the African Union (AU) and the G20 too, the issue is steadily moving up the agenda. Key bilateral partners like Germany are investing significantly in prevention. The Netherlands is also doing its part in this policy area, including by financing conflict mediation, through preventive diplomacy, or by using development cooperation to eliminate the root causes of conflict. An early warning and early action unit has also been set up in order to identify conflict threats earlier, analyse them better and mitigate them at an early stage. In recent advisory reports the AIV has also referred to the importance of more successful conflict prevention, early warning and early action, and preventive diplomacy.

The Netherlands strives to contribute as effectively as possible to conflict prevention. An advisory report from the AIV could make a significant contribution in this regard. It is particularly urgent due to the growing complexity and number of conflict threats, as well as the Kingdom’s membership of the UN Security Council in 2018. In late 2017 the Secretary-General will present new proposals for following up resolutions on sustaining peace, of which conflict prevention is a central component. An AIV advisory report on integrated Dutch policy for conflict prevention could look at questions like:

What should be the Netherlands’ level of ambition for conflict prevention as a priority in broader Dutch security, human rights, foreign, defence and development cooperation policy?

In concrete terms, what instruments should the Netherlands use in a consistent and integrated manner in order to make conflict prevention more effective in both bilateral and multilateral efforts?

10. The future role of nuclear weapons

According to a Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Fact Sheet of June 2016, nine states – the US, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel (presumably) and North Korea – possessed a total of around 15,000 nuclear weapons as of January 2016. Although the total number of nuclear weapons has decreased significantly since the 1980s, they remain an important weapons system for the states in question. For instance, Russia has made nuclear weapons an integral part of its military doctrine and recently placed Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad. It is also undertaking a far-reaching modernisation programme and has suspended the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement. The US accuses Russia of breaching the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. North Korea has carried out several underground nuclear tests, launched missiles and seems intent on developing into a nuclear power.

The NATO Warsaw Summit Communiqué (July 2016) states the following in relation to nuclear weapons: ‘As a means to prevent conflict and war, credible deterrence and defence is essential. Therefore, deterrence and defence, based on an appropriate mix of nuclear, conventional, and missile defence capabilities, remains a core element of our overall strategy. (…) Allies’ goal is to bolster deterrence as a core element of our collective defence and to contribute to the indivisible security of the Alliance. As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance.’ NATO has also set out how it will work to create conditions for a world free of nuclear weapons, both in this document and in the 2012 Deterrence and Defence Posture Review. This will need to happen in a way that promotes international stability and ensures the continued security of all NATO countries.

International negotiations on nuclear disarmament and arms control are proving very difficult, mainly due to the worsening international security situation. At the UN, negotiations have taken place on an international nuclear weapons ban. The Netherlands was the only NATO member state present at these talks. In 2017 the Netherlands also chaired the Preparatory Committee of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

Possible questions include: What is the possible role of nuclear weapons in the future? To what extent has the role of nuclear weapons changed in the last decade? Does NATO’s strategy need to be changed in light of changes in the security situation? How could nuclear arms control be promoted? How would a potential ban on nuclear weapons affect the existing regime? What is the future of the non-proliferation regime?

11. The geopolitical role of Turkey

The geopolitical balance of power is undergoing significant changes. The arrival of a new US president means a shift of focus, the EU’s political and economic influence is under threat (including as a result of Brexit), China’s military and economic power is increasing, and the EU’s neighbours – such as Russia, Turkey and Iran – are becoming increasingly assertive.

Significant changes are afoot in Turkish politics, at both domestic and international level. Since 2016’s military coup, internal tensions have increased; the rule of law, press freedom and human rights are under pressure; and President Erdogan has greatly increased his powers by way of a referendum.

Changes to Turkey’s foreign policy had already been introduced, but received additional impetus following the coup. This can be seen, for example, in its much tougher attitude towards the West and its rapprochement with Russia. Increasingly, Turkey is charting its own course in the Middle East, with military involvement in both Syria and Iraq, something which is not always in line with the actions of the international coalition. Recently, Turkey has strengthened its ties with Russia, for example reaching an agreement on the Russian-Turkish gas pipeline, TurkStream. Turkey also appears to seek greater influence in countries and regions where it has had a historical presence.

For several countries, Turkey’s foreign policy is taking on a strong domestic dimension (and vice versa). Mobilising the Turkish diaspora or Turkish media abroad are part of regular attempts by Turkey to promote its national interests beyond its borders. In some cases this leads to undesirable foreign interference and is eliciting resistance on the part of some countries.

These elements are putting a constant strain on Turkey’s relationship with the EU and NATO, often leading to new challenges and hampering existing cooperation. At the same time, Turkey is a strategic NATO ally. After the US, the country has the biggest armed forces of any NATO member and is the third biggest ally in terms of population. Turkey is also an important ally in the fight against ISIS and plays a vital role in the reception of refugees and migrants. Moreover, the country is a major trading partner for the Netherlands.

The AIV advisory report ‘Instability around Europe’ (April 2015) looked at the instability on Europe’s eastern and southern flanks, with a focus on Russia, Ukraine and the MENA region. The report is also referenced in the request for advice on NATO’s long-term adaptation. In light of all these developments, the AIV will be requested to issue an advisory report on Turkey’s current geopolitical policy and the best way for the Netherlands to respond.

Requests for advice
2018-12-05 Request for advice EU-China
2018-06-27 Future role of nuclear weapons
2018-05-08 Human rights and the SDGs