UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL – 44th SESSION

National statement Kingdom of the Netherlands in response to report by Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism on her country visit to the Netherlands

Madame President,  

The Kingdom of the Netherlands would like to thank the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Ms. Tandiye Achiume, for her country report on the Netherlands.

Violence and discrimination in any form against people, groups or communities on grounds of their race, or any other ground, is unacceptable.

In this light, we strongly value and support the mandate of the Special Rapporteur to monitor and assess the presence of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in member states.

Recent times have once again shown that discrimination and racism are persistent problems in our societies, illustrating the importance of this mandate.

As a member of this Council, we have a particular responsibility in upholding the highest international norms and standards both abroad and at home. We are self-reflective and continue to strengthen our human rights situation at home. We highly value UN-scrutiny. We have a standing invitation and we take recommendations of Special Procedures’ very seriously and we thank Rapporteur Achiume for her visit last year October. 

We recognise that the Kingdom of the Netherlands is no exception in facing racism. Indeed, the Special Rapporteur’s country report raises serious questions, reminding us that we need to keep up and enhance our efforts to combat racism and continuously evaluate whether policies have the intended impact.

As indicated by the Special Rapporteur, our country has a robust policy and legal framework to foster a climate in which all inhabitants can enjoy equality and non-discrimination, freedom of expression and freedom of association. The Netherlands also has an institutionalized history of cooperating with all segments of societal organisations in delivering necessary community services, such as education, healthcare and poverty reduction.

The Dutch government monitors and responds to forms of expression of discrimination and racism in society. This includes training courses for government officials, the development of guidelines for implementing anti-discrimination policy at the municipal level, and a comprehensive National Anti-Discrimination Action Programme that involves law enforcement officials, local anti-discrimination bureaus, and various frontline defenders including teachers.

Yet, we recognise that the work is far from complete. More can and should be done to foster a more resilient, inclusive society where all individuals enjoy equal protections for their human rights. We hope the current public debate and government interventions will create the much needed ripple effect.

As the Special Rapporteur points out, further efforts are needed to tackle discrimination in the labour market and on housing. Several new initiatives in this regard are being undertaken. For example, a law is under development that requires employers to develop a working method to prevent discrimination in recruitment and selection. On housing, the government is investigating discrimination in the rental market, for the first time with the help of so-called mystery guests and other practical checks.

Another area of importance concerns the extent to which education in the Netherlands devotes sufficient attention to our colonial past. In recent years, steps have been undertaken in this respect. Since its recent revision, the historical canon is now more reflective of diverse viewpoints on our nation’s history. Moreover, in the integral revision of the Dutch curriculum that is currently underway, the proposals put forward devote more attention to the subjects of colonialism, wars of independence, slavery and the historical role that the Netherlands have played in that respect. Also, this month the government commissioned an independent committee to organize a broad dialogue aimed at broader recognition and entrenchment in society of the shared slavery history and its effects in the present day society.

More generally, we fully commit ourselves to continue investing in training, cooperation and capacity of police, local authorities and anti-discrimination bureaus, as recommended by the Special Rapporteur.

The Netherlands agrees with the Special Rapporteur that civil society, amongst which grass-roots initiatives, plays a vital role in promoting dialogue to tackle racism, discrimination and intolerance. Our Prime Minister has personally initiated a dialogue with protestors marching against racism. The Dutch public broadcaster organised a full day on the theme of racism, on radio and television. We will continue to invest with and facilitate civil society in building an inclusive, human rights-based society.

In conclusion, we want to assure the Special Rapporteur that we will carefully study and consider all her recommendations.

Thank you.