On 19 June, the roundtable discussion on the policy paper 'Investing in Perspective' took place in the Lower House. A dynamic group of companies, business organisations, NGOs and professors talked to MPs about the new policy of Minister Kaag for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation (BHOS). FMS was also present and listened attentively from the audience. The discussion consisted of three rounds where the different groups could express their thoughts on the policy paper, and answer substantive questions from the MPs present.
Input from the business community
During the first part, the business community spoke, represented by VNO-NCW, MKB Nederland, FME and ONL, among others. Among other things, they spoke about the importance of SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) within the new policy. The spokespeople were initially very positive about Kaag's policy paper. Nonetheless, they were critical of certain development goals in the policy, in which the SDG agenda is central. The bottom line was that the earning power of SMEs should be central, so that money can be made for BV Nederland through the SDGs. But is this fair to developing countries?
NGOs have their say
In the second part of the roundtable discussion, NGOs spoke, they too were initially positive about the policy paper. Nevertheless, they stressed the need for additional instruments. Nok van de Langenberg of Dutch Relief Alliance spoke about a holistic approach to relief. There are still 68.5 million people refugees. These people are also entitled to humanitarian aid. The budget for this should be drastically increased, according to Van de Langenberg.
In the same debate, Koos de Bruijn of Partos spoke about innovation in the development cooperation sector. He said he was positive about the ambitions of the policy paper. In doing so, however, it is important that no groups are excluded, after which he referred to the Leave no one behind principle that was central to setting the SDG agenda. He also spoke about the root causes of poverty, climate change and migration. The OS sector is under pressure and has shrunk tremendously in recent years, in addition, Dutch BHOS policy is increasingly focused on the Netherlands' earning model. According to De Bruijn, development cooperation should "offer perspective and not be about who can and cannot get in".
The importance of coherence and cooperation
Laila Ait Baali of WO=MEN spoke about the importance of gender in the new policy. According to her, SDG 5 currently receives too little attention within the paper. The goal should therefore be reflected throughout the policy to make it a coherent policy document. Suzan Cornelissen of the Clean Clothes Campaign noted that the policy should also focus on corporate cooperation to enforce corporate social responsibility. Following this, Riekje Camara of Save the Children began with a sentimental argument about children in war zones. Many visual examples supported her argument, such as that the words tank, bomb and landmine are the first words they learn for 1 in 6 children in conflict zones.
Last to speak was Marinus Verweij, of PerspActive. He was of the opinion that the policy paper fits well with what the Netherlands is good at. Nevertheless, there are still urgent issues that need attention, such as the demographic developments in Africa.
Note consultation with Kaag: we are curious!
The afternoon concluded with input from external speakers, including Professor Paul Hoebink. Hoebink made a good point about the importance of evaluations in the paper. Last year's OECD DAC evaluation was critical of Dutch OS policy. What lessons were learned from it? All in all, it was a positive afternoon with many different stakeholders speaking. There was also a lot of interest from the Lower House, with as many as 12 MPs attending the discussion. The MPs present asked substantive, multi-faceted questions. So we are very curious to see how they will incorporate all this input in their input this evening during the Memorandum Consultation with Minister Kaag!