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Backgrounds: Netherlands Foreign Relations
The Netherlands abandoned its traditional policy of neutrality after World War II. The Dutch have since become engaged participants in international affairs. Dutch foreign policy is geared to promoting a wide variety of goals: law, human rights, and democracy. The Dutch Government last conducted a review of its foreign policy organization, funding, and thematic purview in 1995. "The Foreign Policy of the Netherlands: A Review" outlined the new direction of Dutch foreign policy. Since its implementation in 1996, the Netherlands has prioritized enhancing European integration, ensuring European security and stability (mainly through the mechanism of NATO and by emphasizing the important role the United States plays in the security of Europe), and participating in conflict management and peacekeeping missions.
The Netherlands generally pursues its foreign policy interests within the framework of multilateral organizations. The Netherlands is an active and responsible participant in the United Nations as well as other multilateral organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the OECD, the WTO, and the International Monetary Fund. A centuries-old tradition of legal scholarship has made the Netherlands the home of the International Court of Justice; the Yugoslavia and Rwanda War Crimes Tribunals; the European police organization Europol; the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons; and International Criminal Court. Dutch security policy is based primarily on membership in NATO, which the Netherlands joined as a charter member in 1949.
The Dutch are strong advocates of European integration, and most aspects of their foreign, economic, and trade policies are coordinated through the European Union. The Netherlands' post-war Customs Union with Belgium and Luxembourg (the Benelux group) paved the way for the formation of the European Community (precursor to the EU). Likewise, the Benelux abolition of internal border controls was a model for the wider Schengen accord, which today has 15 European signatories, including the Netherlands, pledged to common visa policies and free movement of people and goods across common borders.
The Dutch stood at the cradle of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty and were the architects of the 1998 Treaty of Amsterdam. They have embraced the introduction of both new member nations and the common currency (euro). The Netherlands will hold the EU presidency in the fall of 2004, and they hope to use this--as well as their chairmanships of the Council of Europe (COE) and the OSCE--to pursue greater advancement on the promotion and protection of human rights.
The Netherlands also has bilateral development relationships with 22 countries and operates small "thematic" programs in others. In 2003, the list of countries will be reevaluated. The aid portfolio is overseen by Minister for Development Cooperation Agnes van Ardenne.
Dutch development strategy is anchored in the Millennium Development Goals and as such focuses on poverty reduction. Special attention is paid to education, the environment, AIDS, and reproductive health care.
The Dutch are the top donor of unearmarked assistance to UN humanitarian programs. In Afghanistan, the Netherlands pledged EUR 40 million to the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund and EUR 30 million to humanitarian relief. They also supported the police academy and gave funds to the new Afghan Army. In Iraq, Dutch humanitarian assistance totaled EUR 10 million. The Dutch maintain their close relationship with Indonesia, supporting good governance, environmental protection, and poverty reduction programs at EUR 70 million in 2002. The Netherlands has traditionally been a strong supporter of programs to help Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. The Balkans are another major recipient of Dutch assistance. The Dutch fund programs in Bosnia and Macedonia in the areas of education, good governance, and economic reform.
Despite their commitment to ODA, the GONL also champions the role of trade and private enterprise for their contributions to development. In recent years, the government has devised new programs to support private sector development in developing countries.
In April 2003 Foreign Policy Magazine, in conjunction with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Center for Global Development ranked the Netherlands number one for the quality of their aid program.
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