Our staff are pleased to share the experiences of their travels, project visits and meetings with partners and others. Their blogs give a unique and personal insight into the work of Both ENDS!
Minister Liesje Schreinemacher for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation recently made her first working visit, to Kenya and Uganda. With this visit, the minister made a flying start in honouring the pledge in the new government's coalition agreement to formulate a 'targeted Dutch Africa strategy'. Such a strategy is desperately needed as, too often, our foreign trade is conducted at the expense of people and the environment, including in countries in Africa. The new strategy presents a perfect opportunity to ensure that the 'trade and aid' agendas are closely aligned.
In September 2019, the streets of Jakarta were filled with angry demonstrators protesting against the Omnibus Employment Law. The law will ease the rules for mining, make it much more difficult to hold companies liable for criminal acts and severely restrict the power of the national anti-corruption committee. At the moment, such protests are completely impossible in Indonesia because of the COVID-19 crisis and the associated lockdown measures. And Indonesian people already had few other means of exerting influence on decision-making and legislative processes.
The Rio de la Plata Basin in South America extends across Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. The livelihoods of the millions of people who live there – city-dwellers, small farmers and fishers, and indigenous peoples – are under pressure from soya cultivation, mining and logging, and by the construction of dams and ports. The COVID-19 crisis is making the situation even worse.
You can't eat gold, copper and gas
"The virus is spreading quicker than the information" – that was the first we heard in the Netherlands about COVID-19 in many African countries and the measures they were taking to tackle it. While states of emergency were announced, borders were closed and we saw image after image of violent police and army responses, many people outside the big cities did not know that what was going on. When the situation became clearer, serious concerns arose about the consequences of the measures that had been taken: the informal economy coming to a standstill, food shortages and internal migration flows.
Today the Netherlands is celebrating freedom. Our freedom goes further than living in peace. We have the freedom to discuss policy to our hearts’ content on, for example, ending the lockdown on television, in the press and on social media. We can do that freely because we know that our rights to freedom of expression are well protected. But how different that is in countries where authoritarian leaders are grasping the crisis as an excuse to throw these rights out with the trash and rule with an iron hand.
COVID-19is placing our economy under a magnifying glass. Now that a large part of global trade has come to a standstill, the tension between international economic activity and local well-being is becoming more visible. That is very clear in northern Mozambique, where one of the world’s largest gas fields was discovered in 2011. Dutch companies are investing in the processing and transport of the gas.
The world is turned upside down in this pandemic. Ordinary life is disrupted on our end. Many people suffer from the ‘polder lockdown’, although fortunately we have enough resilience and safety nets to meet our most urgent needs. Unfortunately, outside the Netherlands this all too often lacking. Especially in countries where public health structures are weak and where people are in a total lockdown. Because local communities that are shackled today may be hungry tomorrow. And aid and money does not naturally flow to the most vulnerable citizens there. So extra financial support is urgent.
In this time of crisis-driven reflection we can read telling analyses of past and present on all sides which are being translated into agendas for action. Many of the analyses address issues like inequality, climate, the financial sector, health care, education and women’s rights. They talk about ‘what’ and much less about ‘who’ or ‘how’.But a different future can only be built together with everyone, young and old, men and women. This future will not simply happen to us; we ourselves have a hand in it. It is time for new faces around the table, with new voices. It is time for a new future.
After Dutch Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra had brought the fury of the Southern European countries down on his head on 26 March by blocking the European emergency fund, the Dutch were suddenly 'small-minded and selfish‘ (Parool) and we should ‘go on holiday somewhere else‘ (RTL News). The tone was set. The difficulties encountered in making agreements on support at European level contrast sharply with the speed with which the welcome support measures for employers, entrepreneurs and companies had been announced in the Netherlands two weeks earlier. We have learned nothing from our own past, while everyone benefits from greater priority for solidarity.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is often seen as an institution in crisis, powerless and no longer relevant, and especially after US president Donald Trump decided in 2019 to pull the plug on one of the WTO’s most important bodies (the one dealing with trade disputes). Now, more than 150 civil society organisations, networks and interest groups from around the world have signed an urgent letter to WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo, because they are seriously concerned about the state of affairs within the organization.
Since his previous government, prime minister Mark Rutte has wanted to create a green legacy with Invest-NL and Invest International, two new financial organisations. With the advent of the COVID-19 crisis, these organisations are more important than ever. Aiming to stimulate investment in sustainable and social projects, they will operate at a distance from the government so that they can act quickly and efficiently. With an initial budget of 2.5 billion euros, they will give financial support to companies active in sectors that the market avoids and which are at the heart of the transition. At Both ENDS, we see that as an essential step in closing the door for good on our old polluting lifestyle and putting sustainability at the centre of developments in the energy sector, in the organisation of our transport and mobility system, in how we produce our food and in the design of our cities.
Reward high-risk international business projects investing in a green future and stop support for the international fossil industry
The climate is 'hot'. Everyone is talking about it. 'Everyone needs to do something' calls the government in its recently started public campaign. Good plan. Let's really do something. For a start, we can stop supporting international trade in fossil energy by our own multinationals. That would free up 1.5 billion euros which we could use to combat climate change on an international scale and at the same time give our own innovative businesses a boost. Today's Vergeten Klimaattafel (Forgotten Climate Roundtable) will discuss the opportunities for the Netherlands to have a real impact. And those opportunities are enormous. Because our big money and our influence lie beyond our borders.
The climate debate in the Netherlands is bogged down in what we can change at home and does not touch on our actions abroad. And that is a missed opportunity. Precisely because our international trade model is both so influential and, at the same time, such a widespread cause of pollution, changes in that policy can have an immediate effect.
Whenever I see pictures of the people in the Dutch province of Groningen whose houses are collapsing because of gas extraction and who, even if they wanted to move somewhere else, would never be able to sell them, I can't help but think of all the people worldwide who have been experiencing the same problems, sometimes for decades. Every time I see the anger and powerlessness of the people of Groningen, the comparison to the many people we have been working with for many years in many parts of the world comes to my mind.
This is the text of the speech given by Danielle Hirsch on the 'Nacht van de Tegenmacht' (Night of Countervailing Power)