How well is the Netherlands progressing in achieving the SDGs?
In 2015, the United Nations instigated the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These seventeen interrelated goals are intended to result, by 2030, in a better, fairer and more sustainable world in which no one is left behind. As a member of the UN, the Netherlands is committed to promote the SDGs and every year Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and the central government publish reports on the progress made. The initiators of 'SDG Spotlight Nederland' however believe that there is a need for an annual report on the Netherlands' performance on specific SDGs from a different perspective. Fiona Dragstra and Stefan Schuller of Both ENDS contributed to the report on 2020 and tell us here why they think it is so important.
What is the report about?
Fiona: "This report is mainly about SDGs 10 (Reducing inequality) and 15 (Life on land) and how they are related. It looks at the part the Netherlands plays in achieving – or not achieving – these goals at international level. These two goals were not chosen at random, because you can use them to measure whether the Netherlands is helping to maintain the balance between the three Ps – people, planet, prosperity."
Stefan: "And that proves to be disappointing: the Netherlands' efforts on both SDGs are below par: we are obstructing sustainable development elsewhere, not only through the large-scale import of products like soya and palm oil, but also through our continued support for the fossil industry."
Fiona: "And of course that has not been helped in the past year by the Covid-19 crisis. On the contrary: it has not only made painfully clear how vulnerable millions of people are and how unequally prosperity is distributed, but has made the problems even worse. And in the meantime, the Netherlands is failing miserably to take on its responsibilities: the government and the business community do not seem to consider achieving the SDGs a priority, while they are crucial for the transition to a sustainable society."
What is main conclusion from the report?
Fiona: "The conclusion from the report is that, with the policy it is currently pursuing, the Netherlands is not making sufficient progress on achieving SDGs 10 and 15. Ultimately, that can be traced back to the same fault in the system: almost unlimited freedom for multinationals and other companies to earn money on the basis of low wages and the use of natural resources. Our trade system is fully focused on achieving that and our (outgoing) government continues to lend a willing ear to the lobby of companies wishing to strengthen their position at the expense of people and the natural environment."
Stefan: "And the profits made from harmful business activities and in the financial sector are invested in even more similar activities worldwide. In economic terms that may be considered favourable in the short term, but in social and ecological terms it is of course disastrous."
Fiona: "It is a worldwide trend that highly educated people benefit from globalisation and the technological revolution, while people with practical, lower-skilled occupations fall further and further behind. Inequality is thus increasing rather than decreasing, and the Netherlands has no qualms about playing its part in that development."
What needs to happen?
Stefan: "It is crucial that we, the whole world together, work to create a model of economic prosperity that does not operate at the expense of people and the natural environment, but contributes to them, both now and in the future. The idea behind the SDGs is therefore very good and useful, but in practice what is required to bring about real social and economic change is not happening quickly enough."
Fiona: "You can clearly see what is happening in many parts of the world: farming and fishing communities, indigenous peoples and other groups rely for their livelihoods directly on what nature provides, such as forest products, food crops and food from the sea. They have been using these natural resources and products for hundreds of years in a way that ensures they remain available for themselves and for many future generations. And yet they are the first to suffer from deforestation, pollution, soil depletion and acidification of the oceans. All over the world, these carefully preserved natural resources are being exploited by rich elites and multinational corporations. And, unfortunately, the Netherlands is playing a prominent role in this exploitation."
Stefan: "Western countries can play a central role in achieving SDGs 10 and 15, for example by adopting more sustainable eating habits with more vegetable rather than meat protein and many more local products. That transition is one of the main keys to restoring biodiversity and reducing global warming. But to achieve that, the global trade system – which continues to give priority to and promote large-scale production – needs to be radically reformed. Then small, sustainable farmers around the world, including those in the Netherlands, would be better protected. Poorer countries can then rebuild their own food markets and farmers in the EU can once again be paid fixed prices for their products."
So that will call for difficult choices to be made?
Stefan: "The ambition to achieve greater sustainability already exists and cautious steps have been taken in the right direction, but we now need to make serious progress. And that does indeed mean making difficult choices and drawing up enforceable rules to, for example, restrict the activities of the fossil industry. In fields like agriculture, energy and the circular economy, our government is focusing mainly on technological innovation rather than changing behaviour – as in the food transition I just mentioned."
Fiona: "What is comes down to is that we want to keep on living in the same old way. We want to preserve the old, non-sustainable system or maybe push a few buttons to make it a little more sustainable. But if we really want to move towards a fair, sustainable and future-proof world, the whole system needs to change. The Netherlands cannot do that alone but has sufficient influence internationally to play a leading role!"
Where do the opportunities lie for the next government?
Stefan: "There needs to be a national strategy and robust national goals, in line with what has been agreed internationally. And the policies of all ministries must of course contribute to achieving the goals in the Netherlands and worldwide. One ministry must not undermine what another is promoting. At the moment, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, for example, may be supporting international cooperation on sustainable agricultural methods while, at the same time, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy is organising trade missions with agrarian entrepreneurs wishing to set up intensive farming and livestock companies abroad. That is incoherent policy and we have to stop that."
Fiona: "The new coalition will now really have to impose stricter rules on international trade for multinationals, that at least ensure that human rights, nature and the environment are given as much weight as the economic agenda. And there is also much room for improvement in development cooperation: local organisations, interest groups and scientists must be involved, much more than they are now, in achieving agro-ecological agriculture and sustainable energy, forestry and nature conservation, so that they fit the local context and genuinely benefit local people."
Stefan: "The Netherlands should invest much more in sustainable and inclusive, bottom-up agro-ecological methods like Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration, which has been successful in the Sahel, and Analog Forestry for food forests. We are certain that focusing on these methods will make an enormous contribution to reducing inequality and achieving a sustainable and fair world in which no one is left behind."
For more information:
The report 'De vrijblijvendheid voorbij' (in Dutch)
For more information
Read more about this subject
News / 14 March 2021
A number of our colleagues at Both ENDS made a lot of noise at various locations around the country today, as part of the national Klimaatalarm (Climate Alarm) campaign. Annelieke Douma gave a short speech in Haarlem on the major role played by the Netherlands in climate change and environmental degradation beyond our borders. She made a number of suggestions that would immediately make Dutch foreign policy a lot more climate-friendly. Below is the text of her speech.
Elections are soon to be held in the Netherlands. The political parties are sharpening their knives and have outlined their plans in hefty manifestos. Not surprisingly, they mainly focus on domestic issues. International themes are primarily addressed in terms of opportunities for Dutch companies and threats in areas like health, privacy and competition that we need to protect ourselves against. But if we want to make the Netherlands sustainable, we especially need to look at our footprint beyond our own borders and make every effort to reduce it. In the weeks leading up to the elections, Both ENDS looks at where the parties' manifestos offer opportunities to achieve that.
Publication / 7 November 2022
Publication / 22 April 2021
Publication / 7 March 2022
In 2015, the member states of the United Nations committed themselves to the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Unlike their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the SDGs recognise the importance of equality within and between countries, of decision-making processes in which all people are included and heard, and of legal systems that are independent and accessible to all.
News / 16 August 2019
Today, an op-ed by Nathalie van Haren and Stefan Schüller was published in the Dutch national newspaper De Volkskrant about the IPCC's latest report "Climate Change and Land". Below you find the English translation.
Publication / 26 August 2020
Blog / 16 February 2021
The Netherlands can contribute much to making agriculture sustainable – nationally and internationally
If the Netherlands wants to make its agriculture and livestock industry sustainable and to ensure that farmers get a fair price for their products, it will also have to look beyond its own borders. The Netherlands is the world's second largest exporter of agricultural products. We have a great impact because, through our trade relations, we uphold a system of intensive agriculture that destroys ecosystems and undermines local production. Partly due to our trade in agricultural products, the Dutch economy is has a large, and growing, footprint. That should and can be different: the Netherlands is in a good position to lead the required transition in agriculture. Fortunately, the party manifestos for the coming elections offer sufficient opportunities to set that in motion. A new coalition can thus take decisive new steps.
Publication / 11 July 2019
News / 7 October 2018
We are very proud that our director Daniëlle Hirsch has been included again in the ‘Sustainable 100’ (an annual ranking list published by Dutch newspaper Trouw), and has gone up more than 40 spots compared to last year! Danielle was included in the list because of the many things she does with her organisation as a whole, but she got the higher ranking for the way she combines her criticism of the destructive role of the Netherlands as a trading nation and large cause of CO2 emissions in the world (often supported by the Dutch government), with a constructive attitude when it comes to finding alternatives and solutions.
Press release / 7 March 2022
A recent study by Profundo for Both ENDS and Oxfam Novib shows that investment in agroecology is necessary for a sustainable and inclusive global food system. Today, some 768 million – one in ten – people suffer from hunger or a severe shortage of food on a daily basis. Conflict, economic stagnation caused by the Corona epidemic, and the climate crisis present an immediate threat to the production of and access to sufficient nutritious food. Agroecology, a form of agriculture that places small-scale farmers, the natural environment and short supply chains at the centre of food production, makes communities in developing countries more resilient and helps them combat hunger. The study concludes however that major donors, including the Netherlands, are so far providing insufficient support for agroecology.
The lion's share of public budgets for climate, agriculture and development still goes to conventional agroindustrial projects that contribute to the current climate, food and biodiversity crises. Both ENDS and our partners are calling for a transition to agroecological practices that are people- and environment-friendly.
Publication / 2 November 2021
News / 10 August 2021
As a response to the latest IPCC report, the directors of IUCN NL, Tropenbos International, Wetlands International, Both ENDS and the Institute for Environmental Security wrote an op-ed about the role nature policy can and should play in stopping climate change, which was published in Dutch in De Volkskrant of August 10, 2021. Below, you find the English translation of the article.
News / 27 May 2021
During the formation of a new Dutch government after the general elections in March, a group of concerned citizens is holding a wake in front of the Prime Minister's residence to remind the political leaders of the climate crisis. On Friday May 28, they will pay attention to the international aspect, initiated by Cordaid, Oxfam Novib, Care, ActionAid, WECF, Hivos and Tearfund. Both ENDS is happy to support the initiative.
Letter / 4 May 2020
The Corona crisis is showing us just how closely our current economy is irrevocably intertwined with the pollution of the planet and is making people all around the world more and more vulnerable. Both ENDS and MVO Nederland (CSR Netherlands) – are particularly concerned about what we hear about human rights, climate and the environment. We ask the Dutch government, in a letter to Minister Kaag, to commit to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
News / 17 June 2021
Today is World Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought Day. Such a day is more than needed to get attention for desertification, land degradation and drought that are threatening and hitting hundreds of millions of people in many regions throughout the world. While the causes - such as large-scale agriculture, use of pesticides, water extraction and climate change - are clear and need to be stopped, it is just as important to focus on solutions like restoration and sustainable land use.– in line with World Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought Day's theme for this year: 'Restoration. Land. Recovery. We build back better with healthy land', we will therefore especially focus on inspiring solutions during the next few weeks.
Press release / 25 May 2022
Award of export support for controversial project in Manilla undermines the Netherlands’ environmental and CSR ambitions
Dutch export credit agency Atradius DSB announced yesterday that it is to provide export credit insurance worth 1,5 billion euros to Dutch dredging company Boskalis for a controversial land reclamation project in the Philippines. According to Dutch and international organisations, including Both ENDS, CARE Netherlands, IUCN NL, Kalikasan PNE and Oceana Philippines, the award of export credit insurance for this project runs contrary to the Netherlands' ambitions in the areas of environment and corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Event / 14 June 2022, 15:00 - 16:30
Both ENDS and the Land Portal Foundation invite you to the second webinar in the Whose Land? Inclusive Pathways to Land Governance series, which will focus on the opportunities and constraints of civil society organizations (CSOs) and local communities in advocating for more open land data and in harnessing its power for improved land governance.