News / 10 March 2017

Vote for fair, sustainable and international leadership

The Netherlands is facing an important choice this week. On one side, there are political parties that want to shut the country off from the outside world and let climate change advance unchecked. On the other side, there are parties calling on the Netherlands to once again take the lead in areas like climate change, fair taxes and sustainable trade. Both ENDS believes that such leadership is crucial now more than ever.

We cannot achieve sustainable development without the rest of the world. But the reverse is equally true: the rest of the world cannot move forward without the Netherlands. As the world's 17th largest economy and a member of the largest trade block, the Netherlands is a leading global player. This week, the people of the Netherlands will choose whether we are going to take on that leadership role or close our doors and retreat behind our dykes.

From taxes to climate: choose clarity
The Netherlands is well placed to take on that leadership role. Many seeds have been sown in recent years. We have helped strengthen tax authorities in developing countries so that they can collect taxes more efficiently, and have reviewed a number of tax agreements with developing countries to make tax evasion in those countries more difficult. We are helping people in vulnerable regions to adapt to climate change. And in the area of free trade, too, the Dutch government has taken the initiative with the establishment of the Breed Handelsberaad (a broad platform of government, the private sector and civil society set up to discuss trade agreements), and getting companies to sign the voluntary textile agreement.


At the same time, however, we are still the second largest tax haven in the world. Thanks to the Netherlands' 'favourable' tax regime, multinationals can avoid paying taxes on a large scale. We are also a long way behind other EU member states in terms of sustainable energy, and invest heavily in the fossil fuel industry beyond our borders. And we support companies that want to do business abroad, but do not make a great effort to ensure compliance with human rights.


Sustainable development requires coherent policy
The Netherlands has great potential to take the lead within and beyond our national borders. That leadership calls for coherent policy. Both ENDS believes that the most important opportunities lie in four themes:

  • Fossil-free investments
    The Netherlands has signed the Paris Agreement on climate change. That means that we must make every effort to reduce our CO2 emissions. And not only in the Netherlands, but also abroad. Currently, public money is still being used to fund investments in fossil fuels. Both ENDS considers that incompatible with the agreements reached in Paris and is working with many others on the divestment of our own pension and tax contributions from the fossil industry.

    The choice is clear: we should vote for political parties whose programmes acknowledge that climate change can no longer be postponed and have adopted concrete measures to tackle it in the coming period of government.
  • Citizen participation: exporting the 'polder model'
    The Netherlands has a wide variety of provisions in place to ensure that citizens can participate in discussions on developments affecting their immediate surroundings. Plans are made public, local participation meetings are organised, and the authorities have to acknowledge and respond to all objections. Every person in the Netherlands can participate and lodge objections freely and safely.

    The Dutch government must continue to propagate this 'polder model' of participation and consensus. Leadership by the government, combined with a development budget that supports the participation of people and civil society organisations in political and decision-making processes are essential to ensure that people in other parts of the world are also able to participate in decisions that affect their lives.

    Parties that believe that international cooperation is not only about strengthening the Netherlands' trade relations but, more importantly, about strengthening democratic decision-making processes and protecting human rights are the best proponents of our polder model.
  • Fair taxes
    Tax competition between countries has led to progressively falling tax rates for large companies, making it an all-out race to the bottom. The Netherlands is taking the lead in this race, and citizens here and abroad are footing the bill. As a member of Tax Justice NL, Both ENDS has joined the call for a fair tax system.

    More and more parties are acknowledging that the Netherlands is playing a pivotal role in tax evasion worldwide and that this is one of the main obstacles to increasing global equality.
  • Social and sustainable trade agreements
    It is now widely accepted that CETA and TTIP can have a negative impact on people and the environment, because they give priority to the trade interests of the private sector. This also applies to bilateral agreements. People in developing countries often suffer the negative effects of such agreements. Both ENDS wants to see human rights and sustainability given the greatest priority in concluding trade agreements.

    Some political parties oppose trade agreements because they want the Netherland to turn its back on the rest of the world. But there are also parties that, like Both ENDS, are critical of the form and content of the current agreements and call for international trade to be structured in a way that is good for people and the environment, both in the Netherlands and abroad.


What do parties say about human rights, development and climate?
If you don't know which party deserves your vote, and share our wish for fair, sustainable policies: fill out the various voting tools listed below (in Dutch) and choose which party best suits your ideas.

Also, there have been various publications by different media analysing parties' plans, eg by Kaleidos Research, Vice Versa, NRC, Opzij and De Volkskrant.

Read more about this subject