Voting with a worldwide impact
Disposable fashion items continue to flood into the country, the nitrogen crisis has brought construction to a standstill and energy poverty is on the rise, but Dutch politicians are contemplating their navels. These are problems that we can never solve on our own. The clothes we wear, the food on our plates, and the electricity that comes out of our wall sockets – they are all produced in global trade and production chains. With far-reaching consequences, both in our own country and far, very far beyond our borders. It would be naive to think that we can solve all these problems through domestic policies alone. And vice versa: we would be evading our responsibilities if we continued to believe that the Netherlands only plays a humble role on the global stage. Latest figures show that the Netherlands is the fourth largest exporter and the seventh largest importer of products worldwide. With the elections on the way, it is time to look beyond our own small country. Because it is also important to vote with a worldwide impact.
Politicians have so far not devoted much attention to that worldwide impact. There are examples enough: climate policy aimed at companies focuses mainly, or even exclusively, on emissions within the Netherlands, while as much as 95% of companies’ climate-harming emissions occur beyond our borders. And while we are faced with billions of euros of cutbacks in health and education, poverty is increasing and livelihood security is being eroded, multinationals can make use of a whole package of facilitated constructions to avoid paying taxes. That means that the Netherlands, as well as – and primarily – many countries in the Global South, are losing out on billions in tax revenues. And another example: the Netherlands is driving the green energy transition forward at home but is also providing billions in export support and grants to promote Dutch investments in fossil projects elsewhere.
And is the nitrogen crisis really only a national problem? The crisis is largely caused by our intensive farming model, which depends on excessive use of artificial fertilizer and pesticides. We have successfully exported that model to other countries. Like Brazil, where enormous tracts of rainforest have been cut down to produce soya that we import – duty free! – for cattle feed. In 2022, Dutch imports of soya from Brazil were worth no less than 1.9 billion euros. There is also much room for improvement in the clothing sector. The Netherlands is rightly critical of human rights violations in countries around the world, but clothing brands continue to produce disposable fashion items by paying starvation wages to workers in unsafe factories. Even now, it is still difficult to determine whether your clothes have really been produced fairly, safely and sustainably.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Two years ago for example, as a result of public pressure, the Dutch government decided to stop covering the risks incurred by Dutch companies involved in fossil energy projects abroad. The Minister for Climate and Energy decided to withdraw from the Energy Charter Treaty. Under the treaty, governments of signatory countries moving forward with the transition to sustainable energy run a realistic risk of mega-claims from companies that see their potential profits from fossil projects. The recent bill on international corporate social responsibility proposed by a number of parties compels companies to ensure that the people working in their supply chains can do so in decent and humane conditions. The European anti-deforestation law – which the Netherlands also supports – will protect the Amazon region and its inhabitants against more large-scale soya plantations. A number of ministers have pledged to look closely at the international impact of future agricultural policy. There are also many ideas on the table for a fairer tax system, which some parties have included in their manifestos. All hopeful decisions, which we can’t wait to see implemented.
There are initiatives and plans in place, and they are urgently needed. The Netherlands is not a closed ecosystem under a glass dome. What we do has an impact on the rest of the world and vice versa; we are irrevocably linked to what happens beyond our borders. With their policy proposals, Dutch political parties can contribute actively to problems at home and around the world, and therefore to the solutions to those problems. And we too, as voters, can contribute to those solutions by voting for parties that look beyond their own navels and understand how our own country and the whole world can benefit from a well-thought-out Dutch foreign policy.
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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.
Event / 9 November 2023, 20:30 - 22:30
See the Dutch web page for more information (in Dutch).
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.
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.
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.
Publication / 24 April 2023
Publication / 26 August 2020
Publication / 30 October 2023
Press release / 21 April 2023
The Dutch Agriculture Agreement, which is currently under development, is too much focused solely on the Netherlands. That is the opinion of a broad coalition of more than sixty NGOs, farmers' organisations, scientists and companies that have today sent an urgent letter to agriculture minister Piet Adema and foreign trade and development minister Liesje Schreinemacher. The government's agricultural policy should also aim to reduce the Netherlands' enormous agrarian footprint beyond our borders, by taking food security and the preservation of biodiversity as its starting points. The coalition has published a manifesto in which it sets out how reform of the Netherlands' foreign agricultural policy could be given shape.
Press release / 26 August 2020
Dutch pension money is invested heavily in companies that contribute to deforestation in the Amazon region and the Cerrado savanna in Brazil, such as soy, animal feed and beef companies. This is concluded in a report published today by Profundo, commisioned by the Fair Finance Guide, Hivos and Both ENDS. All ten pension funds that were examined invest in these types of companies, with the ABP pension fund and Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn on top with investments worth EUR 580 million and EUR 383 million respectively.
Publication / 4 November 2009
News / 15 March 2021
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.
News / 9 February 2022
TotalEnergies and the Chinese National Offshore Oil Cooperation (CNOOC) are currently developing an oil extraction and transportation project in Uganda: East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). The project – the construction of a heated pipeline (EACOP) of no less than 1445 kilometers through Uganda and Tanzania to export crude oil, is increasingly causing human rights violations and environmental damage. This is a matter of great concern to civil society organisations in Uganda and beyond. This week, Both ENDS, together with partner organisations in Uganda, sent an urgent letter to twelve pension funds and asset managers with investments in TotalEnergies and CNOOC.
Press release / 19 May 2021
Amsterdam, 19 May 2021 – On 25 March, a day after violent attacks in northern Mozambique, the Dutch state decided to provide dredging company Van Oord with export credit insurance worth 900 million euros for its activities in the country. The company is conducting dredging operations for a highly controversial gas project that, according to Mozambican interest groups, is playing a prominent role in the escalating violence in the region. Civil society organisations Both ENDS, Milieudefensie and Oil Change International and their Mozambican partners are alarmed about the situation and have called the Dutch government and Dutch export credit agency Atradius DSB to account.
News / 12 July 2021
At the beginning of this year, the Dutch government provided Dutch companies with export insurance worth 903 million euros to enable them to participate in a gigantic natural gas project in the north of Mozambique. Together with partners from Mozambique and the Netherlands, Both ENDS has been conducting a dialogue with export credit agency Atradius DSB and the responsible Ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs on the possible financial, environmental and social risks of the gas project.
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.
Press release / 18 September 2020
Boskalis doesn’t have to share documents on controversial project; fishing communities will not get crucial information
18 september - The court in Rotterdam today ruled that Dutch dredging company Boskalis does not have to make information on the social and environmental risks of its sand extraction operations in the coastal zone near Makassar, Indonesia, available to local fishing communities affected by the activities. Environmental and human rights organisation Both ENDS had initiated legal action against the company. The court declared Both ENDS inadmissible and did not consider the case. Both ENDS brought the action on behalf of Indonesian fishing communities after Boskalis had rejected repeated requests to provide information on the impact of its activities.
Press release / 1 September 2020
Both ENDS brings legal action against Dutch dredging company on behalf of fisherfolk in South Sulawesi
Environment and human rights organisation Both ENDS is bringing legal action against Boskalis, after the Dutch dredging company continually ignored requests for information on a controversial sand extraction project in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Boskalis is extracting sand off the coast of Sulawesi for expansion of the port in the capital, Makassar. The extraction activities are affecting fishing grounds, making it impossible for local fisherfolk to earn their livelihoods.
News / 14 December 2023
In the weeks following the elections, Both ENDS is looking at how Dutch foreign policy can be influenced in the coming years to reduce our footprint abroad and to work in the interests of people and planet. We will be doing that in four double interviews, each with an in-house expert and someone from outside the organisation.
Publication / 8 May 2019