The Dutch government has announced plans to reduce its official development assistance in 2011 as part of its austerity measures.
In a press release, the Dutch foreign affairs ministry said next year’s ODA budget will be euro400 million (USD527 million) less than the current level. In 2015, the cut will amount to a total of euro810 million.
The Dutch government also intends to halve the number of partner countries, from 33 to 16, and has identified education and health care as the sectors that will likely suffer budget cuts. The big winners of the revised Dutch aid focus: food security, water, security and the rule of law in fragile states, and sexual and reproductive health rights. Ben Knapen, Dutch minister for European affairs and international cooperation, said these policy themes “dovetail with the Millennium Development Goals and worldwide issues such as Global Public Goods.”
Knapen added: “Within these themes, the emphasis lies on developing the economy and promoting entrepreneurship. The government wants to shift the focus from aid to investment and will be drawing more on Dutch knowledge and skills. To achieve its aims and boost effectiveness, it will also pursue cooperation through the business community.”
Despite the cuts, the Dutch government said the Netherlands “will remain a leading donor country and still keep to international agreements.” The new policy will put the development budget at 0.7 percent of the gross national product. Netherlands is one of a handful of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries that have consistently met or exceeded the internationally agreed aid target of 0.7 percent of the national income.
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According to the Dutch foreign ministry, more details on the new policy are expected to be out in the first half of 2011.
“It is already clear that the 3D programme (the combination of Defence, Diplomacy and Development) will be extended, the available funding for emergency aid will remain unchanged, and the policy on budget support will be reviewed,” the ministry said.
Huub Löffler, who heads Wageningen International of the Netherlands-based Wageningen Agricultural University, is pleased with the increased focused on agriculture and water management.
“Agriculture has been neglected for a very long time. It is good to have the subject back on the agenda again,” Löffler told Radio Netherlands Worldwide. “And it is not just the Netherlands, but part of an international context. The 2008 World Development Report says this is the way forward, particularly in Africa. This is where our focus should be.”
But Oxfam Novib is less than thrilled with the news from the foreign ministry, particularly the agency’s intent to pursue cooperation through the private sector.
“As far as we have been able to determine, no scientific research has been conducted into the effectiveness of channelling aid via the business community,” Tom van der Lee, campaign manager at Oxfam Novib, said to Radio Netherlands Worldwide. “First off, there is the issue of accountability, giving an account of how the money is spent. This is already a difficult issue where governments are concerned, but far more complicated for private enterprise.”