Headshot of Liesje Schreinemacher

Last Friday June 24, Minister Schreinemacher of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation presented her new policy note ‘Doing what the Netherlands is good at’. The prevailing idea is that when Dutch companies are supported to seize opportunities, they will also create the desired opportunities for partners in the South. But opportunities rarely arise naturally to those who need them most. This requires an integrated policy vision on incusive development.

DCDD is pleased that in this policy note the cabinet has opted for a feminist foreign policy that focuses on equal opportunities for women and girls, in all their diversity. We are happy that the government states that it strives to ‘leave no one behind’ in all its efforts and that it looks after the needs for people with disabilities in its programmes – because only this way the SDGs can be achieved. Inclusive development policy is effective policy: investing in equality of opportunity and removing barriers for groups that experience the most exclusion, such as people with disabilities, ensures sustainable development and stability for everyone.

What is striking, however, is that the feminist foreign policy and the ‘leave no one behind’ principle are mentioned in separate places in the note and that they are not integrated as a central starting point within the various topics of the policy note. Despite the increased inequality worldwide and the increase in the number of people with disabilities, an integrated vision of inclusion is lacking. The policy note does not discuss the way in which the marginalised groups will be enabled to benefit from the Dutch efforts on climate adaptation, digitisation, food, water, SRHR, vocational education, humanitarian aid and trade. How is a win-win situation created for them? And what is the impact of ending funding for primary education on equal opportunities?

Dutch efforts do not automatically reach groups that experience discriminatory barriers. Trickle-down thinking is wishful thinking, according to many studiesResearch by The Broker also found that less than 2% of Dutch ODA funding is spent on programmes that people with disabilities can participate in, due to a lack of attention to accessible buildings and communication. This while, according to the WHO, 20% of people in areas with poverty and conflict have a disability.

Pursuing inclusion means prioritising inclusion through proactive and consistent measures. The House of Representatives has repeatedly requested the elaboration of such measures, both in the broad Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation policy and in sub-themes such as emergency aid, SRHR and youth policy. In the Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation internet consultation, the desire for more ambition in the field of inclusion was clearly expressed. And last but not least: the government has committed itself to this through the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

To ensure that the wish to seize business opportunities does not override the commitment to create equal opportunities for all, DCDD calls for the development of an integral inclusion strategy in the further elaboration of the policy. Do so from an intersectional perspective and focus on the 4 R’s of feminist foreign policy: rights, resources, representation and reality check.

This response to the new Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation note of Minister Schreinemacher has been drawn up on behalf of the 30 participants of the Dutch Coalition on Disability and Development in collaboration with the We Are Able! Consortium. DCDD also supports the reactions of Partos and WO=MEN, networks of which DCDD is a part.

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