The Netherlands’ UPR: enough talk, time for action

The ICJ spoke today at the UN, on behalf of its Dutch national section NJCM and the civic rights organization Kompass, addressing the need for the Netherlands to adopt concrete measures to implement commitments it has accepted under the Universal Periodic Review process.

The statement, delivered in the discussion by the UN Human Rights Council of the outcome of the third cycle UPR of the Netherlands, read as follows:

The ICJ makes this statement with the support of our Dutch section NJCM (Nederlands Juristen Comité voor de Mensenrechten) and civic rights organization Kompass, who together coordinated the report ‘Bringing Human Rights Home’ on behalf of 23 Dutch organizations that contributed to the UPR of the Netherlands.

Some aspects of the Netherlands’ engagement with the UPR have been positive: the Foreign Ministry as well as UPR-info organized valuable interactions in Geneva for NGOs and delegates. Dutch politicians attended the UPR sessions, setting an important precedent. The Dutch Parliament discussed the UPR process for the first time ever.

Other aspects have been disappointing. The Dutch Foreign Minister has used the term “check-box diplomacy” in reference to States that formally engage with the UPR in Geneva but do not take the necessary steps to implement human rights at home. We fear that, ironically, the phrase could well be applied to the Netherlands itself, where the Government’s “National Action Plan” does not accord with relevant OHCHR guidance, and is commonly referred to by Dutch civil society as the “No Action Plan”. Indeed, Dutch civil society have yet to see any new action by the Government designed to implement the UPR recommendations.

We therefore encourage the future Minister of Interior to put an end to this passive attitude and start investing in the national coordination of the implementation of human rights, including in relation to accepted UPR recommendations, and to engage with the Dutch Parliament on priorities and meaningful actions for the New National Action Plan.

National Action Plans and UPR recommendations are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. Human Rights and the UPR are about taking action and reforming laws, policies and practices at home, not paper pushing and bureaucracy. With the Netherlands’ accepted UPR recommendations now in hand, Dutch civil society’s message is (to paraphrase a saying from Rotterdam): “enough talk, let’s get to work!”

Responding to these and similar remarks from other stakeholders, the delegation of the Netherlands stated that the government would convene, in November, a multi-stakeholder conference on UPR follow up, consisting of plenary and workshop sessions to discuss how to follow up the process at the national level.

The delegation also noted in its final remarks that the Netherlands views this third cycle of the UPR as being about implementation, specifically referencing the ICJ/NJCM/Kompass statement, saying, “in other words, as one of the NGO speakers put it, let’s get to work!”

The statement may be downloaded in PDF format here: HRC36-OralStatement-UPR-Netherlands-2017

AdvocacyNon-legal submissions