Protecting activists, gay and women’s rights central in Dutch foreign policy

Protecting human rights activists, supporting gay and transgender rights, and supporting women’s rights are to be a cornerstone of Dutch foreign policy, the cabinet agreed on Friday.

‘If human rights are safe, the rule of law and democracy have more chance,’ foreign minister Frans Timmermans said in a statement. ‘If human rights are under pressure, suppression and dictatorship loom.’

These three aspects have been highlighted because there is broad support for them in Dutch society, Timmermans said. ‘Support for human rights both at home and abroad is part of our tradition,’ the minister said.


Ministers voted in favour of the new policy document at Friday’s cabinet meeting after it was amended to take into account objections from the VVD, according to media reports.

Nos television says the first draft was criticised by VVD members for being too moralistic. It would also have placed too great a burden on Dutch companies doing business abroad, Nos said.

The new policy pays less attention to freedom of religion than that operated by the previous government, news agency ANP points out.

Foreign trip

Timmermans is this week visiting Tunisia, Israel, Palestine and Turkey.

The purpose of the trip is to ‘invest in bilateral relations, contribute to the sustainable democratisation of the Arab region, promote human rights, and discuss the American initiative to revive the peace process in the Middle East and a possible EU and Dutch contribution to that initiative’, the foreign ministry said.

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