The Dutch foreign affairs ministry is ingrained with a culture of racism, discrimination and exclusion, according to an independent report drawn up on behalf of the ministry.
The report, commissioned in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, includes a litany of experiences from staff members who say they have been subjected to verbal abuse, denigratory behaviour and insinuations.
‘Employers are being passed over, ignored and left out,’ the report said. ‘They are on the receiving end of racist jokes and low expectations and are sometimes seen by white colleagues as ‘the ethnic and cultural other’, not as fully-fledged Dutch nationals.’
This emphasis on people’s ethnic and cultural background has also led to questions about their loyalty. ‘Staff also find it difficult to deal with the stimatising tone used to discuss different ethnic groups, whereby people are described as monkeys, negroes and Zwarte Piet on the basis of their skin colour,’ the report said.
The report is based on lengthy interviews with 33 bi-cultural members of staff in The Hague and abroad, as well as focus groups made up of personnel officials and policy advisors.
One recurring issue quoted in the report is the way Muslim members of staff were constantly asked to condemn terrorist attacks by their colleagues. Another is the suspicion that they had been given their jobs on the basis of their ethnicity.
‘One personnel office told me it was a pity I was not a lesbian or disabled, because then there would be two more ticks after my name,’ one respondent told the report’s authors.
The ministry’s secretary general Paul Huijts has described the report’s findings as ‘unacceptable‘.
‘The fact that racism occurs within our organisation is especially painful because any form of discrimination is prohibited by law and we advocate for justice at an international level,’ he said. ‘In that light too, we will do everything we can to combat racism within our own organisation.
Foreign affairs minister Wopke Hoekstra said in a note to MPs that the ministry will introduce a raft of measures in an effort to bring about a cultural shift. These will be based on building awareness and improving procedures for dealing with problems and appointments. They may also include a move towards anonymous job applications, he said.
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