GENEVA (16 November 2018) – The Netherlands deserved praise as a global leader in advancing human rights-based international solidarity but more could be done locally in its ongoing efforts to combat rising poverty, shrinking civic space and marginalisation of minorities, a UN expert said today.

Wrapping up an 11-day visit to the Netherlands and Bonaire, the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, Obiora C. Okafor, praised the Dutch model of social security and social protection, which had fostered a “strong and relatively egalitarian society”. He particularly endorsed the welcoming of individuals fleeing persecution and the provision of services for newly arrived migrants and refugees, while stressing that more needs to be done in this area.

Gender equality and the rights of LGBTI persons were actively promoted and the Independent Expert also applauded action on business and human rights, promotion of environmental sustainability and combatting climate change; although greater effort should be made to ensure the introduction of binding legal obligations in this area.

“I strongly believe that the role of civil society organisations is fundamental to the advancement of human rights-based international solidarity,” Okafor said, noting that “human rights principles, corporate social responsibility and gender equality occupy a pride of place” in projects undertaken by civil society organisations in the Netherlands.

Although the country had a long tradition of help for others, including through individual and civil society action and government aid overseas, Okafor also said some among the Netherlands’ migrant and ethnic minorities felt isolated, socially and politically, from Dutch society – even after more than a generation living there.

The Independent Expert also said that many NGOs felt that civic space was shrinking, with reduced funding for civil society organisations – especially those openly critical of the government – and that poverty was rising.

During his visit to Bonaire, the expert found poverty was a particular concern in the Dutch Caribbean, where the cost of living was much higher and the isolation hindered access to health and social services. Administrative changes were also a challenge in this respect.

Okafor’s detailed report of his visit and recommendations will be presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2019.

The expert: Obiora C. Okafor was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity in June 2017. He assumed his functions on 1 August 2017. He is the York Research Chair in International and Transnational Legal Studies (Senior Tier) and a tenured Full Professor of Law at the Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, Toronto, Canada. He is also a former Chairperson of the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee.