Landelijke India Werkgroep

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Frans Timmermans

Minister of International Trade and Development Cooperation, Lilianne Ploumen

Member of Dutch Parliament Joel Voordewind (ChristianUnion)
(Mar 13, 2013)

Dutch Minister Timmermans (Foreign Affairs) wants a stronger EU policy on Dalits

Parliamentary questions, motions and debate are the trigger

During the budget session of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 18-19th December 2012, Member of Dutch Parliament Voordewind (ChristianUnion) brought up the Dalit-issue during his contribution to the debate. He also did this before while discussing with the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Rosenthal. He said: ‘’In this Parliament a motion submitted by me has been adopted that requests to pay extra attention to thinking in terms of classes [he probably refers to castes] and the position of Dalits. This motion has, again, not been implemented. I am asking the Minister to look at this anew. I will hand over the motion to him.’’

Minister Timmermans replied extensively, including stating the following:
“Mister Voordewind has raised a very important and complex issue: the position of Dalits. It is my opinion that the social emancipation of population groups that for centuries are not even on the ladder, let alone on the bottom rung of a ladder, belongs to the desire of the international community to apply the universality of human rights to every human being. Therefore I think that we should carefully consider the position of Dalits and also have to invest in strengthening that position. The topic of discrimination based on work and descent has – as far as I am concerned – to be put higher on the agenda of the European Union. The European Parliament has recently adopted a very relevant resolution about the position of Dalits and I think that we can also better shape European policy on that basis.’’

What happened earlier
In December 2010 and June 2011 the Dutch Parliament adopted two motions on human rights in India, including on Dalits. The first motion concerned the sustainability and human rights clause in the EU-India free trade treaty about which the EU and India are presently negotiating. Tackling child labour as well as discrimination and exploitation of Dalits are mentioned prominently in the motion. The Parliament requested Minister Rosenthal of Foreign Affairs "to exert its efforts in the European context for a robust sustainability chapter, in which among other things is being aimed at: the reduction of child labour, the improvement of the position of Dalits, the availability of medicines for HIV/AIDS and a dispute settlement mechanism; and not to be agree with strongly weakened compromise".

The second motion of June 2011 – particularly on Dalits - stated "that the around 250 million Dalits are victims of countless violations of fundamental human rights and that this group disproportionally suffers from violations of labour rights in supply chains of Dutch companies including in garments, seeds and natural stone".
The Parliament has four specific requests to the Dutch government including raising the Dalit issue in EU and UN context, raising the issue as part of the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council; addressing companies with regard to their duty to combat caste discrimination and financial support to the International Dalit Solidarity Network.
In July 2011 Minister Rosenthal visited India after which he informed the press that he "had great confidence in the way the Indian government is actively tackling these issues (child labour, forced labour, non-discrimination etc.)".
Member of Parliament Mr. Voordewind of the ChristianUnion party posed written questions to the government on 31 October 2011 on the implementation of the motions, about the statements by Minister Rosenthal and about what the Netherlands is doing to promote fundamental labour rights and other human rights in India. After highly unsatisfactory answers to the questions on 31 October 2011, he raised another set of questions on 16 January 2012 about the implementation of the motions. In one of his questions he expresses his doubt if the Minister is really willing to implement the ‘Dalit motion’ which he had promised to do after its adoption in June 2011. On 18-19 December 2012 he got a more satisfactory answer.

A report on the full discussion between Voordewind and Timmermans, as well as earlier (answers to) parliamentary questions and motions can be found here.

Landelijke India Werkgroep / India Committee of the Netherlands -