Issues concerning European integration
1. China’s expanding role and influence in the EU
This issue touches on the institutional configuration of global relations. In its treatment of this subject the AIV can examine Chinese policy on strategic acquisitions in Europe, the Chinese government’s investments in ports in Greece and elsewhere, and cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries in the context of the New Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative). The AIV can also explore the EU’s role as a champion of the multilateral system, as it relates to China’s position vis-à-vis the multilateral trade system and the Paris Climate Agreement.
An AIV advisory report could focus on the relationship between migration, the member states’ joint responsibility for the EU’s external border, and EU external policy. The issue of migration has not yet crystallised sufficiently to produce a new political balance and new political deals within the EU (e.g. a new ‘Dublin’ system) and between the EU and third countries. Action on the problem keeps being postponed, with the result that the current European asylum system is unprepared for another crisis. This topic also relates to the functioning of the Schengen system.
Issues concerning human rights
1. Universality of human rights: Narrative 2.0
The principle of the universality of human rights is under pressure internationally. This discussion is not in itself new, but it has gained fresh momentum with the rise of powers such as Russia, China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia and with the relative weakening of the United States (US) and countries within Europe. In addition, the importance of human rights is increasingly being called into question in the US and Europe. At the end of the Cold War human rights was a prominent issue internationally, but arguments promoting human rights have come to seem platitudinous and desultory in recent years. Many people question the inclusivity of human rights, in part because, since the end of the Cold War, market liberalisation, free trade and privatisation have led to greater economic inequality. China’s emphasis on community and on socioeconomic rights and equality and President Trump’s (America First) credo compete with this. The AIV could explore the background of this issue and the corresponding elements and trends (shrinking space for civil society) in an advisory report, and explain why active Dutch human rights policy remains an essential cornerstone of foreign and security policy. In this context, the AIV could also examine the scope of the human rights concept and draw on its findings to present elements of a new, updated human rights narrative.
2. The influence of ICT and other technologies on the development of human rights
The digital revolution has changed the world dramatically over the past 20 years. ICT and the internet have made the world smaller but also more fragmented. Digitalisation and robotisation have led to more flexible and underpaid labour and, as a result, greater economic inequality and socioeconomic insecurity. In addition, technological advances have brought about major changes in armed conflict, both for aggressors and for the civilians affected.1 In an advisory report, the AIV could investigate both the positive and negative impacts of these developments on human rights. Potential topics of exploration include the democratising effects of the mass use of mobile phones, which provide access to freedom of expression and information about human rights (for example, the Twitter revolution in Egypt). Modern technology could be used to aid in election monitoring and foster transparency. It also has uses in the area of security and border control, where it could be deployed to combat human trafficking and drug-related crime, for example. The AIV could examine the other side of this issue as well, to determine how information technology is undermining human rights. This could include, for example, an exploration of the influence of social media on the right to privacy (such as recent developments involving Facebook), the dangers of ‘fake news’ for election campaigns and the initiatives of the Chinese authorities to implement a ‘social credit system’.
Issues concerning development cooperation
1. Digitalisation and Innovation: Technology in Africa
Digitalisation is changing the landscape in Africa. Social media and mobile phones are being used to expand trade and services, specifically for product pricing, new export markets, value chain management, payments, service provision, medical applications and education. The e-revolution in Rwanda is a good example of how the new possibilities that digitalisation offers could bring Africa to the forefront of new developments. Those new developments (such as blockchain technology, the internet of things and big data) will require new education and training programmes in this area.
At the same time, there are risks for Africa. Use of cryptocurrencies to offset currency fluctuations (and compensate for a weak central bank) is increasing in Africa. Is this a desirable development? There is a danger that new dependencies will emerge, control over data and privacy will be lost and debt will increase as a result of investment in this sector. The question is under what conditions Africa’s interests will be served by joining the worldwide internet of data and services.
The Netherlands is a leader in cyber and encryption expertise and is a strong advocate within the European Union for making the research data of scientific and academic institutions accessible within the framework of the Go-FAIR initiative (FAIR stands for Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable). Dutch digitalisation expertise can be put to use to support economies in Africa.
In its policy document ‘Investing in Global Prospects’ (‘Investeren in perspectief’) the government announced its intention to promote digitalisation with the aim of stimulating sustainable and inclusive growth in the world and supporting development. In order to identify the threats and opportunities involved in the digitalisation process, it is important to investigate:
(a) What support Africa needs in order to profit from digital advances, and how opportunities can be maximised and threats minimised; and
(b) How the Dutch government can work with Dutch knowledge institutions, businesses and civil society organisations to shape a policy that supports African countries in the process of digitalisation.
2. The future of work: effective paths to creating jobs in Africa and the Middle East
Between now and 2050 the African continent will need approximately 15 million new jobs each year to sustain its rapidly growing population. The private sector is the engine that drives job growth. Most new jobs will be created by local, national and international businesses; by small and medium-sized enterprises and large corporations alike; in rural areas as well as in rapidly expanding urban areas; and in both the informal and formal sectors. Policy must ensure that education and training are suited to the changing work climate and that employment grows in green, sustainable sectors.
With its policy document ‘Investing in Global Prospects’ the Dutch government aims to contribute to sustainable development and effective job creation (especially for young people and women in Africa and the Middle East) and, by extension, the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The policy document sets out the government’s priorities for foreign trade and development cooperation, but the financing instruments still need to be developed. One central element of Dutch policy on foreign trade and development cooperation is leveraging the ‘Dutch Diamond’ approach: the Netherlands has a unique capacity to foster innovation and transformation through partnerships between private sector businesses/finance institutions, knowledge institutions, civil society and government bodies. Dutch actors can make a specific and significant contribution towards the economic transformation and job growth that is needed. The guiding principle is that economic activity can only flourish in a context that offers security, confidence and legal certainty for investment.
Main questions to be explored:
1) What do Africa and the Middle East need, and how can the growing demand of a rising population be determined? Where do prospects for effective job growth lie: primarily in manufacturing and intensified agriculture or in new economic sectors such as green industries and agriculture, ICT and digitalisation (SDG 8)? What specific targets can be attached to these elements, and what impact assessment criteria should be applied to job growth and sustainable development in the focus areas?
2) What fields of Dutch knowledge and expertise can be used to advance international cooperation in innovation, with the SDG impact criteria serving as a common thread?
3) How can further progress be made in professionalising the development cooperation and trade agenda by pooling the resources of the actors involved and making use of innovative financing?
4) What institutional parameters need to be in place to enable the private sector to conduct business in a way that helps Africa create jobs and is consistent with the other SDGs?
In this advisory report a number of important parameters would be considered:
- promoting circular economies and climate policy in developing countries (SDGs 7, 9, 12);
- reducing inequality (income, assets, access to natural resources) (SDG 10);
- promoting social protection and resilience, for women and girls in particular (SDGs 1-5, 8, 10);
- ensuring sustainable and inclusive urban development that fosters cooperation among all relevant actors (SDG 11); and
- fostering a context that offers security, confidence and legal certainty for investment (SDG 16).
3. Reception of refugees in the region (Africa)
At the end of 2017 there were over 68 million refugees worldwide, more than after the Second World War. The majority of refugees are hosted in the region of origin, where a lack of basic services and opportunities for economic integration and citizenship are serious problems. In addition, the safety of refugees and displaced persons is threatened by criminal activity such as human trafficking and recruitment by terrorist organisations. From a development perspective, however, there are economic opportunities in host countries. For example, in Ethiopia there are industrial parks, and there are opportunities to invest in and contribute to innovation and start-ups in the informal economy.
The following questions could be addressed in relation to this topic:
- What can be done to attract investment that would facilitate the economic integration of refugees and displaced persons in the region?
- What forms of education and innovation could contribute to the economic integration of refugees and displaced persons in the region?
- What can be done to bolster the rule of law, so that integration is supported by a safe, secure environment based on citizenship rather than statelessness?
- What can be done to tackle human trafficking and the recruitment of refugees by terrorist organisations, with a view to improving the protection of refugees?
Issues concerning peace and security
1. Developments relating to security policy in the Caribbean region and their impact on the Kingdom
The Dutch state is responsible for the international relations and the defence of the entire Kingdom, including the Caribbean part (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, St Maarten, St Eustatius and Saba). The Dutch armed forces, the Royal Military and Border Police (KMAR) and the coastguard therefore have a permanent presence in the region and carry out tasks such as border protection and providing protection against international crime, including drug-related crime. However, the Caribbean part of the Kingdom does not fall within the NATO treaty area. The threats in the region are primarily related to international crime and its effect on the Kingdom, both in the Caribbean and in Europe. Other factors also play a role, such as destabilisation in countries in the region, which could lead to migration flows to the US and the Kingdom. The situation in Venezuela, for example, is cause for concern.
There are several important questions in this connection: how does the Kingdom’s security architecture function in the Caribbean region? In the light of real and current threats, is it robust and effective? Are current Dutch efforts in this regard sufficient?
2. Turkey’s geopolitical role
The geopolitical balance of power is undergoing significant changes. The inauguration of the new US president has meant a shift in focus, the EU’s political and economic influence is under threat (as a result of Brexit and other factors), China’s military and economic power is increasing, and the EU’s neighbours – such as Russia, Turkey and Iran – are becoming increasingly assertive. Far-reaching changes are afoot in Turkish politics, at both domestic and foreign-policy level. Since the attempted military coup internal tensions have increased, the rule of law, press freedom and human rights are under pressure, and President Erdogan has greatly increased his powers by way of a referendum. Changes to Turkey’s foreign policy had already been introduced, but received additional impetus following the coup attempt. This can be seen, for example, in its more strident attitude towards the West and its rapprochement with Russia. Increasingly, Turkey is charting its own course in the Middle East, with military involvement in both Syria and Iraq, sometimes creating friction with the actions of the international coalition. Recently, Turkey has strengthened its ties with Russia, for example by reaching an agreement on the Russian-Turkish gas pipeline, TurkStream. Turkey also appears to seek greater influence in countries and regions where it has had a historical presence.
For several countries, Turkey’s foreign policy is taking on a strong domestic dimension (and vice versa). Turkey regularly attempts to promote its national interests beyond its borders by mobilising the Turkish diaspora or Turkish media abroad. In some cases this has led to undesirable foreign interference and it has met with resistance from various countries.
Due to these elements Turkey’s relationship with the EU and NATO is in a constant state of flux, which often leads to new challenges and can hamper existing cooperation. At the same time, Turkey is a strategic NATO ally. The size of the country’s armed forces is second only to the US and in terms of population Turkey is the third-largest country in the Alliance. Turkey is also an important ally in the fight against ISIS and plays a vital role in the reception of refugees and migrants. Moreover, the country is a major trading partner for the Netherlands.
3. Conflict prevention
Conflict prevention has been prominently placed at the top of the list of goals of the government’s Integrated International Security Strategy. The second goal – preventing violent extremism – is closely related to the first. Preventing conflict and instability by focusing more closely on root causes is also a primary objective in the policy document on foreign trade and development cooperation, ‘Investing in Global Prospects’ (‘Investeren in perspectief’). In addition, the Defence White Paper announced the establishment of a conflict prevention team at the Ministry of Defence. This must be viewed in light of the fact that Dutch interests have been hit hard in recent years by large-scale conflicts around Europe and the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom. Furthermore, it dovetails with the increasing emphasis on conflict prevention in the international community, including in the EU, the UN (including the Security Council), NATO and the World Bank. The World Bank recently calculated that preventive action to avert violent conflict costs many times less than responsive action aimed at stabilisation, taken after violence has erupted. The relevance and urgency of this topic therefore remains as great as ever.
The following research questions could advance the implementation of the Netherlands’ conflict prevention policy (through multilateral, EU or bilateral instruments):
- How could the government more effectively link the agendas aimed at addressing long-standing structural root causes (in the policy document ‘Investing in Global Prospects’) and shorter-term political efforts (in the Integrated International Security Strategy) to prevent conflict escalation and large-scale violence?
- How can EU member states play a bigger role in promoting integrated, targeted and flexible EU action to promote conflict prevention and broaden political support for this? Will the new EU budget present opportunities in this regard?
- What opportunities for identifying, analysing (early warning) and addressing (early action) conflict risks more effectively could emerge from advances in the field of big data analytics, the availability of real-time, open source and location-specific information sources, and the unprecedented developments taking place in ICT? How can the government make better use of opportunities to improve its information position and increase its effectiveness?
- What are the options for strengthening and implementing cooperation between international organisations (e.g. the EU, UN and regional organisations such as the African Union), international financial institutions (e.g. the World Bank) and bilateral donors in the area of conflict prevention? For this purpose it would be useful to take stock of the prevention instruments available to international organisations, international financial institutions (IFIs) and states, and to identify how these instruments could be used more effectively and cohesively.
4. Update of advisory report on autonomous weapon systems
In the joint advisory report entitled ‘Autonomous Weapon Systems: the Need for Meaningful Human Control’ (October 2015) the AIV and the Advisory Committee on Issues of Public International Law (CAVV) recommended that the government review the relevance of this advisory report in 2020 in light of the rapid advances in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence, and the ongoing international debate on this matter. The United States and China are working hard to refine advanced algorithms, machine learning, robotics and drone swarms, partly with a view to their military and security applications. In terms of investment, Russia is lagging behind the US and China, but President Putin has announced his intention to make up for lost ground in the years to come. European countries like France and the United Kingdom have also stressed the importance of exploring the scope for new applications.