Crisis management operations in fragile states: the need for a coherent approach

May 15, 2009 - nr.64

Conclusions and recommendations

1         Moderation and sobriety should prevail

This advisory report is about greater cooperation between all actors and greater coherence between all activities in complex crisis management operations in fragile states throughout the conflict cycle. The aim of such operations, which encompass political, civil and military activities, is to contribute (in accordance with international law and international humanitarian law) to preventing, managing and resolving conflicts in order to achieve internationally agreed political objectives. Afghanistan, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Sudan (Darfur) are examples of countries where complex crisis management operations are currently taking place. These operations are considered complex, among other reasons, because the various stages of the conflict are not clearly defined and because the security situation can change drastically from one moment to the next.

In addition, crisis management operations generally take place in fragile states where the central government functions very poorly, if at all. The AIV recognises that, in order to develop, states need a basic level of security, including a minimum of socioeconomic services and of respect for human rights. The emphasis should initially be on security, stability and strengthening local institutions that promote the rule of law, rather than on democracy and elections. If a crisis management operation is to be successful in the long term, reconstruction and sustainable development must also be initiated as swiftly as possible. The realisation that such complex operations require drawing simultaneously on expertise in a large number of fields, such as diplomacy, state building, the rule of law, development and security dates back to the beginning of the 1990s. Paradoxically, the increasing number of actors also contributes to the complexity of these operations.

Since the 1990s, the need for ‘greater cooperation and coherence’ in response to the intractable problems of crisis management operations has been brought to the attention of the international community, for example in UN documents and academic literature. There are countless joint declarations advocating greater cooperation and coherence. This formula has sometimes been put into practice, for example in Bosnia. However, due in particular to experience gained from the crisis management operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, in which reconstruction plays a major role, greater cooperation and coherence is now considered a more urgent need and new concepts like the 3D approach have become increasingly attractive. Based on practical experiences and a study of the literature, the AIV nevertheless concludes that the call for greater cooperation between the various actors is often of no avail. Among other questions, this advisory report examines why so little has been done over the years to put this widely held perception into practice. The insights gained from this examination offer starting points for improvement.

Complex crisis management operations in fragile states are especially difficult due to the intricate dilemmas involved. A key characteristic of dilemmas is the need to make a choice between sometimes incompatible objectives and the fact that such choices always have undesirable consequences. The central dilemma in the present report concerns the contrast between the ambitions of crisis management operations, which are often high, and the actual experiences of such operations, which provide grounds for lower expectations. The world cannot be remade to suit us, and proof of this can even be found in our own, highly developed country. The idea that a foreign intervention force would be able to shape society in its image in less developed countries is an even greater illusion.

In the case of the crisis management operation in Afghanistan, it is noteworthy that each of the lead nations contributing to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) lends its own national interpretation to the operation. This is apparent, for example, in the Provincial Reconstruction Teams. From the president’s office in Kabul, the view of the joint international effort in Afghanistan is almost kaleidoscopic. On paper there is a high level of cooperation within ISAF, in the form of Unity of Command, but in practice there is considerable scope for independent decision-making. This is typical of almost every international intervention. The ‘international community’ should accordingly acknowledge its own failings in this regard. In Afghanistan, it is barely managing to establish a coherent approach. International organisations like the UN, NATO and the European Union, and even different departments of each organisation, do not cooperate well with each other.

A country’s development must emanate primarily from its own population. The international community can at most offer a helping hand. Societies are not built; they build themselves. The present advisory report explains why this approach can also be problematic. What if the local population or institutions are unwilling or unable to carry out the reforms that are considered necessary? Is intervention justified in such circumstances? That would be at odds with the idea of local ownership. This dilemma can cause considerable frustration, as is evident from the comments of the NATO Secretary-General, who stated publicly that the problem in Afghanistan is not the insurgents but the lack of good governance. The AIV notes that women, who are often regarded purely as victims, can also help to strengthen good governance. However, female leadership often operates behind the scenes in local communities. It is important to cooperate with these key women in practice and to ensure that there are enough women in the intervention force to establish contacts with them.

The report goes on to emphasise that acknowledging the complexity of the problems, and the resulting need for a wide-ranging and coherent approach and the deployment of many actors, is at odds with the equally obvious conclusion that these problems, if they can be solved at all, require a great deal of time and effort and that success is doubtful and can only be expected in the long run. As a result, the AIV advises the Dutch government not to expect to achieve too much too quickly and not to set its objectives too high. These are two different issues for which this report uses different terms. The word ‘moderation’ is used by contrast with ambitious objectives, and the term ‘sobriety’ is used by contrast with overly high expectations.

The main conclusion of this report is that moderation and sobriety should together prevail over such praiseworthy but unrealistic ambitions as the swift democratisation of fragile states. This is the AIV’s response to the above-mentioned central dilemma between high ambitions and experiences that provide grounds for moderation. The AIV is aware that this choice makes it harder for the government to secure parliamentary and public support for new missions. However, it believes that the importance of presenting a realistic picture, so as to prevent disappointment at a later stage, outweighs this disadvantage, which will have to be overcome by means of better communication and greater political efforts.

In response to the question of how an integrated approach should ideally be put into practice, the AIV broadly observes that, first and foremost, attainable political objectives should be formulated that take account of the specific circumstances in the field. The approach should not be based on a grand design but should focus on specific, manageable interim and long-term objectives and provide insight into the roles of the various partners. Where possible, interim and long-term objectives should be set in consultation with local actors. It goes without saying that the resources, such as ‘political capital’, budgets, civilian experts and military units, will have to be compatible with these objectives.

There is no universal blueprint for crisis management operations in fragile states, which are therefore more of an art than a science.1 In practice, specific solutions will have to be found for concrete problems and dilemmas throughout the implementation process. In this context, the key criterion should not be what the ideal solution is but what is feasible.

Based on these observations, the AIV has made a number of specific recommendations for the Dutch government on how to improve crisis management operations in practice. For the sake of clarity, the recommendations follow the structure of the report as much as possible.

2         Suggested improvements

Government question 2:
Having answered this central question, the Advisory Council is asked to consider how an integrated approach should ideally be put into practice.

Coherence between political goals, approach and resources is essential
At international level, the Netherlands should not automatically endorse high-flown political goals if the planned approach and available resources are incompatible with those goals given the specific circumstances in the field. By imposing conditions for participating in crisis management operations, the Netherlands can influence international policy. If it participates, the Netherlands should independently determine the realistic interim and long-term objectives. As the complexity and difficulty of a crisis management operation increase, it should correspondingly lower its objectives or strengthen its approach and increase the resources invested. Adjusting the objectives of an operation that is already in progress is politically problematic but may be necessary in order to maintain a reasonable chance of success. There are usually several interim objectives between an ambitious political objective such as ‘a functioning legal order and respect for human rights’ and a simple objective like ‘maintaining the status quo’.

Often the only solution for insurgency is political
When an intervention force becomes involved in an insurgency, as in Afghanistan, it is usually unable to defeat its opponent militarily. This highlights the importance of a diplomatic approach, which should explicitly embrace the region surrounding the country in question. In the case of Afghanistan, for example, this applies to Russia, China, India, Iran and obviously Pakistan. Consulting with opponents is one aspect of a diplomatic approach and should initially be carried out by the country where the crisis management operation is taking place. However, an exception needs to be made for those adversaries that are bent on destroying Western society, as it is impossible to conduct a dialogue with these groups.

Local ownership is vital but cannot be imposed
All sustainable development requires local ownership. The intervention force can at most serve as a catalyst for development. In this context, priority should be given to strengthening local institutions. In practice, however, problems may arise if the local players are unable or unwilling to initiate sustainable development or if they cannot identify with the international intervention and actually distance themselves from it. In the most extreme cases, this can even lead to armed resistance. Each situation is unique, but every intervention must at least take these factors into account.

Strong leadership is needed at international level
As crisis management operations become more complex, the need for greater cooperation and coherence in the form of strong leadership increases. In the case of missions in fragile states, it is vital that the UN or EU plays a strong and identifiable civilian coordinating role. The Netherlands should always insist on this. The civilian authorities should have authority and far-reaching powers, in their contacts with both local authorities and the various participants in the crisis management operation. In practice, however, a strong leadership role, as performed by Paddy Ashdown in Bosnia, will rarely be feasible, if only because the legitimate authorities in the country in question are opposed to it. At the very least, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General or the EU and the commander of the international military force will have to speak with one voice. Local rulers should not be in a position to play off the participants in the intervention force against one another.

ISAF is a cooperative framework encompassing over 40 countries in which each lead nation nevertheless lends its own national interpretation to the mission. This is due not only to the diversity of national interests and a willingness, or lack of it, to make sacrifices but also to genuine doubts about the best way to tackle the problems and dilemmas. Countries make their own choices in this regard. Cultural differences also play a role, both between the local population and the intervention force and between the various participants in the force. For example, as the largest military power in the world, the US is more likely to favour a military solution – at least until recently – than the Netherlands, which traditionally adopts a more restrained approach to the use of military force.

Cooperation within and between international organisations should be promoted at all times
As a smaller country, the Netherlands has more to gain from effective international organisations like the UN, the EU and NATO than larger countries.2 In line with previous advisory reports, the AIV once again advises the Dutch government, in this case the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to help boost cooperation within and between international organisations,3 in the knowledge that greater cooperation and coherence are essential for solving the complex problems connected to crisis management operations. It goes without saying that, under certain circumstances, the Netherlands may therefore have to be more accommodating.

International cooperation can be improved in many areas. For example:

  • The Netherlands is a member of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), which was established in 2005. One of the PBC’s tasks is to advise the Security Council on the comprehensive approach. However, it has so far not focused on large-scale, politically sensitive operations like those in Afghanistan and Iraq in implementing and improving this approach. It could start, for example, by making a list of what would be required to implement this approach in a situation like Afghanistan and by cataloguing relevant experiences. As a member of the PBC, the Netherlands could initiate such an exercise.
  • The European Union suffers from a complicated governance structure that hampers internal coordination. The Netherlands should therefore continue to press for early and close cooperation between the first and second pillars in both civil and military missions.
  • In addition, the Netherlands could argue in EU bodies that EU development spending should not always be fixed five years in advance, but that more flexibility should be incorporated into this instrument so that money can be distributed more swiftly during emerging crises.
  • On paper, the EU and NATO complement each other. The Union’s main strength is in the area of soft power, while NATO’s is in the area of hard power. In practice, however, cooperation between the organisations is very disappointing. This is due in part to the Turkey-Cyprus issue. The lack of cooperation between the EU and NATO is increasingly untenable and is also impossible to explain to the general public. This has to change. The Union should make a much more substantial contribution to crisis management operations in fragile states than it does at present. The current debate within NATO on whether the organisation should – from sheer necessity – extend its mandate to civilian activities would then automatically lose much of its significance.

3         Strengthening cooperation and coherence in the Dutch sphere

There is no blueprint for the Dutch approach to crisis management operations, in the sense that there is no ideal design for an integrated approach that would withstand the test of day-to-day politics. However, the AIV believes that the current Dutch approach can be improved. ‘Greater cooperation and coherence’ should first and foremost begin at home.

From the outset, missions should be based on greater cooperation and coherence; this should manifest itself in the Article 100 letter
A key lesson for the Netherlands from the mission in Afghanistan is that there should be more cooperation from the very beginning of a mission. As soon as the Netherlands receives a concrete request to participate in a complex mission, consultations should take place between all the actors concerned, if possible even before a decision is adopted. These consultations, which should include the relevant ‘non-3D’ ministries, NGOs and the private sector, should also focus on the coherence between the political goal, the approach and the available resources. In fact, this should be the doctrine.

If the government decides to participate in the mission, it sends its decision to the House of Representatives in the form of an Article 100 letter, which should describe the potential cooperation and coherence as realistically and specifically as possible. In particular, it should describe the civil component of the mission more clearly than has been customary in the past. It is not sufficient to state that the mission will develop into a reconstruction operation; attention should also be devoted to the civil aspects and civil-military cooperation that are being contemplated, both in the field and in The Hague. This makes far-reaching demands of the coordination mechanisms between the ministries.

Incidentally, the Netherlands does not by definition have to contribute in the political, military and development spheres in order to make a tangible contribution to a particular international crisis management operation. For example, it may decide only to provide a military contribution, in the knowledge that other countries will take care of the civilian component, as in the case of the Dutch military contribution to the EU mission in Chad. Conversely, the Netherlands can also decide to provide civilian expertise to existing international crisis management operations in which it is not participating militarily, for example in the field of water management, agriculture or good governance. In order to provide a good and effective contribution in such cases, however, the Netherlands must keep an eye on the international coherent approach as a whole and be reasonably certain that its effort is contributing to this approach.

Situational awareness
All Dutch actors (ministries, interested NGOs, the private sector, etc.) must cooperate closely from the very beginning, before the operation even commences. Before it embarks on a mission, excellent knowledge of the local and regional situation should be laid down in the form of a civil assessment that can be sent to the House of Representatives as part of, or as an annexe to, the Article 100 letter. This knowledge is also necessary for ensuring that issues that should be dealt with effectively at this key stage are not overlooked. It is also important to ensure that this assessment is not sent to the House until much later, as in the case of the mission in Afghanistan. The AIV is well aware that it takes time to draft a civil assessment. In the case of the nine fragile states that the Netherlands prioritises, however, it should be possible to prepare all or part of these assessments in advance and use the information thus obtained in formulating development policy.

Thorough knowledge of a country’s culture, in a broad sense, is one of the main prerequisites for carrying out successful crisis management operations in fragile states. Obtaining such knowledge is harder than it appears, since it goes beyond an ability to speak the local language or languages and an acquaintance with social and religious customs. In order to achieve real results and do more good than harm, it is also important to be familiar with the social power structures that unofficially ‘steer’ society and the basic motivations of one’s opponents and the population. What motivates them on a personal and social level? To what extent is the conflict caused by religious, economic, ideological or other motives?

In so far as confidentiality rules allow, civil assessments should be the product of a collaborative effort by all concerned: ministries, the Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD), the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD), NGOs, the private sector and international contacts, including those in the local sphere. If necessary, it should also be possible to consult knowledge institutions, such as universities. Although the required knowledge of local circumstances goes beyond an ability to speak the language, as noted above, there is still a great need for people who speak the local language or languages and are familiar with the local culture.

The AIV is aware that it is never possible beforehand to be 100% certain about the local situation, but civil assessments should still meet certain minimum standards. For example, they should clearly identify gaps and uncertainties in local knowledge. (There are obviously limits to this, as it is impossible to describe a gap if one is unaware of its existence.) The information gaps must be filled and the assessment in the field continuously updated.

The need for knowledge and advance planning must therefore be satisfied. In addition, the capacity must exist to deal with the inevitable uncertainties, along with the flexibility to make adjustments during the process, which has to be built into every operation.

The Netherlands should set preconditions at international level (‘look before you leap’)
The Netherlands gets only one opportunity to set preconditions for its participation in an international crisis management operation. The Terms of Reference for Decision-Making for the Deployment of Military Units Abroad (also known as the Assessment Framework) obviously form a key guideline in this area. When making its assessment, the Netherlands should consider whether the mission adheres to the coherent approach that it advocates. The time at which it receives the request to participate in a mission is also the time to secure international commitments that the Netherlands considers necessary to carry out the mission effectively. Clear agreements are needed on such issues as the exchange of intelligence, key civil and military posts, command and control and, in particular, force rotation. In practice, the commitments desired by the Netherlands will often be at odds with the need for cooperation. This means that, if necessary, the Netherlands should be willing to make concessions in the interests of international cooperation. However, it should adopt a firm position, especially if it is making concessions.

Incidentally, the Netherlands can decide at various times to end its participation in a mission, whether after giving prior notice, following negotiations or unilaterally. It can also negotiate commitments at this time, although its position will be weaker than at the beginning of the operation, when it is first being organised.

The coordination mechanism needs to be more professional
In recent years, the government has clearly taken several steps to increase and improve its coordination of crisis management operations; but further improvements are still required. For example, the national coordination of such operations in The Hague needs to be more professional. For this purpose, a greater civilian component of the Article 100 letter was recommended before. The coordination mechanism should facilitate this.

The AIV advises the government to focus initially on measures that can be implemented in the short term, such as a further reinforcement of the coordination mechanism. It is reluctant to make specific recommendations for adapting the mechanism, on the grounds that cooperation is largely a question of mindset. However, the AIV believes that interministerial cooperation should be improved.

Incidentally, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence cooperate effectively in the Military Operations Steering Committee (SMO), which also includes the Ministry of General Affairs but none of the other ministries. The situation is different with the Steering Committee for Security Cooperation and Reconstruction (SVW), which brings together representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Justice, the Interior & Kingdom Relations, Finance and Economic Affairs. Officially the SVW discusses the policy aspects of crisis management operations, but in practice it does so only to a limited extent. The fact that the Ministry of General Affairs is not represented on the SVW is highly significant. In practice, it is mainly the SMO, and within it mainly the highest-ranking officials, that sets policy in this area. However, the SMO focuses on military issues and is chiefly concerned with the operational track. The SVW should focus more and especially on how crisis management operations can in the long run lead to sustainable development. In order to answer this question effectively, other ministries need to be actively involved in the cooperation as well.

There are various options for establishing a coordination mechanism with clearly defined powers in which all players are represented. For example, the SMO could hold strategic consultations with the other ministries every month. (In practice, this would spell the end of the SVW.) Alternatively, the SVW could be granted more powers and hold monthly meetings to discuss, in addition to general strategic policy, the main aspects of all current complex crisis management operations and security sector reform (SSR) missions in the light of reports from the SMO and the Police and Rule of Law Steering Committee. However, the government should avoid creating more bureaucracy. Under this option, the government should add a representative of the Ministry of General Affairs to the SVW so that it becomes a fully fledged steering committee for the coherent approach.

The SVW should also devote particular attention to the fragile states that the Netherlands prioritises in its development policy in view of the possibility of future deployment as part of a crisis management operation. The Multi-Annual Strategic Plans, which are drafted with considerable input from the embassies, can serve as a starting point in this regard. The central question should be: what do we want to achieve and what resources do we need for this purpose? Political ambitions should be translated into monetary terms. Well-developed country strategies are indispensable when it comes to making better choices, given that financial resources are always limited.

The Ministry of General Affairs needs to be more involved
While respecting individual ministerial responsibility, the AIV advocates making better use of the Prime Minister’s coordinating and mediating role in important and/or urgent matters. At the beginning of 2009, for example, it was most unwelcome that statements by three ministers created uncertainty regarding the Netherlands’ potential military contribution to ISAF after 2010. If the Ministry of General Affairs is closely involved in the interministerial consultations on preparing and implementing crisis management operations, the Prime Minister can use these consultations to swiftly resolve problems when political urgency or other reasons make this expedient. The Ministry of General Affairs may need to increase the support by its officials for this purpose. At present, there is a single senior adviser who covers crisis operations ‘on the side’. It is conceivable that this senior adviser will receive additional support on a temporary or permanent basis, especially for large-scale missions of political and strategic importance such as the mission in Afghanistan.

The consultations between the Prime Minister, the two Deputy Prime Ministers and the three ministers most involved in this issue provide a most suitable framework for developing the larger role of the Ministry of General Affairs and thus the Prime Minister. These consultations should take place more frequently, especially during crisis management operations with a major political and societal impact.

Cultural differences are par for the course, but mutual understanding can be improved
The AIV further notes that, in the interviews conducted during the preparation of this report, various respondents pointed to the cultural differences that exist, in particular, between staff at the Ministry of Defence and staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, based in The Hague or abroad, who focus on development cooperation. It was suggested that these differences could impede cooperation. The AIV acknowledges the existence of such differences but regards them as a logical and unavoidable consequence of the different core tasks of the two ministries, which each require a specific culture. These cultural differences will therefore never disappear entirely, and it would not be a good thing if they did.

On the other hand, the ministries need to improve their knowledge of each other’s activities and their mutual understanding, especially if they are required to cooperate in complex operations. In the field, for example, short-term (military) objectives and long-term (development cooperation) objectives need to be geared to one another. Reflection is needed from the outset about the link between civil and military operational planning. The ministries’ cultural differences should never be allowed to impede cooperation. This can be achieved, for example, by seconding more staff and training under ‘integrated conditions’. In this way, staff members will get to know each other and learn to appreciate each other’s knowledge and skills.

Military and civil partners must train together
Steps need to be taken to prevent the emergence in the field of problems that could have been avoided if the actors concerned had trained together in advance. In order to achieve effective cooperation during the mission, team-building exercises need to be carried out beforehand. It is thus logical and vital that military and civil partners should hold regular joint exercises, both in preparation for specific operations and when there are no current operations. For example, brigades could open their staff training exercises to representatives of relevant ministries and NGOs. This recommendation also applies to exercises in a broader framework.

As noted, the focal point of interministerial cooperation in the UK is the Stabilisation Unit, which also organises international training exercises that test various aspects of crisis management operations by means of realistic scenarios. The AIV advises the government to consider what body should be responsible for coordinating broader training courses and exercises in the Netherlands and also advises it to study the British example. There is also clearly room for improvement in the area of instruction. For example, the course on Advanced Defence Management Studies could, wholly or in part, be opened up to staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other ministries. In addition, the ideas underpinning the coordinated approach should be incorporated into the curriculum of the Netherlands Defence Academy (NLDA). Finally, use could be made of expertise that is already available in the Netherlands, like that of NATO’s Civil-Military Cooperation Centre of Excellence (CCOE), whose aims include promoting cooperation between civilian and military members of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) by means of joint training exercises prior to deployment.

A single pool of experts should be formed as soon as possible
The Netherlands has almost no operational civilian personnel who can be deployed in crisis management operations, and there are often not enough personnel in the diplomatic missions either. To start with, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should make better use of its ability to temporarily post diplomats on such missions abroad. According to Paddy Ashdown4 among others, these missions benefit greatly from the deployment of the most suitable individuals. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs can promote this by including temporary posting to a crisis management operation as a requirement in the management development track for senior ministry officials. This should also help increase the level of interest in positions of this kind.

The Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence and the Minister for Development Cooperation are jointly (in the framework of the strategy on fragile states) and independently (in speeches and newspaper articles) pushing for the formation of a pool of experts, but so far without success. The AIV believes that such a pool of rapidly deployable civilian experts from various backgrounds, who play a key role in crisis management operations, should be operationalised as soon as possible, as much time has already been lost. This pool could also be established outside the ministerial framework. The AIV advises the government to take a decision on this issue in the near future, at the same time informing the House of Representatives of the content of this decision.

Military deployment requires careful consideration and funding
Given the current politically set level of ambition for the armed forces, the latter are in a very serious financial position, as already noted in this report. Military deployments must nevertheless be decided with the utmost care. The official recommendation on whether or not the Netherlands should participate in a mission should therefore never be based on the consideration that it provides an excellent opportunity to increase the defence budget or, conversely, that non-participation would inevitably lead to further attempts to reduce the defence budget.

It is therefore important to ensure that not only Development Cooperation programmes but also the Ministry of Defence enjoy budgetary certainty in the future. In the case of the armed forces, which are deployed in high-risk situations, the need for adequate long-term funding is literally a matter of life and death. Although the future size and composition of the Dutch armed forces are currently being examined in the interministerial defence policy review, the AIV believes that a few observations can already be made. The future funding mechanism will at any rate have to distinguish between the costs of maintaining the military at current levels (including training and exercises) and the costs of actual deployment. With regard to the costs of deployment, the Homogeneous Budget for International Cooperation (HGIS) will have to cover the full cost of crisis management operations in order to prevent the armed forces from eating into their operational capabilities.

In view of the impact of deployment on military personnel, in particular, a responsible deployment of the armed forces in response to a request to participate in a crisis management operation entails a careful consideration of the size and composition of the Dutch component, as well as the duration of the commitment. In the case of a large contribution, in particular, the Netherlands must be relieved by another country at some point, whether or not it chooses to maintain a heavily reduced presence. Ample attention should be devoted to ensuring that Dutch forces will be relieved, the more so because this assumes that another country is politically willing to sign a promissory note.

Funding activities at the crossroads of security and development
In view of the increased importance of a coherent approach in fragile states, the AIV considers it advisable to strengthen and expand flexible funding instruments for activities at the crossroads of security and development. The Stability Fund should be increased for this purpose. The OECD regards pooled funding as a key instrument for promoting the development of integrated policy and achieving greater budgetary flexibility with regard to ODA and non-ODA activities.5

Cooperation with humanitarian NGOs should be improved, with respect for each actor’s role
When it comes to providing humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in fragile states, NGOs are indispensable. They also play a an importnat role in strengthening civil society. However, the large number of NGOs involved in reconstruction and development in fragile states can hamper effective coordination. Despite encouraging signs of improvement, the NGO assistance is still very fragmented, and parallel mechanisms can give rise to problems. Humanitarian NGOs do attach importance to maintaining their independence and neutrality.

The AIV notes that disagreements between political, humanitarian and military actors about their respective tasks are inevitable. These disagreements are a permanent source of tension. However, cooperation is necessary and sometimes even unavoidable for such tasks as protection or evacuation. Cooperation in the framework of a coherent approach is vital to achieving the intended goals of a mission. There is no room for prejudice in this context. Instead, all actors must cooperate while respecting each other’s roles.

More attention is needed to economic reconstruction in post-conflict situations
Sustainable poverty reduction requires economic growth. The local private sector is vital to such growth and should receive support in achieving it. The Dutch private sector can also contribute in this area. In a motion tabled by Maarten Haverkamp MP, the House of Representatives has called for the establishment of a permanent platform for post-conflict economic reconstruction. The AIV endorses an earlier recommendation by the Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’ calling on the government to draw up a policy memorandum on economic reconstruction in post-conflict situations. Such a memorandum could also examine the issues raised in Mr Haverkamp’s motion. The SVW, the private sector and NGOs should be consulted about drafting this memorandum.

Clear strategic communication is essential
Society’s expectations of crisis management operations are based above all on the values and objectives that its members seek to achieve or defend, along with the operation’s chances of success. In order to avoid a significant discrepancy between expectations in Dutch society and actual successes in the field, the government’s communication concerning planned and achieved objectives should be clear, in accordance with the AIV’s observations in this report. Society should be presented with a realistic picture so as to minimise the risk of disappointment and ensure that the image projected by the government does not diverge too much from the one that exists within society.

Success is a long-term process and is difficult to quantify. This makes high demands of the government’s communication concerning the values and objectives that it wishes to defend or achieve: ‘this is a difficult mission, but it is very important that we are carrying it out because …’. In the case of high-risk crisis management operations in which important political or social issues are at stake, it is important that the Prime Minister also plays a role in the communication. However, the Minister of Foreign Affairs is the key player in this regard, especially during the preparatory phase. This also highlights the fact that crisis management operations in fragile states are carried out under civilian political leadership.

Especially in the case of large-scale military deployments, as in Afghanistan, the media usually focus on the military aspect. This must not create the impression that the operation has only military objectives. The political objective should always be paramount, both in practice and in public perception. This does not mean that the Minister of Defence and the Minister for Development Cooperation cannot play a key role in communication at certain times, depending on various factors such as the stage of the mission. However, it is crucial that all concerned, including the Prime Minister and the relevant ministers, always speak with one voice.

4         In conclusion

In recent years, various developments have highlighted the importance and necessity of crisis management operations in fragile states. The Netherlands has partly shifted the focus of its development policy from assisting countries with good governance to providing assistance to and in fragile states. In recent years, the Netherlands has simultaneously received an increasing number of requests to take on military tasks in fragile states, especially in the context of the observed rise in the terrorist threat and the need to maintain and promote the international legal order.

Crisis management operations like those in Iraq and Afghanistan are counterinsurgency missions with a high threat level. They are examples of highly complex and risky missions that seek to promote stability and contribute to reconstruction, and in the long term sustainable development, by means of a coherent approach. Cooperation and coherence, as well as moderation and sobriety, are key concepts in this regard. In the future, the Dutch armed forces are expected to be in demand for international coalitions as part of a coherent approach in fragile states in vulnerable regions such as Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

The coherent approach has no doctrine. It is more an aspiration that has developed from the realisation that there are no one-dimensional solutions to today’s conflicts. The problems in fragile states are often connected to failing political leadership and a culture of widespread political corruption. There are accordingly no Western or bureaucratic solutions for state-building in fragile states; the process will always be unpredictable, chaotic and painfully slow. Good leadership in fragile states, a social contract between the population and the authorities and a truly coherent approach on the part of the international community are therefore indispensable. The international community should always bear in mind that its knowledge of the country in question is incomplete and that its options are limited. Moreover, it should not underestimate the innate resilience of societies in fragile states or their resistance to external pressure.

One of the key conclusions of this advisory report is that there needs to be greater and better cooperation from the very outset in order for the coherent approach to have any chance of success. If the international community fails to effectively tackle complex crisis management operations in fragile states, it will over time seriously undermine the legitimacy and effectiveness of its efforts in this area. The danger is that, given the disappointing results of the coherent approach so far, the willingness to participate in such operations may simply evaporate. The AIV believes that this would be undesirable for several reasons, to do with solidarity as well as self-interest. In fragile states, human development and the security of the population are under threat and human rights violations are widespread. These problems often lead to regional instability, which in turn has consequences for the Netherlands in the form of transnational terrorism, refugee flows and international crime.

The Netherlands must therefore be prepared to continue to contribute to complex crisis management operations in fragile states in the future. However, it should articulate the dilemmas associated with such operations more clearly from the outset. In addition, continuous efforts should be made to explain why the Netherlands is present in a particular zone of conflict and why our sacrifices are not in vain. The Dutch population and above all the local population are entitled to a realistic picture of the possibilities and limitations.

From the perspective of the coherent approach and in comparison to other countries, the Dutch contribution in Afghanistan, especially in Uruzgan, deserves full marks. In recent years, the Netherlands has invested a great deal in material as well as human terms and, in view of the number of casualties, has paid a heavy price. The AIV greatly admires the professional manner in which soldiers, diplomats and development organisations have implemented the coherent approach in Afghanistan, especially in the province of Uruzgan, in often very dangerous circumstances. In the light of all these efforts, it is evidently very important that the Dutch contribution is evaluated as soon as possible after the Netherlands relinquishes its leading military responsibility in Uruzgan on 1 August 2010. One of this evaluation’s main purposes would be to make the mission’s achievements visible to society, to all those who have contributed personally and, last but not least, to the relatives of those who lost their lives in the course of duty.


1 ‘Failed states: fixing a broken world’, The Economist, 29 January 2009.
2 See also AIV advisory report no 45: The Netherlands in a Changing EU, NATO and UN, The Hague, July 2005.
See, for example, AIV advisory report no. 6, 1998, p. 35.
4 Presentation by Paddy Ashdown at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Hague, 21 January 2009.
‘Whole of Government Approaches to Fragile States’, OECD, 2006, available at: <>.
Advice request

Mr F. Korthals Altes
Chairman of the Advisory Council
on International Affairs
Postbus 20061
2500 EB Den Haag                                                       


Date   13 June 2008
Re       Request for advice on the compatibility of political, military and development objectives in crisis management operations


Dear Mr Korthals Altes,

In the past few years, military personnel, diplomats and development experts have been collaborating more closely in crisis management operations. With this in mind, the Government wishes to ask the Advisory Council on International Affairs for an advisory report on factors relevant to achieving political, military and development objectives in complex operations. In the light of recent literature and research, the Government would like to see an examination of the integrated approach that has developed in crisis management operations, where the defence, diplomatic and development communities collaborate closely throughout the conflict cycle (known as the ‘3D approach’). The intention is to contribute to a more scholarly foundation for this approach, which is growing internationally, including in the Netherlands.

In the Government’s view, the Advisory Council should first ask itself the central question: How do the political, military and development objectives of crisis management operations relate to each other in theory and practice? To what extent can these objectives be integrated into one single coherent approach?1

Having answered this central question, the Advisory Council is asked to consider how an integrated approach should ideally be put into practice and in what ways the Netherlands’ current operational approach could be improved. The Council is asked to base its findings on recent literature, research and best practices in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

As a sequel to this central question, the Advisory Council is asked to answer four more specific questions, primarily concerned with the expectations in Western society (including Dutch society) of crisis management operations:

  • How realistic are society’s expectations that complex crisis management operations will achieve their objectives?
  • How can more realistic expectations be encouraged?2
  • In this connection and in view of the answer to the central question, is society sufficiently well informed about the various objectives of crisis management operations and the relations between those objectives?
  • In the term ‘provincial reconstruction team’, is ‘reconstruction’ the best word to use? Given expectations, would the word ‘stabilisation’ be more appropriate? 

The Government also has some questions about the relationship between the political, military and development objectives of crisis management operations:

  • To what extent should an integrated approach prioritise security and stability, democracy and the rule of law, human rights, or economic development?
  • Should sustainable poverty reduction be an independent objective, or can it be integrated with the objectives of a complex crisis management operation? In the latter case, how does sustainable poverty reduction relate to the other objectives?

The Government would appreciate receiving the AIV’s advisory report by the end of January 2009 so that it can be considered in the deliberations on the future of the armed forces (see Parliamentary Papers, House of Representatives, 2007-2008, 31 243, no. 6).

Eimert van Middelkoop
Minister of Defence
Maxime Verhagen
Minister of Foreign Affairs



Bert Koenders
Minister for Development Cooperation


1 Cf. the first of the ten recommendations that emerged from the international seminar on this subject, held in Rotterdam in January 2007 (enclosed).
2 In its earlier report Society and the Armed Forces, the AIV said that the Government should ensure that there is sufficient public support before Dutch participation in a crisis management operation begins.
Government reactions

To the President of the
House of Representatives of the
States General
Binnenhof 4
The Hague


Date    August 2009
Re       Government response to AIV report Crisis Management Operations in Fragile States


Madam President,

We would like to thank the Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV) for its report Crisis Management Operations in Fragile States: The Need for a Coherent Approach, published in March 2009 at the government’s request. In the past few years, we have seen a worldwide trend towards closer collaboration in crisis management operations between members of the military and civilians, including diplomats and development experts. With this in mind, the government asked the AIV in June 2008 to advise on the compatibility of political, military and development objectives in crisis management operations, the relationship between these objectives in theory and in practice, and to what extent these objectives can be combined in a coherent approach. We also asked eight specific questions based on this central question, which the AIV deals with thoroughly in its advisory report.

The AIV’s most important conclusion, which we largely endorse, is that improvement in complex crisis management operations is both possible and necessary, and should be based on both ‘cooperation and coherence’ and ‘moderation and sobriety’. The report offers useful insights and many of its recommendations can be used in further outlining a coherent approach to security and development and in implementing the government’s strategy on security and development in fragile states, which was sent to Parliament in November 2008. The AIV correctly points out in its report (page 11) that there is a clear overlap between its advisory report on crisis management operations in fragile states and the aforementioned fragile states strategy. This underscores the increasing attention in Dutch foreign policy to the relationship between security and development, as elements of a coherent and integrated foreign policy. Our fragile states strategy adopts the same line as the AIV report does now, in calling for ‘pragmatism and modesty’ in our combined contribution in fragile states in the areas of security, state-building and reaping a peace dividend. After all, the issues are complex and Dutch influence is often limited. In this context, it is also important to note that the implementation of a coherent approach is a learning process for us all, at national and international level, in which we are gradually gaining a better understanding of the success factors. The AIV advisory report is also a welcome contribution to this process.

The principles of ‘cooperation and coherence’ and ‘moderation and sobriety’ also guide the government in decisions concerning Dutch participation in crisis management operations. These principles dovetail with the broader objectives of integrated foreign policy, which has a higher level of ambition. Where possible, these principles have shaped military crisis management operations, in particular through the ‘Terms of reference for the deployment of military units abroad’ (Parliamentary Papers no. 23 591 and 26 454, no. 7). These terms were recently updated and adapted to fit the practice that has evolved of highlighting the interrelationship between the political, military and development aspects of crisis management. Along the same lines, the strategy on security and development in fragile states was discussed in the House of Representatives on 19 February 2009. It seeks, in the interests of human security, to improve the security of the population, support state- and institution-building in the security sector, and promote socioeconomic development (the peace dividend) in post-conflict countries. Crisis management operations can play a crucial role in creating lasting stability and security in fragile states. Work on building or rebuilding a country’s security sector should start simultaneously, so that the state’s monopoly on the use of force can in due course be restored. It is also necessary to provide basic services and employment quickly, so that the population can experience the benefits of peace and stability.

The building of a government with sufficient capacity and legitimacy should begin in the first post-conflict phase. In view of the often extremely complex situation in post-conflict countries and fragile states, however, expectations of achieving these objectives should be modest. It is therefore important to work closely with international and non-governmental organisations.

The AIV correctly observes that our experiences in Afghanistan had an important impact on how we formulated our request for advice. The compatibility of political, military and development objectives is a crucial part of the Dutch effort in Afghanistan and as such determines the success of our Afghan policy. At the same time, the principles of a coherent approach are also applicable to other regions where the Netherlands is involved. We have urged international organisations such as the UN, the World Bank, NATO and the EU to look at the military, political and development activities in a region as a whole and where possible to strengthen the coordination – and if possible cooperation – between the organisations concerned.

In Chapter I – ‘Orientation’ – the AIV discusses the conflict cycle and its three phases of intervention, stabilisation and normalisation. Although the AIV does note that these phases may overlap, we believe that the overriding impression given is too much one of linearity. Not only may the different phases overlap, different parts of a country may find themselves in different phases of the cycle at any one time. Northern and southern Iraq are a case in point. Relapses and new outbreaks of violence are always real possibilities in fragile states. Nor does the level of violence necessarily peak during the intervention phase. It is often difficult to pinpoint where the intervention phase ends and stabilisation begins. We specifically address this point to underscore the importance of contextual analysis and appropriate risk management measures. Our views on this point converge with the AIV’s opinion about raising situational awareness. Both the fragile states strategy and the Terms of Reference for the Deployment of Military Units Abroad emphasise the importance of a contextual approach and, therefore, thorough knowledge of the local and regional context.

In Afghanistan, the Netherlands has gained valuable experience with civil assessment (an assessment of the state of society, broadly speaking) and consultation of tribal experts. Under the Schokland agreement establishing the Knowledge Network for Peace, Security and Development, we are currently sharing our knowledge and experience with a range of organisations involved in peacebuilding. The government would not want to go so far as to prescribe a civil assessment for every Dutch military mission, however, since they do not always involve a coherent deployment of civil and military instruments. Some missions, including smaller missions or those with a specific mandate, simply have less scope for a coherent approach than the Uruzgan mission. Clearly, a deliberate and careful assessment will have to be carried out in each case of the nature of the mission and the knowledge required before the start of the mission. The Netherlands already has other instruments besides civil assessment for this purpose, such as the Stability Assessment Framework (SAF) and the Strategic Governance and Corruption Analysis (SGACA). We also naturally support international initiatives in this regard where possible.

Complex crisis management operations, especially those involving a long-term commitment, demand that expectations about Dutch support and aims are managed carefully. We endorse the substance of the report on this matter and agree with the AIV’s observation on the need for moderation and sobriety about the results of Dutch involvement in crisis management operations in fragile states. We share the AIV’s opinion that vague, large-scale plans for crisis management operations are best avoided. Indeed, clarity about the division of roles, civil and military tasks and concrete objectives is essential. Our contribution should also be considered in a broader international context and with a view to the Netherlands’ position in international forums.

The government shares AIV’s view that the various UN organisations, including the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Department of Political Affairs (DPA), the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), need to improve their performance and coordination in the area of peacekeeping and peacebuilding. The UN Secretary-General’s report Peacebuilding in the Immediate Aftermath of Conflict, due to be published this year, will contain recommendations on improving cooperation and coordination between the various UN organisations and the World Bank in the first post-conflict phase. The Netherlands supports the Secretary-General’s effort to clarify issues of leadership, capacity-building and funding in the immediate aftermath of a conflict, and joins like-minded countries in urging the organisations concerned to make sound agreements on these matters. Clarity about leadership and responsibilities is key. A positive development in this regard is the recent agreement between the UN, the World Bank and the EU to step up cooperation in making joint analyses and joint needs assessments in the first post-conflict phase. As we frequently point out, it is of course vital that UN member states also support a leading role for the UN.

The AIV also addresses the confusion surrounding the term ‘coherent approach’ – starting with its definition – which enables the various actors to give their own meanings to the term. The coherent approach is based on the idea that the complex problems of fragile states and crisis management operations cannot be tackled effectively by a single ministry working alone. Acknowledging this is the first step towards a joint approach in which each ministry’s added value is consolidated in a detailed strategy. The Dutch government believes that, as every post-conflict or conflict situation is unique, we must first invest in joint analyses to establish our long-term objectives, strategy and priorities. Only then can the ministries’ contributions and added value be made clear. In practice, however, things do not always go as we expect. We may decide that an intervention is necessary in response to a crisis, even though the necessary preparatory analyses have not yet been concluded. In these situations, the local context will have to be analysed as soon as possible at a later stage.

In designing a coherent approach, the Netherlands, unlike many other countries, opted a long time ago for a broad approach. Not only the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence but also the Ministries of Economic Affairs, the Interior & Kingdom Relations, Justice, Agriculture, Nature & Food Quality, and Finance are represented in interministerial consultations on the coherent approach. This shows that we are serious about realising a coherent approach and, in particular, about using different ministries’ expertise for reconstruction. At the same time, it is unlikely that all the ministries will be able to contribute in all phases to the same degree. This applies particularly to the phase dominated by crisis management. Finally, it is important for participating ministries to understand that a coherent approach can never be an end in itself. Their individual contributions should always be based on the local context of the fragile state or area of deployment.

Conclusions and recommendations

In the report’s conclusions and recommendations, the AIV writes that ‘the emphasis should initially be on security, stability and strengthening local institutions that promote the rule of law, rather than on democracy and elections’. We agree with the AIV that different objectives cannot always be achieved simultaneously and that choices often need to be made as to which objectives and activities should take precedence. In this context, it is important to stress that, ultimately, the rule of law is inextricably bound up with a democratic system based on free and fair elections.

The AIV believes that ‘a choice between sometimes incompatible objectives’ characterises complex crisis management operations in fragile states. According to the report, the central dilemma concerns ‘the contrast between the ambitions of crisis management operations, which are often high, and the actual experiences of such operations, which provide grounds for lower expectations’. We are acutely aware that there is a limit to what we can expect from crisis management operations. In our Article 100 letters on Dutch participation in crisis management operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, we regularly point to the importance of being realistic about the extent to which the operations can achieve all their objectives. We therefore welcome the AIV’s plea for moderation and sobriety. At the same time, we do not endorse the AIV’s conclusion that objectives may be ‘incompatible’. We concede that it is a major challenge to achieve consistency in the way objectives, which may indeed be widely divergent, are pursued, and indeed the stubborn problems of crisis management do require us to be realistic. However, we do not see this as a reason for lowering our sights, but rather for stepping up our efforts so that we may learn from actual experience in striving for greater and better coherence.

The government shares the AIV’s criticism of the ISAF operation in Afghanistan, that the lead nations have gone too far over the last few years in lending their own national interpretations to the mission. The Netherlands supports initiatives for a more uniform approach to the whole country, especially one that assumes a large degree of coherence between political, military and development objectives. A good example of such an initiative is the Afghanistan conference held in The Hague this spring, which revealed an international consensus on the need for coherence, coordination and cooperation. The AIV writes that, in Afghanistan, the international community ‘is barely managing to establish a coherent approach’ concerning cooperation between international organisations like the UN, NATO and the EU. We, too, are critical of the cooperation between international organisations. At the same time, we acknowledge that major progress has been made in Afghanistan over the last few years, thanks in part to Dutch initiatives. In this case, too, we can point to the conference in The Hague and the key role that the UN played there.

The government endorses the AIV’s emphasis on the importance of local female leadership in the context of complex crisis management operations and the need for both women and men in the operation to establish contacts with these key women. This should also be seen in the light of UN resolution 1325, which the Netherlands fully endorses.

Like the AIV, we prefer realistic political objectives that take account of local circumstances to a ‘vague and grand design’. This is apparent in the way in which we have made our contribution to ISAF in southern Afghanistan. For instance, prior to the first deployment of Dutch troops in Uruzgan, we stood by our demand that the then provincial governor be dismissed. We also chose to adopt the ink blot strategy, opting to create and maintain stability in the main populated area of the province.

While the parliamentary practice that has arisen over the years, comprising Terms of Reference and the Article 100 letters, may occasionally suggest otherwise, there is no universally applicable blueprint for crisis management operations, as the AIV points out. In our view, conducting such operations is an art – or perhaps a craft honed with practice – rather than a science. In this regard, we agree entirely with the AIV.

The government would like to express our appreciation of the improvements suggested by the AIV. In some areas, the report confirms our views, such as the recommendation that the budget for deployment should reflect the complexity and degree of difficulty associated with an operation and the possibility of adjusting objectives in the course of an operation, or at least allow the matter to be open for political discussion. We also endorse the AIV’s observations on the importance of finding a political solution to insurgency, the limits to creating local ownership and the need for clarity about international leadership. With regard to the last point, the Netherlands is very active in pursuing a recognisable civil leadership role for the UN in Afghanistan, and we will continue to pursue this aim. We also agree with the AIV’s conclusion about the EU contribution to crisis management operations, and note that the Netherlands was a driving force behind EUPOL, the EU police mission in Afghanistan. Although, as we told Parliament on an earlier occasion, the implementation of the mission has unfortunately been far from perfect so far, it is still the first time the EU has launched such a mission in a ‘non-permissive environment’. It is therefore a learning process for Brussels, too. With regard to cooperation within and between international organisations, the Netherlands will indeed continue to contribute actively where possible and necessary. In our view, the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) should first prove that it can fulfil its originally intended role with regard to ‘donor orphans’ such as Burundi and Sierra Leone.

In its report, the AIV makes several recommendations on ‘strengthening cooperation and coherence in the Dutch sphere’. In general, we appreciate the AIV’s efforts to illuminate the mechanics of the coherent approach in The Hague. This has already promoted self-reflection and greater clarity. As the comparison with our international partners’ best practices showed, part of our relative strength can be attributed to the many formal and informal consultative structures that are traditional in the Netherlands. It is important to note that the way in which the coherent approach is organised at Dutch level is to a large extent not formally structured. In our opinion, the coherent approach should be developed in an ongoing process based on practical experience. This is then by definition a snapshot view, and we have therefore decided not to respond to all the AIV’s suggestions in great detail. Instead, we outline the government’s general plans, below.

  • We will continue to strive for a broad consensus on Article 100 letters, in which civilian issues will be more prominently addressed, depending on the nature of the operation.
  • We will raise further the degree of situational awareness through adequate political, military and development analyses. The results of these will be used for planning and decision-making, on which matters Parliament will be informed in an Article 100 letter whenever possible.
  • We will continue our current practice of setting national and international preconditions prior to making decisions about Dutch participation in crisis management operations, as we did before deciding to deploy troops under the ISAF in Uruzgan.
  • We will pay attention to the connection between strategic direction by the Steering Committee for Security Cooperation and Reconstruction (SVW) and operational implementation by both the Military Operations Steering Committee (SMO) and the Police and Rule of Law Steering Committee. We endorse the AIV’s view that there must be a clear division of labour between these three steering committees, but are not convinced of the need for a hierarchical relationship. The SMO focuses on operations in which Dutch military are involved. The SVW is focused on long-term policy in selected fragile states and gives particular attention to long-term reconstruction. To improve the division of labour, we will examine the possibility of transforming the Police and Rule of Law Steering Committee into a Steering Committee for Civilian Operations and SSR.
  • We will not change the role of the Ministry of General Affairs in decisions on and the steering of the coherent approach in crisis management operations. In particular, we are satisfied with the form and frequency of consultations between the Prime Minister, the two Deputy Prime Ministers and the three relevant ministers and will maintain them.
  • Although there will always be cultural differences between ministries, we will adopt the measures mentioned as well as others aimed at improving mutual understanding. For instance, joint military and civilian exercises are being held more often and the practice of exchanging staff in strategic positions is increasingly common.
  • Besides more cooperation during exercises and the secondment of advisers, the ministries will also step up cooperation on training.
  • We will present new proposals soon for the single pool of experts. In the meantime, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently expanded its Short Missions Pool by adding 225 Dutch experts whose knowledge and experience can be relevant for Dutch efforts in fragile states. Joint legal status regulations for civilian experts in government service are currently being drawn up, as well as a simplified financing framework for postings abroad related to crisis management operations and bilateral programmes in fragile states.
  • The Homogeneous Budget for International Cooperation (HGIS) will continue to cover the full cost of crisis management operations. At international level, we will continue to call political attention to the need for an equitable division of the burden of crisis management operations.
  • The Stability Fund will be continued in its current form. The OECD has praised the Fund as an example of how pooled funding can contribute to a coherent approach. The Fund’s budget was in fact raised in both 2007 and 2008. In view of the current budgetary pressure, it is uncertain whether it can be raised again in 2009, but it will certainly be given priority if extra funding becomes available in the course of the year.
  • In our work with NGOs, we will of course continue to respect each actor’s role. This need not stand in the way of greater cooperation or even joint strategy development.
  • With regard to economic reconstruction, the first annual meeting of the Knowledge Network for Peace, Security and Development will be held this autumn. This will implement the Haverkamp motion.

Finally, the government welcomes and shares the AIV’s praise for the work of the soldiers, diplomats and development organisations in Afghanistan, especially in Uruzgan, and its respect for the professionalism with which the coherent approach is being implemented, often in very dangerous circumstances, in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world. We agree that a timely evaluation of the Dutch contribution in Afghanistan is necessary, and regard this advisory report as an important and valuable contribution to this end.

We share the AIV’s opinion that the Netherlands must be prepared to continue to contribute towards complex crisis management operations in fragile states in the future


Maxime Verhagen
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Eimert van Middelkoop
Minister of Defence



Bert Koenders
Minister for Development Cooperation

Press releases

[Not translated]