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3.2 Current policy and policy reinforcements – General

The Government seeks to increase knowledge about discrimination in several ways. Various studies have been conducted of perceived discrimination and the causes and factors triggering specific forms of discrimination. The Government also commissioned Movisie to develop new guidelines for municipal authorities in the areas of anti-Black racism, discrimination against Muslims, antisemitism and antiziganism, which were published on March 21, 2022. To monitor antiziganism, a Biennial Social Inclusion Monitor is being prepared and a National Roma Contact Point has been set up that prepares EU reports. 

Antidiscrimination agencies

The Government is working in concert with the antidiscrimination agencies and the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (Vereniging Nederlandse Gemeenten; VNG) to strengthen the position of the antidiscrimination agencies. The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations is currently testing whether the antidiscrimination agencies can be easily found in all municipalities. The initial results of the test show that many websites of municipal authorities contain limited information about the antidiscrimination agency and how people can submit a report.

In the period ahead, the antidiscrimination agencies will also be strengthened on the back of an investigation intended to find out how the agencies are currently organized. The Government will give effect to the Belhaj motion, which asks the Government to explore whether the antidiscrimination agencies may be structured differently by following the example of the Legal Aid Desk. A 2017 study shows that the current structure creates a few bottlenecks, including the financing of the antidiscrimination agencies. They are overly dependent on municipal authorities, which are able to make their own financing choices. In some cases, this means that an antidiscrimination agency serving multiple municipalities is faced with different financing and service arrangements.

In 2022, the Government launched an investigation into the structure, tasks and financing of the antidiscrimination agencies. This covers the request stated in the Belhaj motion to also consider how the Legal Aid Desk is organized. The investigation should result in a concrete proposal that can be implemented, possibly by amending the Municipal Antidiscrimination Agencies Act.

Issues such as name recognition, knowledge, expertise and quality will also be considered in collaboration with the antidiscrimination agencies. In 2022, the antidiscrimination agencies will develop their own strategic agenda prominently featuring these items and will start discussions with their stakeholders about the implementation of the agenda. The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations will be an important partner in the process.

At present, not all antidiscrimination agencies are members of the sector association The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations intends to explore options for strengthening the sector association so as to improve its role as an advocate for its members.

A study has revealed that only few people report their discrimination experiences to the antidiscrimination agencies; the rest of them fail to do so for various reasons. People who have been discriminated against indicate that they believe reporting is useless, which means that victims of discrimination are often in the dark about the added value of a report. The mechanisms underlying the low willingness to report also need to be examined if this willingness is to be increased. In the past period, these mechanisms were examined for the willingness to report discrimination against Muslims by means of the pilot project ‘reporting discrimination against Muslims’. The purpose of the project was to work together with local Muslim organizations, antidiscrimination agencies, municipal authorities and citizens to identify activities that they themselves can develop to encourage a higher willingness to report discrimination against Muslims.

The guideline ‘Increasing the willingness to report discrimination: a public design approach’ was subsequently drafted with the aim of supporting municipal authorities and antidiscrimination agencies in collaborating with local parties and citizens to develop activities intended to increase the willingness to report discrimination, including discrimination against Muslims. This guideline is based on lessons learnt from the pilot project ‘reporting discrimination against Muslims’ and has been transformed into a guideline that can be used to develop local activities intended to promote the willingness to report all discriminatory grounds.

Movisie also started reviewing the reporting process on the instructions of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations with the aim of arriving at a recommendation for structuring the reporting process in such a way that reports have clear added value for the victims of discrimination. The review is a first step in the implementation of the Van Baarle motion requesting an annual review of the willingness to report discrimination. Once the review is completed in late 2022, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations plans to organize a national reporting event in concert with the antidiscrimination agencies. This event will be used to ask all those involved to work on solutions to the bottlenecks emerging from the review.

Together with the antidiscrimination agencies and other reporting bodies, the Ministry will organize the first national meeting for all reporting bodies and other bodies involved. During this event, which centers on reporting, the initial results of the study into the reporting process will be discussed and translated into a concrete plan of action that should help increase the willingness of individuals to report discrimination. The event is scheduled for late 2022 or early 2023.

One way to increase the visibility of the antidiscrimination agencies would be to introduce a single nationwide operating name. Lack of name recognition presently hampers their effectiveness. Many citizens have no idea what an ‘antidiscrimination agency’ is, partly because each regional organization has a different name. This also makes it more complex to organize national press campaigns. The number of reports of discrimination is expected to rise if and when the antidiscrimination agencies operate under a single name. A dialogue will be initiated with the agencies to ensure the introduction of a single name in 2023.

We will also start a major campaign for the general public to increase the willingness of individual citizens to report discrimination.

The police

Seeking to increase the willingness of victims of discriminatory violence to submit reports, the police focuses on supporting victims in making reports and on enhancing knowledge and expertise. Subject-matter experts and discrimination investigators of the Center of Expertise on Tackling Discrimination of the police will build up and share expertise on the follow-up of reports of discrimination across the board. This national knowledge and information role will help the Center of Expertise to improve the ability of police units and their partners in the chain to recognize, address and handle discrimination issues.

The police also engages the Diverse Skills Network (Netwerk Divers Vakmanschap; NDV), which includes the Pink in Blue (Roze in Blauw; an LGBTIQ+ organization within the police) network. NDV comprises police offers who are willing to share their own experiences with colleagues within the police if this can help the colleagues deal with citizens and discrimination issues. They are permitted to use their regular working hours for these activities. It is assumed that improved recognition and handling of discrimination incidents will also boost the willingness to report them, as victims will increasingly trust the police and the Public Prosecution Service to properly handle the report.

Antidiscrimination agency RADAR has also received a grant from the Ministry of Justice and Security to launch a project in which it collaborates with the police, the Public Prosecution Service, other antidiscrimination agencies and other parties in considering how the process of criminal prosecution for discrimination may be facilitated more effectively. These parties will also explore meaningful alternatives in case criminal law is not the most obvious or not the most effective intervention. The precise details of the project will be worked out in the period ahead.