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2. Acknowledgement and prevention

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

James Baldwin

In the Netherlands, everyone is equal before the law. Nevertheless, not everyone has equal opportunities. More than one in four Dutch people experience discrimination. It takes many forms, such as racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, antisemitism, anti-Black racism, discrimination against Muslims and other forms of exclusion. Discrimination takes place between citizens but may also come from the government.

For too long, the government has argued that institutional discrimination does not exist. For too long, society has hoped that this problem would simply disappear. But looking away is not the solution. The time has come to accept that discrimination causes suffering and loss in our society as well. In its coalition agreement, the Rutte IV Administration acknowledged discrimination as a social problem. This was an important step – acknowledgement indicates growth and is the first step in tackling discrimination.

In this chapter, we discuss the steps taken to reinforce government policy efforts aimed at recognizing and preventing discrimination and racism. These steps go beyond the current policy on these topics that the Government is already pursuing.

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

It would be a good thing for our country to also actively participate in celebrating March 21, the day marked by the United Nations as ‘International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’. On March 21, in countries all over the world people remember the injustice resulting from discrimination. The NCDR actively takes the lead each year by organizing a series of activities to celebrate this day, whenever possible in collaboration with antidiscrimination agencies and others.

Changing the term ‘race’ in the Constitution

The Government wishes to investigate the consequences of re-assessing the term ‘race’ in the Constitution. The Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations commissioned the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights to advise on the legal definition of the term ‘racism’. This advice was shared with the Dutch Parliament in early July. In response, the Government teamed up with the Institute to organize in-depth discussions with various parties on the term’s ‘race’ and ‘racism’. The NCDR supports this undertaking because the word ‘race’ is highly charged for many Dutch people. Although in legal terms the word does not refer to the term ‘race’ as a ‘social construct’, it does remind us of periods in history and situations in which ‘race’ was used to distinguish between people and justify unequal treatment.

Free names change for descendants of enslaved people

The Government is willing to enable descendants of enslaved people to change their name free of charge. At the end of 2022, the Government will consult with various affected parties and decide how this policy intention will be implemented. In that process, it will consider the outcomes of an academic study into this issue.

July 1 national holiday

The history of slavery deserves more attention in our society. The annual Slavery Remembrance Day held on July 1 in the Oosterpark in Amsterdam already has national aspects, including a speech by a government representative. The commemoration has also received structural national government funding since 2019. Nevertheless, the NCDR calls for a National Day of Celebration and commemoration to mark the abolition of slavery. The NCDR believes that this event should be attended by the head of state, as such a decision would be of huge importance to the persons affected. In the NCDR’s opinion, starting in 2023 the day should be a national holiday once every five years.

Explanation accompanying street names and statues

Dutch streets also reflect a limited or one-sidedly white perspective on the history of slavery. Street names and statues of people who played an active role in the history of slavery are an integral part of our public space, often without any explanation. The NCDR calls for the provision of information about the roles these people have played in the history of slavery, for example by affixing a QR code to all such statues and street name signs. This would increase awareness of, and access to, this part of the nation’s history. The municipal authorities of Hoorn, Rotterdam and other towns have already taken this step.

Ethnic profiling

Ethnic profiling refers to the use of risk profiles that include specific characteristics of ethnicity. Government bodies should make as little use as possible of such profiles. Also, all public and private organizations that use datasets and algorithms should have them regularly tested for potential discriminatory effects and for inclusivity. An algorithm watchdog will be established as quickly as possible to monitor transparency, discrimination and arbitrariness.

Local antidiscrimination policy: guidelines and research

As part of the process of strengthening local policy, the national government has helped municipal authorities by developing a series of good practice guidelines for local antidiscrimination policy. The national government is also identifying the current status of local antidiscrimination policy across the country in two studies: one by the Inclusion & Community Platform (Kennisplatform Inclusief Samenleven) and one by the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. The latter study entails that municipal authorities that have not listed their local antidiscrimination agency on their website are called by national government representatives to discuss the situation.

Stronger antidiscrimination agencies

Antidiscrimination agencies are available to municipal authorities to support complainants in reporting and registering their complaints. The role of the agencies should be further strengthened and they should be given a more explicit and preventive task in tackling discrimination. The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations will be contacting the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (Vereniging Nederlandse Gemeenten; VNG) and antidiscrimination agencies to discuss an approach.

Discrimination against Muslims

The Government remains responsible for maintaining links with the Muslim community and for establishing a dialogue based on trust. Actions initiated by municipal authorities based on mistrust, such as covert operations in mosques conducted in the past, have caused much unrest and are undesirable.

Undervaluation in education

Undervaluation is harmful and should be tackled at all levels of education. As it is not limited to the transition from primary to secondary education, undervaluation is highlighted and discussed in all teacher training courses.

Combating discrimination in internships

Educational institutions should take greater control in finding internship placements for their students. Although there is still much room for improvement in senior secondary vocational education (mbo), it is mostly the students in higher professional education (hbo) and university education that are left to fend for themselves. Educational institutions should become involved in ‘matchmaking’: actively linking students to internship placements. Application interviews by students should increasingly be replaced with introduction interviews. Students are of course at liberty to find their own placement, but educational institutions should take more responsibility in the process.

Diversity and inclusion in national government procurement

The national government will safeguard diversity and inclusion with a socially responsible procurement policy due to be introduced nationwide. One of the priorities in this process is policy on diversity and inclusion among suppliers. In European tender procedures, diversity and inclusion will become part of the national government’s basic documents. The government is currently investigating how diversity and inclusion can be incorporated into the schedule of requirements for purchases with a value of less than 150,000 euros and is exploring the options the Public Procurement Act offers. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is also developing a European standard on diversity and inclusion within organizations.

The national government has not met its own diversity and inclusion targets

The national government has not met its jobs agreement targets for people with an occupational disability. Each Ministry operates its own policy for implementing the jobs agreement. There are indications that the main focus is on intake, with little consideration for retention and promotion opportunities. Employees subject to the jobs agreement often experience being in a lower pay scale in the job classification system than colleagues responsible for comparable tasks who are not covered by the jobs agreement. Their experience is that it is difficult to advance to jobs in a higher pay scale.

The national government has not met its own targets for employees with a non-Western background in higher pay scales, either. In order to solve this issue, a broader approach will have to be developed to improve the recruitment, promotion and retention of diverse ethnic talent. For instance, greater focus will have to be placed on the creation of talent development programs for the advancement of talented individuals (including those with a non-Western migration background) to higher pay scales within national government employment.

It is vital that potential candidates with a non-Western migration background at least be more clearly recognized. This calls for a culture change that starts at the top and includes such matters as a more diverse composition of selection committees, periodic assessments to determine why the advancement of employees with a non-Western background stagnates and exit interviews for all persons leaving the organization earlier than expected.

The NCDR advocates the introduction of the ‘Rooney rule’ for positions in higher pay scales: for every vacant position, at least one candidate with a non-Western migration background should be invited. He calls upon the national government to experiment with potentially effective measures. Although the Senior Civil Service (Algemene Bestuursdienst; ABD) expects that introducing this measure for ABD positions will take some time, the ABD is already stepping up its efforts to increase the number of candidates and the intake of more diverse talent. Candidates with a non-Western migration background will, for example, at least be invited to (initial) interviews. Active scouting has also been initiated for candidates with a non-Western background, and additional efforts are being made to encourage these candidates to participate in the ABD’s talent programs. The search for suitable candidates has also been actively extended beyond the limits of the national government. Experiments with other measures have also been started to increase the number of appointments of candidates with a non-Western migration background.