In September 2015, the heads of government of 193 UN member states met in New York to approve the resolution ‘Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’. At the core of this resolution lie the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs consist of 17 goals and 231 indicators to make the world ‘a better place in 2030’.

The SDGs are the international guideline for Dutch development policy. They promote human rights, especially the rights of women and girls. They aim in particular to achieve improvements for those who are most disadvantaged (‘leave no one behind’). The SDGs thus constitute the ultimate prevention agenda: investing in the goals is investing in maintaining peace in fragile and unstable regions. Progress with the goals can remove the breeding ground for conflict and radicalisation, contribute to the restoration of the social contract between individuals and the state, and thus prevent the collapse of countries and societies.

The themes of Dutch development policy are closely linked to the SDGs: food security, water, sexual and reproductive health and rights including HIV/AIDS, security and the rule of law, women's rights and gender equality, climate, private sector development, humanitarian aid, improving prospects for refugees, and migration. What the Netherlands seeks to achieve in these areas is set out in thematic results frameworks, which include indicators and target values. These indicators are closely linked to the international SDG targets and indicators.

This page illustrates how Dutch development policy aligns with the SDGs.

SDGs in Dutch context 2019

Read more on the Sustainable Development Goals in the Dutch context

Fourth Dutch National SDG report

Read more about the Dutch National report on SDGs (2020)

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No poverty

SDG 1: No poverty

The Netherlands contributes to the eradication of extreme poverty and the creation of sustainable and inclusive growth and development in developing countries. Dutch foreign trade and development cooperation (BHOS) policy focuses on a number of fragile regions, including the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and the Middle East and North Africa (the MENA region). Extreme poverty is increasingly concentrated in these fragile regions, and can cause further destabilisation. Civil society organisations play an important role in BHOS policy and in achieving the SDGs.

The Netherlands supports them in their activities, including the implementation of poverty reduction programmes, both in fragile situations and in more stable environments. The Netherlands also helps the poorest and most vulnerable groups by providing humanitarian aid.

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Zero hunger

SDG 2: Zero hunger

Food security is one of the priorities of Dutch development cooperation policy, as set out in the policy letter to parliament on the Dutch commitment to global food security. Thanks to the efforts and investments of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in collaboration with partners and implementing organisations, 15.3 million people were provided with better food in 2019, thus helping to combat malnutrition. Moreover, in 2019 an additional 6.6 million farmers received support to increase their productivity and income and the use of 612,000 hectares of land was made more sustainable.

Armed conflict in South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and other countries leads to extreme food shortages. Starvation and destruction of food crops and water resources have sometimes been used as deliberate military tactics. In 2018, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution introduced by the Netherlands (Resolution 2417) on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, which condemns the starving of civilians as a method of warfare. The Netherlands is pressing for the implementation of this resolution by 1) exposing food insecurity as a consequence of conflict, 2) preventing food insecurity by investing in the livelihood of farmers in conflict regions, and 3) highlighting the use of starvation as a method of warfare.

The Netherlands also strives to provide people in conflict regions and potential conflict regions with food and water and to better anticipate risks that can lead to water and food shortages. The World Food Programme (WFP) and the Dutch Red Cross are key partners in this effort.

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Good health and well-being

SDG 3: Good health and well-being

Dutch development policy in the field of health focuses on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) including HIV/AIDS. This is set out in, among other things, the SRHR Partnership Fund policy framework. Since progress on SRHR requires well-functioning and accessible healthcare, the Netherlands also focuses to a large extent on strengthening health systems. The situation of young people receives special attention, whether through the provision of comprehensive sexuality education in schools, maternity care, preventing teenage pregnancies or ensuring that young people can be tested for HIV and those who test positive can access the care they need. The efforts of the Netherlands and its many partners enabled 2.75 million women and girls to gain access to modern contraception in 2019. In this way, the Netherlands makes a substantial contribution to the Family Planning 2020 initiative. The Netherlands’ ambition is to provide an additional 6 million women and girls with access to modern birth control by 2020.

Better access to effective mental healthcare and psychosocial support is a priority of Dutch humanitarian aid policy. Since 2018, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag has been actively involved in international advocacy for greater attention to be given to mental health and psychosocial support in areas hit by crisis. She has for example organised international symposiums on the subject. In addition, the Netherlands is committed to capacity building in affected countries and improving the quality of mental healthcare.

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Quality education

SDG 4: Quality education

Dutch development policy supports SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Dutch efforts are based on three principles: 1) education is a fundamental human right, 2) education is a precondition for achieving other SDGs (such as decent jobs, gender equality and good health) and 3) education has a range of other individual and social benefits (such as increased autonomy, freedom and social cohesion). The Netherlands has set six priorities based on these principles: 1) universal primary and secondary education, 2) improved learning outcomes, 3) better training opportunities for children and young people in countries affected by conflict, 4) development of skills for young people to promote participation in the economy and social engagement, 5) equality and inclusion for all, and 6) enhanced individual and institutional knowledge and capacity building in higher education.

Over the past year the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ funding for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), Education Cannot Wait (ECW) and the Orange Knowledge Programme (OKP) helped almost 2.2 million people. Thanks to our support for the GPE 1.9 million children received a year of primary education. Our support for ECW enabled the programme to reach 230,000 children in conflict-affected regions, support 930 classrooms with infrastructure, build 150 gender-sensitive latrines and provide 61,000 children with individualised teaching material. Furthermore, 1,760 professionals (middle management) received grants from OKP to take master’s degrees or short courses, 420 alumni took part in refresher courses, 1,460 people received group training and 13 institutional partnership projects were given support.

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Gender equality

SDG 5: Gender equality

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that men and women have the same rights. In reality, however, women and girls are still often disadvantaged compared to men and boys. SDG 5 states that by 2030 women and men must also enjoy equal rights in practice. Women's rights and gender equality are a priority of Dutch development policy. Freedom of choice for women and girls is an important part of this.

Policy focuses on four goals: (1) preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls; (2) ensuring a fair proportion of women in political and other powerful positions; (3) economic autonomy and an improved economic environment for women; and (4) ensuring that women are fairly represented in conflict resolution, peacebuilding and reconstruction. In the 2018-2019 reporting period, the Netherlands supported 882 civil society organisations working to promote women's rights and gender equality. In addition, more than 68,000 individual women and girls received training in skills that enable them to stand up for their rights and create opportunities for themselves and other women. Besides specific gender programmes, gender is also a cross-cutting theme that must be included in all areas of BHOS policy.

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Clean water and sanitation

SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation

Too much water, too little water or a lack of clean water poses a risk to people in many places in the world. The Netherlands focuses on two main areas: improving water security in densely populated deltas and places where water is scarce, and providing sustainable access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in urban and rural areas. This includes support for the development and implementation of measures to combat flooding, salinisation and subsidence, to increase water productivity in agriculture, and to help prevent water-related instability through timely identification and mitigation of water-related security risks.

Improved water management helps countries adapt to climate change, especially in areas that suffer from water scarcity or flooding. In the case of WASH, the focus is on sustainably improved access to water and sanitation, and on providing information about the importance of hygienic living conditions. Clean drinking water and good, clean sanitary facilities also have a positive influence on other SDGs, such as those related to food security, education and health. Clean drinking water leads to fewer infections and clean toilets in schools mean that more girls can attend school, even when they are menstruating. In 2019, a total of 5.3 million people gained access to improved sanitation thanks to support from the Netherlands.

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Affordable and clean energy

SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy

SDG 7 links the two huge challenges facing the global energy industry: extreme energy poverty and climate change. The goal is to give people all over the world access to energy by 2030, and at the same time to meet the climate targets. This means the transition to renewable energy will have to be accelerated and smart low-energy solutions found.

Dutch development policy therefore invests in access to renewable energy for the poorest and most vulnerable people, particularly women. Our goal is to offer 50 million people access to renewable energy between 2015 and 2030. During the reporting period, 2.5 million people obtained access to renewables thanks to Dutch support. The Netherlands is therefore on schedule to achieve its interim goal of 11.5 million people by 2020.

The Netherlands supports the global coordination of SDG 7 efforts in order to achieve the greatest possible synergy between the UN, the World Bank, the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other relevant organisations. In 2019 this partnership published policy briefs on the important contribution SDG 7 can make to the other SDGs, none of which can be achieved without a good energy supply. The group launched a new action platform for health and energy, health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA), which highlights the use of sustainable energy in humanitarian work.

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Decent work and economic growth

SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth

SDG 8 focuses on decent work for all and sustainable and inclusive economic growth. This is one of the three main ambitions of Dutch development policy. It means that everyone who is able to work should have the opportunity to do so in decent working conditions, and earn a living wage. These jobs should stimulate economic growth without damaging the environment and without child labour.

Dutch development policy on SDG 8 focuses on improving the local business climate, strengthening entrepreneurship and helping low- and middle-income countries become more productive and innovative. This year, some 345,000 jobs were directly supported by Dutch programmes, including the development bank FMO and the Dutch Good Growth Fund.

The Netherlands focuses on decent work. Through the Fund Against Child Labour the government helps Dutch companies eliminate child labour in their supply chains. We also work with the International Labour Organization, companies and civil society organisations towards the goal of ensuring that the people are paid a living wage. Development and foreign trade minister Sigrid Kaag campaigns actively for a living wage, in collaboration with Dutch companies and EU partners, as well as in producing countries themselves. The Netherlands works with trade unions, employers’ organisations and NGOs in support of minorities, women, young people and others, defending their right to decent and inclusive work. In its Trade Union Cofinancing Programme (VMP) the Netherlands works with the Dutch union organisations Mondiaal FNV and CNV to promote social dialogue and thus enable local trade unions to defend their members’ interests more effectively. In 2018 VMP supported dozens of local trade unions and federations, and more than 300 collective labour agreements were signed in various programme countries. In Colombia, for example, support was provided for the largest union in the palm oil industry, which employs 160,000 people, 60% of whom have no employment contract. This resulted in a collective labour agreement, an important step forward for both employees and the company.

One of the main pillars of Dutch policy improving prospects for refugees is the creation of jobs and economic growth. In the period under review, almost 40,000 people in the Syria region and the Horn of Africa received support with planning activities, for example through loans or grants for people setting up a company to earn an income. This also included the creation of jobs, some of them temporary, in agriculture and other sectors.

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Industry, innovation and infrastructure

SDG 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Many developing countries lack basic infrastructure. This includes transport, roads, drinking water, irrigation, energy and information and communication technology. The Netherlands offers low- and middle-income countries financial support to develop and successfully implement infrastructure projects. Dutch companies are also given the opportunity to contribute their knowledge and entrepreneurial skills. In cooperation with the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO.nl), FMO and the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has given 47 million people access to new and improved infrastructure. RVO.nl administers several bilateral programmes – the Infrastructure Development Facility (ORIO), the Development Related Infrastructure Investment Vehicle (DRIVE) and Develop2Build (D2B) – which invest in the development and construction of public infrastructure, particularly in the water, energy, food security and healthcare sectors. The multilateral funds Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF WB), PIDG and IFC PPP Advisory Services invest in mobilising private capital for infrastructure construction.

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Reduced inequalities

SDG 10: Reduced inequalities

The Netherlands uses the SDG agenda and its focus on inequality as a framework for its development cooperation policy. Efforts to tackle inequalities are therefore integrated into the policy. Examples include offering young people prospects through employment, education, equal opportunities and security, and improving the position of women and girls. One of the partners in this work is the INCLUDE knowledge platform, which has members in Africa and the Netherlands, including universities, think-tanks and civil society organisations. It focuses on promoting inclusive development in Africa.

Dutch development policy supports civil society organisations in order to strengthen the voice of the most marginalised groups and those that face the most discrimination, enabling them to stand up for their rights and interests. In this way, the Netherlands invests in the constructive role of civil society organisations in sustainable and inclusive development processes. In the Towards a Worldwide Influencing Network programme, for example, activists campaign for a world where equality is the norm. They include the Kenyan activist Njoki Njehu, who coordinates the African branch of the Fight Inequality Alliance (FIA), an alliance of 200 civil society organisations in 26 countries. At international conferences and big events like festivals she uses her position to draw attention to the relationship between inequality and education, prosperity, gender equality and climate.

In multilateral institutions and the EU, the Netherlands presses for financial resources for the poorest and for measures to combat inequality. Substantial contributions are made to World Bank funds, which work towards achieving sustainable and inclusive growth and creating opportunities for women and young people. The Netherlands also takes a constructive position in the World Bank and the IMF on strengthening the representation of developing countries and emerging economies at these institutions. Dutch efforts to promote orderly, safe and regular migration also fall under SDG 10. This includes improving refugees’ prospects and working with countries of origin and transit to prevent irregular migration and promote return.

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Sustainable cities and communities

SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities

Half of the world's population lives in cities. This proportion is expected to increase: by 2030 nearly 60% of all people worldwide will live in urban areas. Almost all of this urbanisation – 95% – is occurring in developing countries, mainly in slums. Already some 823 million people worldwide live in slums, and that number will continue to grow if no measures are taken. Sustainable growth is the biggest challenge facing the cities of the future. The Netherlands contributes to sustainable cities and communities by investing in infrastructure.

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Responsible consumption and production

SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production

The private sector is a vital partner in efforts to achieve sustainable development. Companies can contribute investment and innovative solutions to help achieve the SDGs. Corporate social responsibility and measures to prevent or tackle abuses in the supply chain are basic preconditions for this. Goods and services must be produced sustainably, and with respect for human rights. Everyone should have the opportunity to find decent work and be paid a living wage. And economic growth may not exhaust our natural resources.

The Netherlands supports sustainable production and trade initiatives, through partnerships, agreements on international responsible business conduct, improvement projects in partner countries, private sector instruments, economic diplomacy, trade policy and efforts to strengthen the role of women in trade. We fund civil society actors such as Solidaridad, the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), Fair Wear and the Rainforest Alliance, which allows us to work with farmers, small producers and large companies to work towards sustainable production. Through the Fund for Responsible Business the Netherlands encourages companies to work with civil society organisations to tackle the risks and abuses in their value chains. We also consider how we can use our economic weight, trade relations and development partnerships to bring about positive change.

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Climate action

SDG 13: Climate action

Every country is facing climate change. Global warming is already affecting the daily lives and livelihoods of millions of people worldwide, and the effects will only increase in the future. The Paris Agreement is the main framework for the international implementation of SDG 13. To achieve the Paris goals, the Dutch government plans to work with other countries with high ambitions to create momentum and thus prompt more countries to take climate action. The Netherlands is working for climate action all over the world.

Dutch development policy is also making a significant contribution to helping developing countries reduce their carbon emissions and become more resilient. Dutch climate financing for developing countries has steadily increased for several years now, thanks in part to the extra resources found for this purpose by the third Rutte government.

The Netherlands supports key multilateral climate funds like the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility. Development minister Sigrid Kaag co-chairs the NDC Partnership, which helps developing countries draft and implement better national climate plans (Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)). The Netherlands also established the Dutch Fund for Climate and Development, which began operations in 2019. The fund takes an integrated approach to the various challenges associated with climate in each specific landscape, in collaboration with the private sector.

Besides these general activities in support of climate action in developing countries, the Netherlands also focuses on a number of specific challenges. Our key concerns are increasing access to renewable energy, combating deforestation and land degradation, climate-smart agriculture and better management and use of water. To achieve good results, the Netherlands works in these fields with multilateral organisations, NGOs, knowledge institutions and the private sector. We focus in particular on poorer people and the most marginalised groups, with particular attention to promoting gender equality.

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Life below water

SDG 14: Life below water

With their role in temperature regulation, their currents and their underwater life, oceans are the chief component of the global systems that make the planet habitable for people. Through international networks and contacts, the Netherlands stimulates technological innovation that helps increase food production from aquatic food sources and enhance resilience to climate change. In places like Bangladesh, the Netherlands is working on restoring the CO2 absorption capacity of oceans, seas and coastal waters.

Related themes

Water

Climate

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Life on land

SDG 15: Life on land

SDG 15 is about protecting, restoring and promoting the sustainable use of ecosystems, sustainable management of forests, prevention of desertification, combating and reversing land degradation, and preserving biodiversity. The Netherlands uses sustainable landscape programmes to support the sustainable management of land and forests. In 2019, this involved more than 1.2 million hectares of land. The programmes are implemented by organisations including IDH’s Initiative for Sustainable Landscapes (ISLA), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Horn of Africa Climate Change Programme (HoA-CCP) and the Dutch embassy in Nairobi (Kenya).

Related themes

Climate

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Peace and justice strong institutions

SDG 16: Peace and justice strong institutions

One of the main goals of Dutch development policy is preventing conflict and instability. It is guided in these efforts by SDG 16, which aims to promote fair, inclusive and peaceful societies. Security and the rule of law are preconditions for sustainable peace and development. Instability and armed conflict (or the risk of armed conflict) make it more difficult to achieve the SDGs. In pursuing this SDG, the Netherlands is working to ensure security for civilians, extend access to justice and promote inclusive peace processes and the development of democratic institutions.

In the reporting period, the Netherlands funded the clearing of mines from 10.8 million m2 of land, allowing people to live and work safely. Dutch partner organisations also worked with the police to ensure people are better protected. The Netherlands also campaigned for access to justice systems and organised an international conference, resulting in the Hague Declaration on Access to Justice for All, which yielded commitments from 39 countries. Other results of Dutch development policy related to SDG 16 included 286,086 people gaining access to justice systems, 219 graduates from Democracy Schools and almost 700 trained mediators and negotiators for peace processes. The Netherlands also supported a number of transitional justice processes and innovative legal reforms, and enhanced inclusion in political and social decision-making and peace processes.

At multilateral level, the Netherlands contributed to more robust and effective efforts on conflict prevention and peacebuilding in fragile and conflict-affected countries. To this end we conducted a constructively critical dialogue with the UN and the World Bank and provided financial support for their peacebuilding activities. Dutch efforts focus among other things on better collaboration between international actors to limit the risk of conflict before escalation can occur. The Netherlands raised this issue in the development of the UN Peacebuilding Fund (PBF)’s new strategic plan and the World Bank’s new fragility strategy.

Civil society organisations also play an essential role in peace and development processes, and are a major component of a properly functioning democracy governed by the rule of law. The Netherlands’ Dialogue and Dissent policy framework strengthens civil society organisations, making them better able to defend the rights of individuals, hold government to account and combat inequality. The Netherlands uses various channels and instruments to enhance the safety of civil society organisations and human rights defenders, underline the responsibility of state and non-state actors, and emphasise the role of civil society. Within the EU, the Netherlands tries wherever possible to act preventively to stop governments restricting freedom of association and assembly. We also advocate the consistent application of EU guidelines on human rights defenders worldwide. Furthermore, the Netherlands expresses its concern about individual cases against human rights defenders or civil society organisations in many countries, particularly when their safety is at stake. It bases these efforts on studies by Civicus and the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), partners that investigate the shrinking space for civil society, both physically and in legal terms.

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Partnerships for the goals

SDG 17: Partnerships for the goals

The SDGs are the guideline for Dutch development policy, and achieving them requires collaboration between government, companies, researchers and civil society organisations, as well as a coherent policy. SDG 17 affirms this principle and underlines the need for collaboration between different parties.

Partnerships with the private sector are needed not only to enhance the effectiveness, impact and scale of development cooperation, but also to encourage companies to live up to their responsibilities for people and the environment, and in their value chains and investments.

Public-private partnership is therefore an important dimension of Dutch development policy. Our aim is to use the power of the private sector to benefit the groups who are at the heart of Dutch development policy: small-scale farmers and other producers, employees and consumers in developing countries. Companies both large and small can contribute knowledge, expertise, capacity for innovation and market power.

One way in which the Netherlands enters into partnerships is via the SDG Partnership Facility. Some 30 companies are currently active in 15 countries, working on sustainable development of the private sector using this fund. One good example is the partnership between government, the private sector and academic institutions in Nigeria aimed at taking the country’s vegetable industry to the next level. Another example is the UN Global Compact, a global platform where 10,000 members from the private sector work with the authorities, civil society organisations and academic institutions to achieve the SDGs. Yet another is financial services, as digital technology makes it possible to offer insurance to poor people living in rural areas. The Netherlands therefore encourages banks, insurance companies and investors to facilitate financial services, by initially underwriting part of the risk, for example.

Civil society organisations also play a crucial role in Dutch development policy when it comes to achieving the SDGS and human rights, and strengthening the social contract between individuals and government. They remind the authorities, companies and communities of their responsibility to implement laws, respect rights and pursue the SDGs. The Netherlands achieves joint results in strategic partnership with civil society organisations, affording them protection in the process. In 2018/2019 the Netherlands supported the political activities of 10,373 civil society organisation in more than 60 countries. Over 7,000 activities took place to inform or mobilise people, or enable them to conduct dialogues with the authorities. This helped influence 1,481 laws, policies and standards, helping to advance inclusive and sustainable development.

In its Dialogue and Dissent policy framework, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also invests in stronger civil society organisations that are better able to play their role. One example of partnership is the Green Livelihoods Alliance, an alliance of civil society organisations. It enabled partner organisation Documentation and Information Centre (CEDIB) to collect evidence of deforestation in Bolivia and the violation of the indigenous population’s rights, and to bring this to the attention of the international community. Bilateral visits also underline the importance of and strengthen dialogue with civil society organisations. In Mexico the Netherlands raised the issue of the disappearances of large numbers of people, and in Turkey we expressed our concerns about the protection of human rights and the rule of law.

Finally, policy coherence is a key element of SDG 17: any prospect of achieving the SDGs requires coherent policy. To enhance coherence, an action plan including goals has been linked to the SDGs, covering the following issues: 1) combating tax evasion and avoidance, 2) development-friendly trade agreements, 3) a development-friendly investment regime, 4) making production and trade more sustainable and 5) combating climate change.