The government of the Netherlands developed and published the first National Human Rights action plan in 2013. The Netherlands Institute for Human Rights (NIHR - College voor de Rechten van de Mens) explains, monitors and protects human rights, promotes respect for human rights (including equal treatment) in practice, policy and legislation, and increases the awareness of human rights in the Netherlands. In its capacity of independent monitor the NIHR assigned a team of independent experts to evaluate the action plan. The team consisted of professor Ashley Terlouw (Radboud Universty Nijmegen), Alicia Dibbets (independent expert) and Marcel Zwamborn (director Human European Consultancy).
The main aim of the evaluation was to review relevance, sustainability, effects and impact of the plan and draw lessons from the evaluation to enable the NIHR, but also other stakeholders to provide input for a next action plan. The report of the evaluation is first and foremost meant to inform the NIHR itself with a view to internal decision-making regarding follow-up ideas and the role of the NHRI regarding a next national human rights action plan.
The evaluation consisted of a desk study of documents and interviews with a few key actors from the government side and other stakeholders.
Part of the evaluation was also a comparative analysis of the action plans of five other countries: Finland, Greece, New Zealand, Scotland and Sweden.
This comparative analysis consisted of a desk study of the national action plans of the five countries and skype/telephone interviews with key actors involved in the drafting, implementation and/or evaluation of the plans of these countries.
The interviews with all respondents were semi-structured, based on a standard, elaborate list of questions.
The UN OHCHR (United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) emphasizes the importance of the process to develop an action plan:
“A national action plan is both an outcome and a process, each equally important.”
The findings of the research on the development of the action plans of the other five countries underline this importance and show that political and other stakeholders’ commitment for an action plan is not only the result of the quality of the plan itself, but also of the process which was followed to develop the plan. The conclusion for the action plan of the Netherlands is that it did not have strong support among NGOs partly due to the process that was followed. Early consultation and involvement of NGOs will enhance the support-base for a next plan.
Another improvement for the future might be to make the plan more concrete by adding structure, process and outcome indicators to the action points. This was also recommended by NGOs in 2015 prior to a consultation between the Committee on Home Affairs and the government on the state of implementation of the plan. In developing an indicator approach use can be made of the approach used by OHCHR and the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights regarding human rights indicators.
The government still has the ambition to develop a next plan. The lessons learned from the development of the plan, the implementation, the reporting and the evaluation of the results until date can contribute to improving a next plan.