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Netherlands - Combined fourth and fifth periodic reports [2009] UNCESCRSPR 12; E/C.12/NLD/4-5 (17 July 2009)



Economic and Social
17 July 2009
Original: ENGLISH


Combined fourth and fifth periodic reports submitted by States parties
under articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant


[9 April 2008]


Paragraphs Page




A. Optional Protocol 5 6 4

B. Ratification of the International Convention on the

Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers

and Members of Their Families 7 9 4

C. Applicability of the provisions of the Covenant 10 11 5

D. Use of information and communication technology 12 16 5

E. Dissemination of racial and discriminatory material

through the Internet 17 35 6

F. Ethnic minority women and the labour market 36 42 9

G. Participation of women 43 66 12

H. Work and Social Assistance Act 67 71 18

I. Strategy Plan for Social Relief 72 79 19

J. Trafficking in persons 80 96 21

K. Domestic violence 97 108 24

L. Child pornography and sexual exploitation of children 109 112 28

M. A Healthier Life 20042007 113 115 29

N. Healthcare services 116 117 30

O. Allowance for contraception 118 119 30

P. Dissemination of concluding observations 120 121 30

Q. Core document 122 123 30

CONTENTS (continued)

Paragraphs Page


Article 2 124 131 31

Article 7 132 159 33

Article 8 160 169 40

Article 9 170 199 43

Article 10 200 218 50

Article 11 219 234 52

Article 12 235 277 55

Article 13 278 292 63

Article 15 293 316 65



1. This report is submitted pursuant to the revised guidelines regarding the form and content of reports to be submitted by States parties under articles 16 and 17 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (E/C.12/1991/1).

2. These combined fourth and fifth periodic reports cover the period from 1 January 2003 to 31 December 2006. The reports (referred to below in the singular) are a response to the concluding observations (E/C.12/NLD/CO/3[1]) and cover the rights mentioned in articles 12 and 615.

3. The report does not comment upon subjects which were dealt with in the previous reports or in the Netherlands’ response to the Committee’s list of issues (E/C.12/NLD/Q/3/Add.1) and which remain unchanged in the period covered by the present report.

4. This report covers the Netherlands (the European part of the Kingdom). The reports of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba will be submitted separately at a later stage.


A. Optional Protocol

5. The Committee encouraged the Netherlands to consider giving its support to the process of discussion and future adoption of the Covenant’s Optional Protocol on an individual communications procedure.

6. The Netherlands has been and will continue to be a constructive partner with regard to discussions about the Covenant’s Optional Protocol on an individual procedure. The Netherlands will continue to build upon the outcome of the latest meeting of the OpenEnded Working Group on an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which took place from 16 to 27 July 2007 in Geneva.

B. Ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the
Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families

7. The Committee encouraged the Netherlands to consider ratifying the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

8. At this point the Government has no intention to accede to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. This is, inter alia, related to the Benefit Entitlement (Residence Status) Act (Koppelingswet), which entered into force on 1 July 1998 and which distinguishes between foreigners with and without legal residence status, and the consequences of that distinction for entitlement to social security benefits.

9. It should be noted that only States that can be characterized as countries of origin of labour migrants have ratified the Convention, while countries of destination have been reluctant to do so.

C. Applicability of the provisions of the Covenant

10. The Committee recommended that the Netherlands reassess the extent to which the provisions of the Covenant might be considered directly applicable. It urged the Netherlands to ensure that the provisions of the Covenant are given effect by its domestic courts, as defined in the Committee’s general comment No. 3 (1990), and to promote the use of the Covenant as a domestic source of law. It invited the Netherlands to include in its report information on case law concerning the rights recognized in the Covenant.

11. The Netherlands would refer to previous reports for information on the Netherlands’ position on the direct applicability of the Covenant. Information on case law concerning the rights recognized in the Covenant is attached to this report (appendix I).

D. Use of information and communications technology

12. The Committee recommended that the State party make full use of information and communication technology, including the Internet, to promote the dissemination of practical and easily understandable information on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, especially for vulnerable and marginalized individuals and groups.

13. The Dutch Government makes full use of the Internet in informing members of the public of their rights and obligations. The general website of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment ( explains in simple terms the rights and obligations applying in the fields covered by the Ministry. Special websites have also been developed for young people ( and for local authority officials ( covering the implementation of rules and legislation in the Ministry’s field. Official publications, particularly letters from the Minister and State Secretary to Parliament, are also posted on the sites. Publications from the Staatscourant (Government Gazette) and Staatsblad (Bulletin of Acts and Decrees) on subjects covered by the Ministry also regularly appear on the sites. For people who live outside the Netherlands, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment has an English website containing basic information on the rights and obligations of foreign nationals wishing to live and work in this country.

14. Information communications technology (ICT) is of course essential for the dissemination of information via the Internet. The Ministry has its own ICT infrastructure for this purpose.

15. Not everyone has access to the Internet, so the Government also produces information leaflets setting out people’s rights and obligations, which they can order free of charge. Media campaigns via radio, television, newspapers and magazines focus attention on major topics such as childcare or incapacity for work.

16. Finally, members of the public can call the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment free of charge for further information and clarification of their rights and obligations. They may also submit their queries in an email or letter, which will be answered in accordance with the standards set by the National Ombudsman.

E. Dissemination of racial and discriminatory material through the Internet

17. The Committee recommended that the Netherlands continue its efforts to prevent the dissemination of racist propaganda, including by enforcing appropriate legislation, and providing education on and awarenessraising of this phenomenon.

18. The Dutch Government shares the Committee’s concerns about the dissemination of racist and discriminatory material on the Internet. The reasons behind the large number of complaints submitted to the Internet Discrimination Hotline (MDI) include the fact that more and more people are using the Internet in general and are aware of the existence of the MDI and the fact that, as a relatively anonymous medium, the Internet is attractive to a large number of racist individuals and groups.

19. In the period immediately after the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh in November 2004, the Internet was swamped with xenophobic messages, both from people who thought that the spread of Islam should be stopped and from people expressing their satisfaction at the murder and at the fact that the “jihad in the Netherlands” had begun. The exact number of racist websites and news groups is unfortunately unknown.

20. According to its 2005 annual report, the MDI recorded 1,289 individual instances of discriminatory utterances, most of which were posted on interactive websites such as web forums and weblogs, the majority on Dutch sites in Dutch.

21. In terms of the groups targeted, utterances directed against Muslims saw a sharp increase and for the first time since the inception of the MDI, Islamophobia was the biggest category, at 371. The number of reports of messages expressing hatred of “immigrants” and “foreigners”, using these terms, also rose sharply, as did the number of reports of Afrophobia (175 instances) and discrimination against Moroccans (186 instances). At 56, the number of reports of discrimination against Turks saw a slight increase. AntiSemitic utterances (302) and, to a lesser extent, discriminatory remarks about the ethnic Dutch (38) fell slightly in number in 2005.

22. In 2005 96 per cent of offensive utterances were removed after a request by the MDI. This high percentage and the large number of racist comments removed by site moderators before the MDI had spotted them online (14 per cent of the total) suggest there is considerable willingness to keep websites free of discriminatory content. The MDI reported seven cases to the police in 2005.

23. Following consultations between the MDI, the Public Prosecution Service’s National Discrimination Expertise Centre (OMLECD) and the police service’s National Bureau for Discrimination Cases (LBD), the participating institutions concluded further agreements regarding the monitoring and processing of online discrimination cases.

24. To boost the battle against online discrimination, the MDI ran a series of successful workshops over a period of three weeks attended by some 700 Amsterdam police officers and assistant public prosecutors. It also gave a presentation at the national meeting of public prosecutors responsible for prosecuting discrimination cases, at the invitation of the OMLECD.

25. To boost the battle against online discrimination, the Government has further increased the MDI’s funding for 2007.

26. There are also plans to set up a National Cybercrime Centre, which would primarily focus on radical and terrorist activity online. Besides dealing with reports from the public, the organization would also actively monitor the Internet. After conducting its own assessment, it would pass the information on to the appropriate authorities: the Public Prosecution Service, the police and the General Intelligence and Security Service. However, the establishment of the new hotline was shelved indefinitely shortly before the launch date of 1 January 2006, as a number of tendering procedures were taking longer than expected.

27. The Ministry of Justice, the Public Prosecution Service and the police have in recent years intensified the use of the criminal justice system to tackle discrimination and will continue this effort. This has resulted in the following policy measures:

(a) Policy letter on antidiscrimination and law enforcement (November 2005)

28. This includes the results of the Public Prosecution Service’s investigation of dropped charges and of the introduction of a statutory prohibition on structural forms of discrimination. Penalties for structural discrimination have been increased. The penalties for systematically and deliberately insulting people on grounds of race, religion, belief or sexual orientation and for systematic incitement to discrimination have been doubled to two years’ imprisonment (Letter of 3 November 2005 from the Minister of Justice on antidiscrimination and law enforcement, House of Representatives 30 300 VI, No. 26, not available in English).

(b) Public Prosecution Service: Outlook 2010

29. The Public Prosecution Service (OM) included the issue of discrimination in its multiyear plan Outlook 2010, as one of six new priorities that it intends to tackle on a systematic basis. The focus in tackling discrimination will be on establishing antidiscrimination support centres at each of the OM’s 11 regional public prosecutor’s offices. The public prosecutor with responsibility for discrimination cases at the regional public prosecutor’s office will work for that regional office and any local prosecutor’s offices in the region. Concentrating antidiscrimination efforts at the regional public prosecutor’s offices should increase quality and efficiency and improve and ensure continuity. A substantial investment will be made in training

public prosecutors specializing in discrimination, largely by means of specifically tailored courses and publication of a handbook on discrimination. The handbook, drafted by the OM to increase public prosecutors’ and prosecutor’s clerks’ expertise in discrimination matters, was published on 1 November 2006 (Outlook 2010, not available in English).

(c) National Framework for the Dutch Police

30. On 9 October 2006 the Minister of Justice, the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and the Chair of the Board of Regional Police Force Managers signed the National Framework for the Dutch Police in 2007. Combating discrimination has been designated one of the top priorities for 2007. The National Framework includes commitments on how the police will combat discrimination. Specifically, the regional forces agreed to regularly inform the Public Prosecution Service, local authorities and other relevant partners about their policy on discrimination offences. They will also implement the nine preconditions for combating discrimination that the Board of Chief Commissioners laid down in January 2004. This is not the exclusive responsibility of the police; Ministers will also encourage local authorities, the Public Prosecution Service and other relevant partners to work closely together (National Framework for the Dutch Police in 2007, not available in English).

(d) WODC investigating penalties in discrimination cases

31. The Minister of Justice has commissioned the Research and Documentation Centre (WODC) to study penalties in discrimination cases in order to ascertain the effectiveness of using the criminal law to tackle occasional discrimination. The question being considered is: in view of the necessity of effectively combating and preventing occasional discrimination, how adequate are the existing sentencing provisions and their application by the courts in cases of occasional, specific and criminal discrimination? The report is due to be published in the summer of 2007.

(Source: A.A.M. Mattijssen, Coordinator for AntiDiscrimination/AntiRacism, Crime and Safety Division, Law Enforcement Department, Ministry of Justice.)

32. In 2006 there was increased use of the criminal law to tackle online discrimination. Three cases reported by the MDI that year resulted in convictions, including the case of the “housewitz” film, which was posted on the Internet in mid2005, and a case concerning a website on which, under the guise of “satire”, extremely discriminatory utterances were made against Jews and homosexuals. The conviction in the latter case was upheld on appeal on 17 November 2006. The court rejected the defence brought by the makers of the site that it was a matter of artistic expression and a contribution to the public debate. In the view of the court, the texts on the site went beyond the bounds of acceptability and caused unnecessary offence.

33. Another example of the consistent detection and prosecution of online discrimination involved an action against Stormfront is one of the largest rightwing extremist websites in the world. The police and criminal justice authorities recently launched a

major investigation into Stormfront, partly in response to intelligence and to an official report by the MDI. The police recently searched the premises of several moderators of the Dutch branch of

34. The independent Equal Treatment Commission (CGB) plays a major role in the use of existing civil law provisions. The Commission is an easily accessible body that issues nonbinding findings in discrimination cases. The parties concerned (including private individuals) may cite the Commission’s findings in the civil courts, where they carry considerable weight.

35. Finally, the Dutch Government believes that international steps must be taken to combat racism on the Internet. On 16 November 2006 the Netherlands ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, which will enter into force in the Netherlands on 1 March 2007. The Additional Protocol, concerning the criminalization of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems, was not, however, ratified during the period under review.

F. Ethnic minority women and the labour market

36. The Committee recommended that the Netherlands continue and strengthen its measures to overcome the obstacles faced by ethnic minority women in accessing the labour market. It invited the Netherlands to provide, in its next report, an assessment of the impact of the measures taken.

37. The net labour market participation rate of nonWestern immigrants is generally below that of the ethnic Dutch population. There is a clear difference between Turks and Moroccans on the one hand, and Surinamese and Antilleans/Arubans on the other. Labour market participation by women in the latter two groups is almost equal to that of ethnic Dutch women, and among men it is only slightly lower.

38. The participation rate among Turks and Moroccans, on the other hand, is much lower. In about 2001 both men and women appeared to be catching up slightly, but this trend has now ceased. Labour market participation among Turkish and Moroccan women has in fact fallen slightly over the past two years, while that of ethnic Dutch women has risen slightly.


39. There is still a great deal of room for improvement in the labour market status of ethnic minority women. Since the scheme under the Employment of Minorities (Promotion) Act ended in 2004 and the Committee for Ethnic Minority Women’s Participation (PaVEM) was disbanded in 2005, extra measures have been taken to improve the position of ethnic minority women on the labour market.

40. It is hoped that this target group will benefit above all from general measures the Government is taking to remove labour market obstacles (to prevent stigma and fragmentation). The basic principle of labour market policy in recent years has been to abandon the use of target

groups, focusing instead on generic labour market policy. In other words, only measures that benefit all concerning things like childcare or training, for example will be introduced. This generic approach is, however, complemented by customized implementation at the individual level (with a focus on a person’s skills and circumstances). Only if the general approach proves ineffective will specific measures be taken.

41. The most important measures introduced for ethnic minority women since the Employment of Minorities (Promotion) Act and the Committee for Ethnic Minority Women’s Participation were phased out have been as follows:

(a) Reintegration policy has been decentralized, with the introduction of the new Work and Social Assistance Act (WWB). Placing responsibility for reintegration where knowledge of the local situation and clients is greatest allows public resources and instruments to be used to greatest effect;

(b) The results achieved by the Committee for Ethnic Minority Women’s Participation have been consolidated:

(i) The Ethnic Minority Women and Employment Coordination Group (RAVA) was set up in February 2006 to play a role in translating the Committee’s agreements concerning employment into real results. The Group is conducting experiments with local authorities to identify ways of assisting ethnic minority women into jobs. Group members use instruments developed by the Committee, including coaching, networking and empowerment training;

(ii) The network of and for ethnic minority women set up by the Committee is to continue as an independent nonprofit organization known as Pafemme. Pafemme will help establish local networks and reach out to ethnic minority women;

(iii) As a followup to the TaalTotaal language action plan drawn up by the Committee, the Government has made money available to allow local authorities to fund extra integration services for ethnic minority women;

(iv) The Committee’s initiative of fostering social participation by ethnic minority women with the help of voluntary organizations was taken up by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (and has now been taken over by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science). The goal for the coming years is to activate 50,000 ethnic minority women;

(c) The Dutch Refugee Council has launched a “jobs offensive” for refugees, in collaboration with the Foundation for Refugee Students (UAF), the refugee employment agency Emplooi and the Centres for Work and Income (CWI), with financial support from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. The aim of the project is to help 2,600 extra refugees (including women) into jobs over a period of three and a half years;

(d) Unlike the Employment of Minorities (Promotion) Act, current policy is based mainly on encouraging, persuading and supporting employers to implement policy on diversity. The National Diversity Management Network (DIV) was set up for this purpose on 1 January 2005. DIV collects tools and examples of best practice. Instruments have also been developed for measuring staff diversity, including the Diversity Quick Scan;

(e) A Diversity Ambassadors Network consisting of representatives of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), large companies and central Government also existed until the end of last year. Its brief was to inspire and encourage employers to mainstream diversity in their organization.

42. The Government’s reintegration policy not only focuses on ethnic minority women receiving benefits; general reintegration resources can also be used for women who are not benefit recipients. Many ethnic minority women have no income from either work or benefits (the figure is just under 50 per cent in the case of Turkish and Moroccan women). Encouraging these women often requires a very specific, intensive approach. The RAVA group is experimenting with eight local authorities on ways of reaching ethnic minority women. The Government’s equal rights and integration policy also focuses on these vulnerable women with poor labour market prospects. By forging links between integration programmes for ethnic minority women, the activities of voluntary organizations and reintegration programmes, the Government hopes to achieve a comprehensive approach that will help these women into work.

Table 1
Women in the labour market, 19952006 (%)


Figure 1
Labour market participation of women


[*] The appendices can be consulted in the files of the Secretariat.

[1] The concluding observations of the Committee on the second periodic report of the Netherlands are contained in Official Records of the Economic and Social Council, 2007, Supplement No. 2 (E/2007/22E/C.12/2006/1), paras. 571604.

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