The Dutch development aid budget has fallen dramatically in recent years. In 2013 the Dutch Government stopped respecting the 0.7% norm, pushing through large budget cuts on development aid cooperation. The allocation of development aid is also more and more scrutinised, and one of the more controversial expenses is the first-year shelter of asylum seekers.
According to OECD guidelines, shelter expenses can be paid from development aid budgets, but some countries choose otherwise. The Dutch used to pay the shelter of newcomers from the development aid budget, but stopped in 2014 when an extra 375 million euros was made available. Clearly, the shelter of asylum seekers is a major expense for the Dutch Government, but as the inflow of asylum seekers rises, the question becomes ‘how best to finance assistance’?
The bigger question underlying the debate is, ‘should the development aid budget be used to target migration at all’? Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen, for example, announced that 50 million euros would be spent on creating opportunities for youth in several African countries, in order to decrease migration from these countries.
However, Dr. Melissa Siegel, head of the migration unit at UNU-MERIT in Maastricht, argues: “There is no conclusive evidence that development leads to less migration. It is good to send more development aid to Africa, but it shouldn’t be done with the intention to curb migration flows to Europe. Most migrants don’t come from the poorest countries but from middle-income countries. What matters in the public debate are perceptions regarding migrants. People from developed countries also migrate, but nobody complains about US or German migrants. When migrants come from developed countries we don’t see them as a threat.”
The present increase of refugee flows to Europe has stirred debate on how development budgets (and other budgets including military spending) can be used to assist conflict-affected areas and fragile states. But is this issue adequately discussed in Dutch politics? A recent study by Kaleidos Research says that the Dutch have a good basis to take on a leadership role in financing development, but that the current political climate does not foster debate on development aid budget allocation.
UN Photo/A.Gonzalez Farran