Global Good Samaritans: Human Rights as Foreign Policy

By Alison Brysk | Go to book overview

6
Globalization and Its Discontents

The Netherlands

One peace is better than countless victories.

—1648 medallion, struck by the City
of Amsterdam to celebrate the
Treaty of Munster

The Government shall promote the development
of the international legal order
.

—Article 90 of the Dutch Constitution

The Netherlands has been renowned for a long tradition of humanitarian internationalism, seeking a combination of “peace, profits, and principles” through foreign policy strategies historians identify as “maritime commercialism, neutralist abstentionism, and internationalist idealism” (Voorhoeve 1979). Holland’s historic projection as a small power using international law to protect its borders, business, and values defies the predictions of realpolitik and standard counsels of foreign policy (Baehr and Castermans-Holleman 2004), suggesting the utility of a constructivist analysis of foreign policy roles and norms that link long-term national interest with the commonweal. Yet the evolving Dutch mix of moralism and pragmatism in the exercise of human rights policy shows that global citizenship is a constructed and constantly renegotiated paradigm, not an effluence of altruism. The limitations of the Netherlands’ best-case promotion policies also show the boundaries of commonsense cosmopolitanism when it meets countervailing aspects of globalization, such as trade and migration patterns.

The Netherlands has made a conscious, concerted, and multifaceted effort to promote human rights for several generations, crystallized in both a 1979 Policy Document on Human Rights and a subsequent 2001 Memorandum on Human Rights Policy. Human rights is described as “a cornerstone” of Dutch foreign policy, although these documents ultimately call for pragmatic promotion “wherever possible”—without incurring a break in diplomatic or trade relations. Accordingly, the Netherlands has been a strong advocate in multilateral settings with a much more mixed record in bilateral relations—a profile similar to Sweden or Canada. Within the

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