Het College voor de Rechten van de Mens bestaat vijf jaar

28 September 2017

The Human Rights Board celebrated its fifth anniversary on October 1, 2017. As of 2012, the Netherlands has an independent institution with the statutory task of monitoring human rights, advising governments, conducting research, issuing judgments, and promoting awareness of human rights in the Netherlands, so that they are respected and observed. “Much has been achieved in the past five years,” says Board Chair Adriana van Dooijeweert, “but there is also still much work to be done.”

Reports and judgments
In five years’ time, the Board received almost 14,500 questions and reports about discrimination and human rights. Upon request, the Board issued a total of 750 judgments on cases of possible unequal treatment. Most cases had to do with employment, especially selection and recruitment. The institute cannot impose fines or penalties, but it can judge whether a party has made a mistake. Some examples of cases the Board ruled on: a woman who was fired because of complications during her pregnancy, a job applicant who was rejected for being too old, and a woman who was rejected as a dental assistant because she wore a headscarf. In about 75 percent of the cases, the defendants took action when it appeared that discrimination had occurred. For example, they apologized or organized training for their organization to prevent discrimination in the future.

Since its establishment, the Board also conducted 17 investigations, including into the observance of human rights in nursing homes and the justification for judges to remand criminal suspects in custody. The Board issued 58 opinions to the Cabinet and other government agencies. The Board also informed parliament in 64 letters on various important issues and developments in the field of human rights. In five years time, the Board conducted 20 public campaigns to make people aware of their human rights and to raise problems, such as pregnancy discrimination and the inaccessibility of the elections.

Spearheads of five years of the College
A quarter of all Dutch people consider human rights violations an urgent problem. Yet, in 2015, 42 percent of the Dutch spontaneously did not know how to name a single human right. Worryingly, this level of knowledge is even lower among young people than among older Dutch people. Through various campaigns, the Board tried to raise awareness of human rights in the Netherlands. Some of the spearheads of the past five years:

  • The Board mapped out what autonomy and dignity mean for elderly people in nursing homes and launched the campaign “A new look at dignified care” to make nursing homes more aware of human rights.
  • For a number of years the Institute has been providing the training ‘Selecting without Prejudice’ to employment agencies, companies and government bodies, to combat stereotyping in the labor market.
    After hundreds of reports, the institute also made an urgent appeal to Minister Asscher to tackle pregnancy discrimination. This has led to the action plan for pregnancy discrimination of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.
  • The Board is fully committed to human rights education in primary and secondary education. Children must be taught about their human rights from an early age.
  • Discrimination in employment still occurs regularly. People with a non-western name have less chance to get a job. The Board conducts research and organizes activities for recognition and acknowledgement of the problem of unequal access to the labor market.
  • The regulator monitors the ‘UN Convention on Disability’, which entered into force on 14 July 2016, and launched a campaign to raise public awareness of the rights of people with disabilities. Research in 2017 showed that buses are not sufficiently accessible for wheelchair users and that people with disabilities experience too many problems when voting in elections.
  • Poverty, social exclusion and human rights are the focus of this year’s fifth annual report to the government. This shows that poverty puts pressure on various human rights. According to the Board, a policy vision and a national program are needed to combat poverty and social exclusion.

When it was founded on October 1, 2012, the College set itself the goal of highlighting, monitoring, protecting and promoting human rights in the Netherlands. “The situation in our country is not bad, but it could be better,” says President Adriana van Dooijeweert. “Human rights must remain alive in the social discussion. This can be done by talking about them especially in schools. People must also realize in their work that they are dealing with human rights. Think of nursing homes or people who work in prisons. There are still elderly people who do not receive proper care, people who become homeless due to bad luck and students who cannot find an internship because of their non-Dutch surname. Continued attention to human rights is necessary, so that everyone in the Netherlands can live in dignity.”

Congratulatory cards 5 years College
The College is celebrating its fifth anniversary with, among other things, a national card campaign. The congratulatory cards refer to various human rights with the help of well-known song lyrics. They can be sent, for example, to someone on their birthday, to someone with a new job or who has just moved house. In this way the Board wants to bring human rights to the attention of a broad audience. The card sets are handed out to people in seven Dutch cities. They can also be sent online via the website:



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