Asser president Hirsch Ballin presents a report on human rights and sustainable development

Published 3 July 2019

Sustainable development and human rights policies should go hand in hand, said Asser President Ernst Hirsch Ballin yesterday, when he presented Dutch Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Minister Sigrid Kaag and Hans De Boer, Chair of the Dutch employers' organisation VNO-NCW with the advisory report 'Sustainable development goals and human rights’. The report was published by the Human Rights Committee - chaired by Ernst Hirsch Ballin - of the Dutch Advisory Council on International Affairs.

In his speech, Hirsch Ballin said that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer a useful framework for an improved coordination of Dutch sustainable development and human rights policies. Hirsch Ballin emphasised the value of the many human rights treaties that were concluded after the Second World War. “However, treaties alone are not enough, said Hirsch Ballin, as “Freedom of expression is of little value if you are hungry or struggling to survive. Investing in economic development, good working conditions, health care and a sustainable environment is just as important. The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals are concrete goals in all these areas. "

More coherence in foreign policy
The report describes how more coherence in Dutch foreign policy on human rights and development cooperation could lead to better results. According to the Advisory Council, the UN SDGs, with their emphasis on social, economic and environmental rights are a tool to discuss human rights with countries that are hesitant to do so. However, Hirsch Ballin warned: "For countries that are less interested in human rights, the sustainable development goals may also offer an alibi to handle this more loosely. "Therefore, in our contacts with these countries, The Netherlands should stress the fact that the SDGs are not optional and that human rights remain beacons of explicit and enforceable obligations."

Sustainable development goals
In 2015, member states of the United Nations unanimously adopted the 17 SDGs, which should end poverty, hunger, inequality and climate deterioration by 2030 at the latest. The SDGs contain further goals on healthcare, education, clean drinking water, sustainable energy and legal protection. The United Nations member states acknowledge that the SDGs are anchored in internationally recognised human rights. In September 2019, world leaders will come together to discuss the progress of the SDGs.