30 country profiles reflecting
the state and diversity of the
humanitarian sector in Europe

Click on the flags to explore
Summary of
all countries

The Netherlands has a long tradition in Europe and in the global international community concerning humanitarian action, specifically with ECHO and the UN. It has an outstanding reputation within the international donor community, not just for its financial contributions but also for its willingness to be innovative, to take on new challenges, and its focus on transparency, accountability and effectiveness of aid.

Emergency shelter, Nutrition, Water & sanitation
Children, Women, Youth

Scope of involvement


Since its early years of existence, the Netherlands has engaged worldwide in political, economic and social cooperation with other countries and cultures. This international orientation is reflected in its pioneering role in the establishment and development of international law by Hugo Grotius up to now with The Hague as the International City of Peace and Justice.


Types of stakeholders

NGO in general

Much of the actual implementation of Dutch humanitarian aid is carried out by NGOs. Beside the UN agencies and the Red Cross movement, a large share of the government’s development and humanitarian aid budget is channelled through a set of civil society organizations. In 2013, the government announced however that the funding for civil society organizations working on development and humanitarian action, would be cut back by 50% in 2017.

Aside from a group of bigger NGOs there are many smaller NGOs leading to a somewhat heterogeneous landscape of humanitarian actors. Their religious (Christian), social and cultural ties often mean that many organisations can count on a fairly strong support base in society.


State humanitarianism

Ministries and State agencies involved

The Netherlands has a long track record of providing substantial development and humanitarian aid. Even though the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent economic downturn have forced the government to decrease its development budget from 0.8% to 0.7% of its GDP, its funding levels are still in line with the UN target. Humanitarian action is also financed out of this budget.

Despite the severe budget cuts in development cooperation, , emergency aid will remain exempted from these measures.

At international level, the Dutch government pursues three development goals: to eradicate extreme poverty in a single generation, sustainable and inclusive growth, and success for Dutch companies abroad. Priorities are food security, water, women’s rights and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). For humanitarian aid, the Dutch government prioritises: more self-reliance and resilience, more effectiveness, humanitarian access and neutrality, and greater accountability.

The Human Rights, Good Governance and Humanitarian Aid Department (DMH) within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs coordinates and develops policy on human rights, good governance, conflict prevention and management, conflict resolution, post-conflict reconstruction, humanitarian assistance and gender equality.


In the event of major humanitarian crises, ten major Dutch development NGOs join forces in the SHO (Stichting Samenwerkende Hulporganisaties - Cooperating Relief Organisations) to raise funding through large public campaigns. Since the 1980s, 38 of these national campaigns have been launched, with the latest ones being for the victims of the typhoon in the Philippines and the Syria conflict.

Specific roles of international organisations

United Nations

Generally, the Netherlands does not provide direct aid to governments of countries hit by crises, but mainly works through international partners, such as the United Nations (UN), the ICRC, but also NGOs. A strict requirement is that international coordination of emergency aid is organised by OCHA.


Specific expertise

Because of climate change and potential environmental disasters, the Netherlands sees an important role for Dutch expertise on water management and disaster risk reduction. With large parts below sea-level, the country is highly vulnerable to flooding as evidenced by the North Sea Flood of 1953. In response to this and to climate change, the Netherlands has invested and continues to invest heavily in the protection of its delta.


Humanitarian Education

Higher education

Formal education takes place at university level where there are a few Master and Minor programmes related to humanitarian action and related fields such as conflict studies. University programmes that specifically target international humanitarian action are present at Wageningen University (a.o. Disaster Studies as a thesis track of International Development Studies) and the University of Groningen, which provides an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree programme together with its international partners in NOHA. At vocational level, humanitarian action seems less present or more related to fields such as civil protection.

In-house training

Non-formal education takes place particularly in humanitarian organizations and in some think-tanks. Most are practical in-house training for own personnel or workshops to inform the wider public.


GERRITSEN, T. (2007). The Tradition of Human Rights and Humanitarian Action in the Netherlands. Refugee Survey Quarterly. 26 (4). p.pp. 214–219.
Available from: [Accessed: 26 June 2014].

KNAPEN, B., ARTS, G., KLEISTRA, Y., KLEM, M. & REM, M. (2011). Attached to the World: On the Anchoring and Strategy of Dutch Foreign Policy. [Online]. Amsterdam: Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR).
Available from: http://www.wrr.nl/en/projecten/project/article/wrr-rapport-85-aan-het-buitenland-gehecht/. [Accessed: 26 June 2014].

NETHERLANDS. MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS. (2013) A World to Gain: A New Agenda for Aid, Trade and Investment. [Online]. The Hague.
Available from: http://www.government.nl/documents-and-publications/letters/2013/04/05/global-dividends-a-new-agenda-for-aid-trade-and-investment.html. [Accessed: 26 June 2014].

NETHERLANDS. MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS. (2012) Aid for People in Need: Policy Framework for Humanitarian Aid. [Online].
Available from: http://www.government.nl/documents-and-publications/reports/2012/03/29/aid-for-people-in-need.html. [Accessed: 26 June 2014].

OECD. (2011) The Netherlands, Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Peer Review 2011. [Online]. Paris.
Available from: http://www.oecd.org/dac/peer-reviews/netherlands.htm. [Accessed: 26 June 2014].

Available from: http://samenwerkendehulporganisaties.nl/over-sho/. [Accessed: 26 June 2014].


H. Sportel
B.L. Aardema
Prof.dr. J. Herman
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

This site uses cookies to enhance user experience and to track usage statistics. For more information, see NOHA’s Data Privacy Policy.