You are on page 1of 31


This report is the Dutch contribution to the international design workshop on Democratic Renewal to be held in the
Netherlands on Tuesday, October 28th and Wednesday, October 29 in The Hague at Oxfam Novib. It is based on the
Guidelines for national stakeholder consultation (Netwerk Democratie, September 2014, Yvette Jeuken and Josien Pieterse).
Mellouki Cadat (Movisie) wrote and compiled the report, including a contribution by Josien Pieterse and Yvette Jeuken
(Netwerk Democratie). Sources were the minutes from the Stakeholders consultation meeting Democratic Renewal, 30
September 2014, Igluu Utrecht1, by Martin Zuithof, and available literature2. Editor: Emilin Lap (Emilin Lap Vertalingen).

Table of Content
1. Context Analysis
1.1. Political context
1.2. Basic freedoms & rights
1.3. Socio-economic context
1.4. Socio-cultural context
1.5. Legal environment
1.6. State-civil society relations
1.7. Private sector-civil society relations
2. Analysis of State of Affairs
3. Identification and ranking of Needs
4. Innovative practices: State of art of CSO's in relation to democratic renewal
5. Definition of Democratic Renewal

1. Context Analysis
1.1. Political Context
‘The long year of 2002’ (the meteoric rise of populist leader Pim Fortuyn, his murder shortly before elections by a left
wing radical, and a subsequent period of government instability and unprecedented shifts in the electorate) gave a new
impetus to the long-standing debate about the quality of Dutch democracy. It is a debate involving several reports and
1 Present: Bea Stalenhoef (Oxfam Novib), Miny Rajiv (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Friso Coumou (Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations), Yvette Jeuken (Network
Democracy Netherlands), Josien Pieterse (Network Democracy Netherlands), Nanneke van der Heijden (freelancer, engaged with 100x100), Gerwin Verschuur (Energy
company Thermo Bello Culemborg), Joachim Meerkerk (Pakhuis De Zwijger), Willemijn Oosterhof (Pakhuis De Zwijger), Saskia van Grinsven (Movisie), Joost van Alkemade
(Movisie), Martin Zuithof (report).
2 Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Democracy Program. The State of Our Democracy. The Hague: 2006; Andeweg, R., J. Thomassen. The Democratic Audit of
The Netherlands; Its approach, criteria, results, and impact. Leiden: 2013; Andeweg, R., J. Thomassen. Democratie doorgelicht. Het functioneren van de Nederlandse
democratie. Leiden: 2010; Haase, A. , G.J. Hospers, S. Pekelsma & D. Rink. Shrinking Areas. European Urban Knowlewdge Network Amsterdam: 2012; Wijdeven, A. Doe-
Democratie (Action Democracy). Over actief burgerschap en stadswijken. Eburgon Delft: 2012.

recommendations on democratic reform by royal commissions from the 1950s to the first decade of the current
century. It has never resulted in fundamental reforms although it should be noted that non-citizens residents were
given the right to vote and to be elected on a municipal level in 1983, and that several forms of popular veto have
been introduced. The debate deepened by the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim radical (2004), the
ongoing declining trust of the people in politicians, politics and the cabinet (starting in the period 2001-2005) and the
(dramatic) result of the Dutch referendum on the Constitutional Treaty on the European Union in 2005.

The Dutch model of democracy is based on consensus, which seems strangely at odds with contemporary social
conditions. The model emphasize representativeness, with a proportional system of elected politicians and elitism, with
leaders as trustees and a strong role for non-majoritarian (and non-elected) institutions such as the monarch and the
judiciary as checks and balances.
The withering of pillarization (distinct subcultures) in Dutch society, and the emancipation of the voters, have reduced
the need for representativeness and elitism. The electorate has already shifted from being passive and loyal to actively
seeking to influence future policy and holding parties accountable. The current system does offer sufficient room for
this modern electoral behavior. Any reform to allow for more effect would imply a shift in emphasis from
representativeness to accountability. The electoral system forms an important target for any such reform. In addition
to adaptations of representative democracy, the debate is also about complements to representative democracy. The
emancipation of citizens has already led to interactive policy making at a local level. At a national level, no such
development has taken place yet, albeit some initiatives like 'Make the Law' (NetDem) are trying to use ICT to tackle
the disadvantages of scale and unequal participation on a national level. Other options are available to offer citizens
more say in national politics, such as the popular veto. The referendum on the EU Constitutional Treaty, the outcome
of which was an uncomfortable stupefaction for political parties, has frozen the enthusiasm for any form of referendum
among the established parties.

The Netherlands, also known as Holland, is a country located in northwest Europe. We are a parliamentary democracy
under a constitutional monarch, the kingdom includes its former colonies in the Lesser Antilles: Aruba, Bonaire,
Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten. The capital is Amsterdam and the seat of government The Hague.

The Dutch United Provinces declared their independence from Spain in 1579; during the 17th century they became
leading in seafaring and commercial power based on slave trade, with settlements and colonies around the world.

3 Encyclopedia Brittannica, World Factbook 2014.

Although slavery was illegal in the Netherlands itself, it flourished in the Dutch Empire, and helped support the
economy. By 1650 the Dutch performed a thriving slave trade in Europe. After a 20-year French occupation, a
Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed in 1815. In 1830 Belgium seceded and formed an independent kingdom. The
Netherlands remained neutral in World War I, but suffered invasion and occupation by Germany in World War II.
Ninety percent of Dutch Jews perished in the Holocaust due mainly to the fact that the civil administration was
advanced and carefully kept by the occupier thus offering Nazi-German a full insight in not only the numbers of Jews,
but also their exact locations.
As a modern, industrialized nation, the Netherlands is also a large exporter of agricultural products. The country was a
founding member of NATO and the EEC (now the EU) and participated in the introduction of the euro in 1999. In
October 2010, the former Netherlands Antilles was dissolved and the three smallest islands - Bonaire, Saint Eustatius,
and Saba - became special municipalities in the Netherlands administrative structure. The larger islands of Saint
Maarten and Curacao joined the Netherlands and Aruba as constituent countries forming the Kingdom of the

Despite government-encouraged emigration after World War II, which prompted some 500,000 persons to leave the
country, the Netherlands has grown into one of the world’s most densely populated countries. Although the population
as a whole is “graying” rapidly, with a high percentage of over age 65, Amsterdam has remained one of the liveliest
centers of international youth culture. There, perhaps more than anywhere else in the country, the Dutch tradition of
social tolerance is readily embraced. Prostitution, “soft-drug” (marijuana and hashish) use, and euthanasia are all legal
but carefully regulated in the Netherlands, which was also the first country to legalize same-sex marriage.

This rather independent attitude was evident as early as the 16th and 17th centuries, when the Dutch rejected
monarchical controls and took a relatively open-minded view of other cultures, especially when they brought wealth
and capital to the country’s trading centers. In that period, Dutch merchant ships sailed the world and helped lay the
foundations of a great trading country, largely based on slavery and characterized by a vigorous spirit of enterprise. In
later centuries, the Netherlands continued to have one of the most advanced economies in the world, despite the
country’s modest size. The Dutch economy is open and generally internationally oriented. With Belgium and
Luxembourg, the Netherlands forms the Benelux economic union, which in the 1950s and 1960s served as a model for
the larger European Economic Community (EEC; now embedded in the European Union [EU]), of which the Benelux
countries are members. The Netherlands is also a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and it plays host to a number of international
organizations, especially in the legal sector, such as the International Court of Justice.

The Dutch reputation for tolerance was tested in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, when an increase in
immigration from non-European Union countries and a populist turn in politics resulted in a growing feelings of
nationalism and even xenophobia, marked by two race-related political assassinations, in 2002 and 2004, and the
government ruling (2006) that immigrants pass an expensive ‘‘integration’’ test before they enter the country.

State of democracy in The Netherlands
Constitutional framework
The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy. The monarchy is hereditary in both the male and female
lines. The constitution, which dates from 1814, declares that the head of state, the monarch, is inviolable and thereby
embodies the concept of ministerial responsibility. It also states that no government may remain in power against the
will of parliament. The States General (Staten-Generaal), as the parliament is officially known, consists of two houses:
the First Chamber (Eerste Kamer), or Senate, whose members are elected by the members of the councils of the 12
provinces; and the directly elected Second Chamber (Tweede Kamer), or House of Representatives. Both houses share
legislative power with the government, officially known as the Crown (Kroon), defined as the head of state acting in
conjunction with the ministers. The two houses control government policy. The First Chamber can only approve or
reject legislation but does not have the power to propose or amend it.

Every four years, after the elections for the Second Chamber, the government resigns, and a process of bargaining
starts between the elected parties, aspiring to form a government that is assured of the support of a parliamentary
majority. It usually takes a few months of maneuvering before the formateur, the main architect of the new coalition,
is ready to accept a royal invitation to form a government. The head of state then formally appoints the ministers. In
the event of political crises resulting in the fall of the government before the end of a four-year period, the same
process of bargaining takes place. The monarch, acting on the advice of the ministries, has the right to dissolve one or
both chambers, after which new elections are held.

Local government
In local government, the most important institutions are the municipalities. Since World War II, the number of
municipalities—which once totaled more than 1,000—has been dramatically reduced as a result of repartitions. Each
municipality is run by a directly elected council that is presided over by a mayor, who is appointed by the national
government and serves as chairman of the board, the members of which are elected by and from the council; in the
early 21st century, there was an active discussion about the direct election of mayors. In the areas where the councils’
own ordinances are applicable, the municipalities are autonomous. Often, national legislation or provincial ordinances
regulate the cooperation of municipal authorities.

The Netherlands consists of 12 provinces: Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe, Overijssel, Flevoland, Gelderland, Utrecht,
Noord-Holland, Zuid-Holland, Zeeland, Noord-Brabant, and Limburg. Their administrative system resembles that of the
municipal government: directly elected councils (staten), who elect the members of the board, except for the
chairman, who is appointed by the national government. One of the main functions of the provinces is to monitor the
municipalities and regional water authorities in their region.

Political context: Opportunities, enabling environment for CSO intervention
The actual public debate on the functioning of the political institutions and practices in the Netherlands aims at an
assessment of the Dutch democracy to record the situation and to promote discussion and the need for reform. The
debate involves active citizens who are interested in the public domain, representatives of civil society-organizations,
politicians and political parties, old and new media, politicians, academicians, social entrepreneurs
Key-issues that are debated (irl and on internet) are:
● Freedom of speech
● Relation between the media and politics/politicians
● Citizenship
● Europe within the Dutch political system
● Trust in politicians
● Governmental complexity
● Public administration

Key recommendations for politics and civil society agree include:

● Freedom of speech in the Netherlands must be protected and safeguarded.
● Cabinet should provide more information on Government policies in order to increase its accountability.
● Non-departmental public bodies must become more transparent and accountable. Effective control over
autonomous regional police departments must be introduced.
● More transparent appointment procedures in public administration will increase political confidence.
● Citizens and organizations should become effectively involved in policy preparation.
● The socio-economic conditions of non-western ethnic minorities must be improved.
● Political parties have to become more open and inclusive, in particular towards younger Dutch citizens.

1.2. Basic freedom and rights

Various organizations deal with human rights in the Netherlands, including the Data Protection Authority, the Equal
Treatment Commission, the National Ombudsman, and the Netherlands Helsinki Committee. This has prompted the
creation of a national human rights institute in 2012 (

The Constitutional State
The Dutch Constitution and the major political institutions are widely supported by the population: almost 75% of the
population considers democracy to be the best form of government, while a mere 12% of the population prefer a
republic instead of a constitutional monarchy.
Dutch political institutions have contributed to moderation and reconciliation between distinct social forces, and
consultation and consensus between public and private organizations and the government is strongly observed. One
example of this is the existence of the Social and Economic Council (SER), which involves both employers and
employees in discussions on social security, employment and economic growth. Nevertheless, the polder model, a
concept based on representativeness and elitism referring to the Dutch consensus seeking democracy and consultation
economy, a result of the 1982 Wassenaar Agreement, is increasingly criticized.

Representative and Accountable Government
Free and Fair Elections
The government and the bicameral Parliament comprise the legislative power of the Netherlands. The government is
formed by the King (the Monarch) and the ministers according to the Constitution; Article 41.1. Parliamentary elections
frequently lead to different compositions of the governing coalition. The legislature is elected by all Dutch citizens of 18
or older on the day of the election, whether they live in the Netherlands or abroad. Every Dutch citizen is eligible for
appointment to the public service, as well as to vote or be elected for office. Foreign residents are allowed to vote and
to be elected on a (sub)municipal level. European residents are also allowed to vote and to be elected for the European
Irregularities and abuse are rare. The Electoral Council is an independent administrative body that acts as the central
polling station for the Legislative and European Parliament elections; it also acts as an advisory body for the
government and the parliament in suffrage and electoral issues. There are few impediments to register candidates and
parties, while incumbent parties do not have to meet conditions to register their candidates. Parties that field
candidates in all constituencies, or those who won one or more seats in the previous elections, have access to radio
and TV broadcast time made available by the Dutch Media Authority. However, it is the media that decide how much
attention will be devoted to old or new candidates and parties, creating a mutual dependence between career
politicians and professional journalists. The proportional representation list system is used to elect every representative
body: This allows a very close representation of the electorate, but it also renders increased power to party elites.
Although voting has been voluntary since 1970, turnout rates for parliamentary elections fluctuate at around 80%,
while municipal, provincial and European parliament turnout rates are considerably lower. Election results are deemed
legitimate and accepted by all.

Fundamental Rights

Freedom of movement is not legislated and is implicitly assumed, exceptions being the admission and expulsion of
aliens, and extradition processes. Asylum policies were reformed in 2003 in order to discourage unfounded
applications, resulting in a sharp decrease of submitted applications and shorter decision processes.
Freedom of speech is legally based in the Constitution, the ECHR and ICCPR, and only restricted in cases of hate and
incitements to violence, or when deemed needlessly injurious. Surveys indicate that 70% of the respondents hold
freedom of speech to be more important than social and economic rights or equal treatment. However, registered
instances of threat and the use of violence against freedom of speech have increased during the last few years, most
notably demonstrated by the assassinations of the politician Pim Fortuyn (2002), and film maker Theo van Gogh
The rights of association and the right to demonstrate are also protected constitutionally, and limited only in the
interests of public order.
The freedom to practice religion, or to protect one’s own language and culture is grounded in several treaties and the

The Democratic Role of Political Parties
Although there are no statutory regulations on the internal organization of political parties, other codes and laws
establish the requirements of internal democracy. In general, the system aims to facilitate the formation of political
parties by stimulating participation in elections, while, at the same time, regulating this participation to ensure that
only serious parties will actually run for office. In order to obtain registration a party must have a charter of the
association, be registered in the commercial register, and represent no conflict with public order.

Statistics show that the older major parties have lost almost 50% of their membership over the last 30 years, while
opposition parties have gained a great deal of members. Since the introduction of general suffrage, no party has been
able to gain a majority in the House of Representatives, and most cabinets are ultimately determined after a rather
long period of negotiation and consultation.

In general, parties in the Netherlands take their main decisions through general conferences or meetings of members.
Nevertheless, due to the declining number of members and a diminishing confidence in political parties, calls for more
internal democracy and direct involvement of party members in candidate selections have been made. In the Dutch
party system, more or less all different ethnic, cultural, religious and class backgrounds are represented.

Effectiveness and Public Accountability of the Executive board

During the last few years the Dutch government’s available resources and public sector workforce have decreased due
to the corporatization of several public services. Downsizing and administrative reforms of public services have been
implemented since the Balkenende II government (2003-06). Territorial and functional decentralization occurred,
particularly through the creation of independent, non-departmental public agencies. Although effectiveness has
increased, more and more critique is heard regarding the lack of clarity and accountability of these agencies. As for the
monitoring of the administrative apparatus, there is no direct contact between the houses of the Parliament and civil
services: it is the respective Minister’s responsibility to inform the Houses and to respond to questions about policies.
Despite this limitation on the influence of politicians on civil services, there appears to be both an amalgamation and
competition between politics and the administration. In this sense, a lack of capacity of both MPs and civil servants has
led the former to meddle in administrative issues, and the latter to withhold crucial information. Public trust in the
effectiveness of the executive board is low in comparison to other public institutions.

Besides the right to submit motions and amendments, to decide on the budget and perform enquiries, Parliament has
two other mechanisms of control over the executive board: the rule of ministerial accountability, and the rule of trust.
However, both have their particular problems. According to several reports, between 15- 20% of the parliamentary
questions are not related to the monitoring of the Government and pertain to other issues, while 35% of the civil
servants interviewed responded that parliamentary questions are not always fully answered. On the other hand, the
fact that MPs vote too much along coalition lines also hinders the capacity to exercise control over the executive board.
The existence of advisory political committees whose chairpersons and members are party-appointed, usually by the
major governing parties, and appear to have strong business interests, is also considered an impairment to public
accountability. Although open government acts and provisions are in place, statistics show that of 1,000 annual
requests for disclosure of public information, only 15% is granted. The lack of legal knowledge and formal procedures
surrounding this process combined with the slow response times of civil servants explains the ineffectiveness of this

The Eradication of Corruption
Since 1992, integrity policies have been prioritized and successive Dutch governments have put forward several
policies and measures in this field. According to the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, the
Netherlands dropped from the 7th place in 2002 to the 11th place in 2005 then climbed back to the 8 th position in 2013
as one of the least corrupt countries in the world. However, there has not been a significant increase of corruption
investigations since the start. At a municipal level, nonetheless, similar investigations are more frequent. Other
actions, such as palm greasing, old boy politics and conflicts of interest, occur more frequently than concrete cases of
corruption. Perception studies indicate that Dutch citizens think that, on average, 12% of the members of government
and the House of Representatives and 17% of the national civil servants are corrupt, while 18% of the provincial and

municipal politicians and civil servants are believed to be corrupt. On the other hand, the links between the corporate
world, civil society and the public sector have been historically strong in the Netherlands: this has been the basis for
the polder model and the widespread insistence on consultation before decision making. In general, business
representatives seek more to influence policy at the departmental level, than through the House of Representatives.
Whistleblowers in the private sector can count on protection measures drafted by the Labour Foundation. The
Netherlands Competition Authority protects anonymity and, in cooperation with Stichting Meld Misdaad Anoniem,
receives anonymous phone calls with information on corruption and crimes. Private foundations like Transparency
NL/TI-NL (initiated by the business sector) and (initiated by the media) investigates corruption and
welcomes public involvement. There are no reliable statistics but some corruption cases have received media attention.
Amongst them, the deal between private construction companies to share and assign government-awarded major
projects amongst themselves, which implies extensive shadow-bookkeeping.

Democracy Beyond the State
The International Dimension of Democracy
According to the 2005 Globalization Index, the Netherlands was the 5th most globalized country in the world,
particularly in economic and political terms. Despite significant economic dependency on the EU, there is apparently
little interest in the subject among Dutch citizens. This is clear from the turnout rates for European Parliament
elections, which are considerably lower than the national and municipal rates. Studies indicate that Dutch politics is not
sufficiently engaged in policy preparation at a European level, and the Dutch Parliament has little control over the
contributions of ministers and civil servants in Brussels. Thus, Dutch politicians mainly use the EU as justification for
difficult policy choices. Also, the characteristics of the EU bureaucracy, particularly the lobby-culture and dominance of
business interests, appear to scare away Dutch citizens. The Netherlands is represented directly or indirectly in the
governing bodies of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the UN system, and other major international
The Netherlands endorses the major human rights treaties and is an active promoter of international law and human
rights, participating in major multilateral forums (UN; EU; Council of Europe). The 2000 Aliens Act, regulates access
and residence in the Netherlands, and was devised to identify inadmissible applications in order to diminish long-term
uncertainty of asylum applicants. However, the legislation was criticized for precluding the consideration of complex
cases, and limiting the time and space for assistance with the application procedures. The Act was even questioned by
the ECHR, the Council of Europe, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Human Rights
Watch, amongst others, with regard to repatriation policies, repeated violations of the right to family life and a lethal
fire at the asylum seeker’s center at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam.

Basic freedom and rights: Opportunities, enabling environment for CSO intervention

● Political parties are pining and lose contact with the civil society. They are more and more professionalized
machine politics integrated in the political sphere. This has a direct impact on the quality and legitimacy of the
representative democracy, as grass-roots contact with citizens is limited to electoral periods. CSO have an
opportunity to widen the sphere and the legitimacy of participative democracy.
● Effectiveness and Public Accountability by the Executive board gives an opportunity to CSO to maintain an open,
transparent and citizen driven government's accountability.

1.3. Socio-Economic Context
Economic and Social Rights
Although discrimination in the labor market is oficially prohibited, certain social groups are underrepresented,
especially women, ethnic minorities and youth.
The Netherlands has been affected by the economic crisis. Youth unemployment rates are around 11%, the overall
unemployment rate is 8%. Compared to many other countries Dutch society is still flourishing. Yet, the number of
households below the poverty line is up to 10%4. Similar to Spain, the Netherlands is facing budget cuts and a
decrease of public services. Part of these policies will be implemented during the next 5 years. Despite the relatively
high level of well-being, there are tensions in Dutch society. Contrary to Spain, discrimination and racism are more
visible, there is strong support for populist parties and citizens seem to distrust their politicians, their national political
parties and/or the public establishment.

Citizens have the right to social security if they meet certain conditions including lawful residence. In this respect,
ethnic minorities rely more on social security benefits than the indigenous Dutch population. Primary basic needs are
guaranteed for the majority of the population; nevertheless, debt levels among low-income earners have risen and
support agencies like food-banks have increased during the past few years. Medical insurance is compulsory for every
citizen. Both abortion and euthanasia are legally regulated. The Netherlands has extensive legislation protecting health
and safety at work, consumer rights and the environment. In this sense, the Dutch story is better than the general
European situation: in 2005, the percentage of accidents causing physical injury was 4.5%, lower than the European
average of 5.4%. The right to free education is included in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Primary and secondary education is compulsory:
which is supervised by the municipal authorities, and civic education is provided at both levels. In 2004, 65% of the
citizens between 15 and 64 years had completed higher secondary education. The gap between men and women, as

4 Note that this poverty line is set by Dutch standards. Source: CBS rapport ‘Armoede signalement’,

well as between indigenous and non-indigenous Dutch, albeit decreasing globally, is however still poignant and even
increasing among Moroccan youth (SCP, 2013). Employees have the right to join unions, and the government
promotes deliberations between employers and employees, offering room for collective agreements. Through the SER,
employees and employers advise the Cabinet and the Parliament on the outlines of socio-economic policy. Trade unions
are held to requirements of internal democracy, efficiency and effectiveness; however, the distance between members
and union officials is often considerable. Union membership has decreased since the 1980’s: in 2003, only 25.6% of
the working population was member of a union. In addition, young workers’ participation in unions has sharply
decreased during the last 20 years. In spite of this, 85% of the total work force is represented by trade unions
defending labor condition regulations and, due to existing legislation collective agreements are unaffected. In 2003, a
Corporate Governance Code was drafted at government instigation, and achieved wide acceptance despite having no
legal status. The Netherlands Competition Authority and the Netherlands Authority investigate market-hindering
activities for the Financial Markets.

Just like the rest of Europe, the Netherlands faces shrinkage. The Dutch population is declining, and all countries,
regions, cities and towns are affected in one way or another. There are different types of shrinkage and various kinds
of effects, but shrinkage is becoming a general reality for the entire country.
Shrinkage can be defined as the process in which an urban or rural area – a city, part of a city, an entire metropolitan
area, town or a countryside – experiences population loss, economic downturn, employment decline and social
problems as symptoms of a structural crisis. In the Netherlands, 80% of the shrinking areas are located in a rural
region. More and more villages and small towns no longer have a shop, pub or post office, and more and more houses
and public buildings are left derelict because the people have gone.
The main cause of this rural depopulation process is the exodus of young people to urban areas. As a result, social
networks easily dissolve, and the local community is more likely to lose its spirit and morale. In addition, shrinking
areas generally have to deal with an increasingly bad image, as in today’s mind-set decline is no particular desirable
Whether shrinkage is caused by economic transformation, shifts in urban structure, the ageing of society, political
transformation or migration, towns, cities and villages will have to come up with innovative and strong policies to deal
with the impact of shrinkage in their regions.
However, towns, cities and villages may use shrinkage to revitalize regional bonds and networks. Shrinkage is a
complex phenomenon that cannot be dealt with in isolation. Different layers of government will have to cooperate, and
involve both private and civil sectors. Shrinking cities are facing important challenges, such as changes in the housing
market, higher costs of public services, businesses leaving the area, unemployment. These are all policy areas that

need to be tackled jointly, by means of strong and innovative partnerships that are able to look beyond tomorrow
towards a sustainable long-term future.

(Local) governments and citizens have to learn to accept shrinkage and try to utilize its potential. Over the past few
decades the Dutch may have gotten used to the governance of growth, but now is the time to readjust themselves to
the governance of shrinkage, which may involve de-industrialization, de-investment and loss of functions.
Shrinkage has serious effects on cities, but can also provide opportunities: more space, less crowded streets, shorter
waiting lists for schools or health care and so on. If shrinking areas want to use shrinkage to their advantage, these
are the types of elements they should focus on.
Obviously, these issues are very closely related to local citizens. Locals are the owners of homes, the users of streets
and the customers for shops and services. Shrinkage thus provides a major opportunity for governments to empower
their citizens and truly strengthen the involvement of residents in local affairs. Local residents are very well able to
come up with creative solutions to problems related to the fact that their neighborhood, city or region is shrinking. For
instance, in Parkstad Limburg, creative companies and freelancers created their own (online) network to promote their
Rural settlements have come up with many original solutions to deal with the depopulation in their region, such as
multifunctional accommodation, e-health and local services that are run by citizens. Shrinking cities can learn from
shrinking villages in the countryside, and the other way around.

Socio-economic context: Opportunities, enabling environment for CSO intervention
● The combination of growing socio-economic disparities and the withering away from traditional actors as trade
unions make the case for CSO to build alliances with this old-organized corporate sector and tackle the new
social question directly affecting 6-8% of the Dutch population.
● Shrinkage could be a social opportunity to redirect the city and the village, the metropolis and the small town
towards the changing society, and turn them into habitable, attractive places to live, both today and in the
future. Thinking of shrinking cities and villages as breathing cities and villages, full of new possibilities, might
steer the discussion of shrinkage into a positive direction of democratic renewal instead of decay.

1.4. Socio-cultural Context

In the Netherlands the level of citizen's trust in political institutions, the financial sector and the broader economy is

Dutch (big) cities are characterized by a super diversity. Living here are approximately 180 nationalities and 1.7 million
non-western members of ethnic minorities: Turkish, Surinamese, Moroccan and Antillean peoples compose the largest
part, and there are some 5,000 Roma and Sinti persons. Many are foreigners. Non-citizens have the right to organize,
demonstrate and freedom of speech.

Anti-Semitic manifestations and discrimination of Muslims and minorities are occur relatively frequent, and there is an
ongoing discussion on whether freedom of religion and expression of culture has not gone too far as it would increase
social inequality. Recently a national controversy is growing about Zwarte Piet (black Pete). Zwarte Piet is a negroide
clown-like and subjugated figure, a "helper" of Sinterklaas, who shares his roots with Santa Claus, and is the central
figure of the Dutch winter celebrations. Zwarte Piet has a large fan base in the Netherlands. However, the image of
white people with blackened faces has sparked countrywide and recently worldwide controversy, due to the actions of
Dutch citizens with African-Suriname backgrounds, descents of Dutch slaves. A Dutch judge and the Nationale Institute
for Human Rights have asserted that Zwarte Piet is “a negative (racist) stereotype of black people” and should be
Tolerance towards homosexuality has increased, and same-sex marriages and adoption rights are active. The National
Institute For Human Rights is in charge of overseeing cases of discrimination of any kind.
The Netherlands has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and ratified the
Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in 2004. However, Dutch implementation of the latter
convention does not include the mentioned minorities under its umbrella.(dit begrijp ik niet, Mellouki, waarom vallen
de genoemde minderheden niet onder deze conventie?)

Socio-cultural context: Opportunities, enabling environment for CSO intervention
● CSOs are powerful actors with regard to strengthening trust in public policy. Participation in voluntary
organizations boosts trust and democratic virtues through a variety of channels. Also, participation boosts
citizens’ political attitudes and skills, it facilitates the formation of public opinion, and it provides an additional,
and more accessible venue for governance. Engage in policy co-creation tracks between government and
citizens on social issues: this way, citizens can see that they can influence policy choices.
● CSOs intervene to promote a multicultural society based on unity within diversity.

1.5. Legal environment
Public Participation
Civil society organizations are regulated. The government is not involved in the actions of CSOs unless the courts indict
them. According to studies, social and political participation in the Netherlands has increased over the past 30 years,
particularly through membership of sport clubs, nature, environmental and international aid organizations. On the
other hand, membership of political parties, churches and broadcasters has decreased. Participation of ethnic
minorities is considerably lower than that of indigenous Dutch, except with religious organizations. Legal provisions
establish equality of access and participation for women in politics and public life. In this sense, 46% of the public
administration consists of women, although the proportions vary according to the sector. Moreover, 51% of volunteer
workers in the Netherlands are women, particularly at schools and healthcare centers. Yet, equal political participation
is hampered by cultural and employment conditions. This has led to the formulation of goals to increase women’s
participation, which have been recommended to political parties. As a result, the establishment of voluntary quotas has
allowed women at the last election (2012) to make up 34,8% (albeit the lowest level since 2002) of the Cabinet and
42,3% of the House of Representatives, and higher levels of representation have also been achieved in decision
making positions. However, representation at the provincial and municipal levels, as well as in management and mid-
level offices, is significantly lower. Due to failure to comply with gender equality provisions the state decided to cut
subsidies to the Reformed Political Party in 2006. During the last few years, government focus has also shifted to the
low levels of ethnic minority representation. The main reasons explaining this low participation are a) institutional
discrimination, b) candidate selection mechanisms and ideological orientations within political parties, and c) the
absence of governmental campaigns stimulating participation. Government programs on these issues have allowed
ethnic minority participation in the public service to increase from 8.4% to 9.3%, as well as boosted the number of
municipal councilors. However progress is limited: increased participation is seen mostly in major cities, and out of 800
executive civil servants, barely three belong to an ethnic minority.

Legal tolerance
In the Netherlands the policy of legal tolerance of certain activities based on pragmatism leads to some kind of
arbitrariness in the application of law: punishable actions are sometimes not persecuted by the public prosecutor’s
office if they actually serve a greater general social interest by being left alone. For instance, this has led to prioritize
dealing with large-scale drug production and trafficking by establishing the “coffee-shop policy” and tolerance of minor
scale narcotic consumption; it has also led to the authorities abandoning actions against businesses that sell soft drugs
without a correct license. The constitution and laws are widely accepted, although enforcement has been resisted in
urban “autonomous zones” and “no-go” areas, and the presence of international criminal groups as the Hells Angels
test the authority of Dutch laws. Public officials and civil servants are fully subjected to constitutional requirements,
while the independence of the judiciary authority is ensured and its management depends on the Council for the

Judiciary. Legislation guarantees equal access to justice, and the use of dispute resolution mechanisms is widespread.
The right to a fair trial and impartial treatment is fundamental in the Netherlands, and several mechanisms observe the
compliance with this principle. However, during the past few years there have been increasing complaints against the
Dutch courts in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), particularly concerning restrictions on civil rights within
the framework of combating terrorism. On the other hand, in the practice of the courts of committing criminal
offenders to psychiatric clinics for non-voluntary treatment several errors were made that are contrary to protecting
individual rights. Nonetheless, notwithstanding some major errors by the public prosecutor’s office, surveys indicate
that 60 to 65% of the respondents have a good degree of confidence in the judiciary and judges. To further improve
the fairness of the system, a commission which reports directly to the Attorney General to review closed criminal cases
has been operating for the past few years.

Legal environment: Opportunities, enabling environment for CSO intervention
● CSOs should develop awareness of the very existence of a multicultural Dutch society and use this richness to
reinforce the civil society by matching the sociology of Dutch CSOs with the sociological reality of the society as
a whole
● CSOs should use Dutch pragmatism in order to conduct innovative social experiments like social procurement.

1.6. State-civil Society relation
Responsive Government
Citizens have the right to submit written requests to government authorities, and free access to government
information is guaranteed. Since 2006, citizens can also submit initiatives to the House of Representatives. The
Government has also sought to improve its services and information provision, particularly through e-government
initiatives, while the Nationale Ombudsman and the Committees for Petitions of the Senate and the House of
Representatives give citizens the opportunity to keep filing unattended complaints. Despite representatives being
easily accessible, barely 5% of the Dutch electorate has occasional contact with a member of the House. Quality
charters stating mission, goals and services are drawn up for every government agency that has contact with citizens,
and several have been drafted in consultation with citizens and social organizations. Satisfaction with democracy in the
Netherlands has increased since the mid 1980’s from 52% to 80% of the population. However, according to
government-sponsored studies, in 2003 over 80% of citizens thought that the government did not fulfill their
expectations, while accessibility to central and local governments was deemed insufficient by 74% and 61% of the
respondents respectively. Furthermore, 90% of the respondents considered that citizens are hardly or not at all
involved in policy making. In 2014, studies show that a minority of citizens trusts the government: 49% citizens have
'enough' trust in the House of Representative and 44% in the Cabinet.

The Netherlands is a unitary decentralized state with a three-tiered administration formed by a) the central
government, composed of Ministries, High Councils of State, advisory bodies and non-departmental public bodies; b)
the regional level, composed of the provinces and water boards; and c) the local level composed of the municipalities.
Since the 1980’s, central governments have transferred important tasks to municipalities and provinces, including
spatial planning, welfare, work and income, and care for disabled citizens. Provinces and municipalities have
autonomous authorities, although these must enforce rules imposed by higher organs, and can be subject to
supervision by law. Elections are held every 4 years for provincial parliaments, water boards and municipal councils.
The Monarch appoints Mayors and Commissioners, who preside over municipal and provincial executives respectively.
Provincial authorities are in charge of dealing with spatial planning, water and the environment, economy, nature and
landscape, and welfare and culture issues. The municipalities and provinces receive the bulk of their budget from the
central government, and both organs can also receive revenue by collecting dues and taxes. Administration of water
management and infrastructure is run by water boards, which depend on the provincial authorities. The municipalities
are responsible for providing a habitable environment and welfare to the citizens, as well as executing laws and
regulations at the local level. Municipal council, provincial parliament and other meetings are open to the public, and
citizens usually have a voice in these meetings. In addition, since 2002, citizens have had the opportunity to submit
requests for advisory referendums in all municipalities. However, at the provincial level, permanent committees,
including concurrent stakeholders, can be established: this practice has lead to the bypassing of parliamentary
meetings in the decision making process. There is a long lasting tradition of collaboration between local governments
and private partners: in healthcare, for instance, municipalities execute the direction while the actual implementation
is left to various private and quasi-government organizations, such as the Municipal Health Services, home nursing
organizations, and homecare institutions.

Action Democracy
The so-called 'Action Democracy' (also called 'Do-it-Yourself Democracy) implies that all that people are capable of
doing themselves shouldn’t have to take the detour of parliamentary democracy. Action Democracy is on the rise. It
concerns everything that people can establish in their own environment to solve social issues. Action democracy in this
sense is a form of co-decision simply by taking action, by dealing with concrete issues in the public domain,
individually or together with public institutions. Of course this suits the withdrawing government. Libraries or
community centers for instance could be managed by citizens. They can take responsibility for public green spaces or
informal care. The concept is related to social innovation, although the latter goes further, knows more stakeholders
and relies on innovative solutions. Action democracy focuses primarily on local, simple and small-scale forms of social
innovation, on networks of individual citizens taking up tasks that governments have left to wither.

State-Civil society relation: Opportunities, enabling environment for CSO intervention
● CSOs should use the opportunities provided by new technologies to improve the responsive government in co-
creation with the government and other stakeholders like the private sector.
● CSOs can use Action Democracy for social innovation responding to the social needs in a context of shrinkage on
the basis of consultation with (local) government and (local) stakeholders.

1.7. Private sector-civil society relation
The two main characteristics of the relationship between the private sector and the civil society in the Netherlands are:
Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Entrepreneurship.

Private sector and the civil society
Corporate social responsibility (CSR)
CSR refers to organizations which, beyond their profit motives and the safeguarding of their own continuity, have a
deliberate and structured approach to the long-term care of their employees, the environment, and the local
community; to maintaining excellent client and supplier relationships; and to carrying out their business in due respect
of all the relevant rules and laws. Corporate social responsibility is often described in terms of the triple P bottom line:
People, Planet and Profit.

CSR Platform
The CSR Platform is a network of Dutch civil society organizations active in the field of corporate social responsibility
(CSR). The participants of the CSR Platform voice their views on CSR activities related to one another. Their close
coalitions determine strategies or they take initiatives to promote CSR.
The CSR Platform includes the Consumer Association, Amnesty International, Milieudefensie, Novib, the National India
Committee, Foundation Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), FNV Mondiaal and CNV as well as 22 other
organizations in the field of human rights, environment, development and health.
Unfortunately, sustainability can also be a downside. More and more often there are players on the market who try to
misuse the sustainability aspect. These companies do not actually root for sustainability, but use the term to generate
more business. The term green washing has been created to design this attitude. Fortunately, the number of real
sustainable players is growing, for example in the field of sustainable purchasing. Finally, criteria for an enterprise to
call itself sustainable have become more and more strict.

Social enterprise
A social enterprise is a private organization, whose stated mission is to deliver a service which meets a fundamental
social need, carrying out this core task in a business context, and deriving part of its income from commercial
During the last ten years of the Dutch debate on the future of the provision of social goods and services, the term
‘social enterprise’ has started to play a significant role. It seems to be the final outcome of the search for a new
concept of organization and management for the non-profit sector in the civil society.
Social enterprises keep other companies alert when it comes to social impact. But it seems that they neglect Corporate
Social Responsibility: missed opportunities!

Cooperatives are booming in the Netherlands. Consider care-cooperatives or community-based cooperatives. These
private organizations allow entrepreneurship and privatization while resembling a civil society more than a social

Civil society and the private sector
NGOs need businesses. Drastic government budget reductions force NGOs to turn to businesses for financial and other
support. NGOs build partnerships offering in return the knowledge of how to propagate employee engagement.
Movisie introduced an example of this, in cooperation with ABN Amro Foundation and KPMG: the Marketplace, a forum
where NGOs can meet companies and local authorities to close partnership deals 5.
Nonprofit organizations are adopting the approaches and values of the private market. This raises the question
whether this will harm democracy and citizenship because of it may affect nonprofit organizations' abilities to create
and maintain a strong civil society. This impact is one of the major marketization trends of the nonprofit sector:
commercial revenue generation, contract competition, the influence of new and emerging donors, and social

Private sector-Civil society relation: Opportunities, enabling environment for CSO intervention
● CSOs should continue the development of relations with enterprises that have a deliberated approach to CSR. In
particular, in the field of social needs like sustainable care or circulatory economy it provides a dynamic and
economically responsible approach to democratic renewal.
● CSO should learn from the way that social enterprises develop a business. In their turn, they should teach social
enterprises ways to be better socially.

5 See:

2. Analyze of State of Affairs

Democratic Principles Government Government and citizens Citizens

By the people

Representation of all Generally implemented: Legislature administers direct Optional referendum
individuals and groups in elected representatives by all democracy mechanisms at (regional level, local level,
society citizen above 18 (universal the national level national level) and agenda
suffrage) initiative - legislative
But: youth under 18 proposals (local level,
excluded; Foreign residents Forms of interactive policy national level with fixed
excluded from provincial and (consultations; decision with number of 40,000 citizens)
national elections but allowed local participative budgets) First held referendum at
on local and European (partly national level: 2005
i.e. European citizens only) Biggest problems lie in the (European Treaty was
level (dissociation (lack of) transition between massively rejected through
nationality / citizenship). citizen initiative and politics. referendum by Dutch
The effectiveness of citizen
Systematic discrimination of initiatives greatly depends on Neighborhood councils
women, disable and ethnic the ability of the government sometimes with own budget
minorities. to adapt and adjust.
Squatters creating temporary
'free zones' (very few left)

Consultation of and
negotiation with private New media and online
Participation of all individuals Foreign residents excluded sector and civil society platforms
and groups in society from police, army and (SER / CAO)
judicial positions. But allowed It is a government’s duty to
in other public posts. involve everybody but it is not
the citizen’s duty to involve all

6 Issues excluded from being the subject of an initiative at a national level: constitutional amendments, devolution, civil service, taxes and public expenditure commitments, any
issue which has been discussed in the House within the past two years, unless fundamentally new facts or circumstances warrant reconsideration.

Gateways based on It might not be the citizen
meritocracy and Old-Boys initiatives’ duty to involve
networks tend to exclude everybody, but it might be their
women, ethnic minorities, intention
Access to public positions for disabled, uneducated
all individuals and groups in

For the people

Measuring government National Audit Organization Open Government
policies and efficiency (rekenkamer) Partnership with NGO-Forum New media and online
effectively Evidence Based Policy (representative is Center for platforms
Budget monitoring and
Policies are made and citizenship) The call for effectiveness is
implemented. In theory, policy complicating things. Which of
programs are supposed to be Budget monitoring and the numerous citizen initiatives
evaluated, but this is hardly citizenship (Amsterdam and are truly effective
ever done, local or central expending to other cities)
Effectiveness is also a
At a local level it is relatively complicating factor for
easy to have some influence governments. In effect,
in the field of agenda setting. society and corporate parties
To set up a citizen initiative undertake various initiatives,
at a national level is as a reaction to the poor
considerably harder and less quality of many government
likely to succeed services

The government can be held
accountable, but this isn’t
automatically true for citizen
initiatives. New initiatives as
Ombudsman (national and on well as new state regulations
a local level) imply state accountability
Agenda-setting is effective
Occupy-like movements,
so-called illegals excluded Transition-city movements,
from basic rights (housing, New media and online
work, health) platforms
Social Rights are respected

Of the people
What we need is to focus on
Human rights are fulfilled Enshrined in the constitution resistance. When we were Citizen Watch
and in the law but threat to building up energy cooperation
public liberties under new Thermo Bello, it was very
anti-terrorism acts important to offer a large
platform for as many people as
possible to express their
Yes but judges have more concerns, in order to use them
time to treat cases
in our planning. This way you
Legal Checks and Balance connect with the resistance, to
are in place eventually reach the best
solution. This also goes for
Government officials and/org Transparency organization citizen initiatives and (local)
public administration are (law making revealing state governments. Due to
transparent documents compulsory) accountability and the
prevailing blame-culture, we
Parliamentary inquiries tend to shy away from
Government officials and/or (commissions) resistance while we should
public administration can be rather get to the bottom of it to
held accountable As we are living in a so-called come to a solution.
blame-culture the
government is afraid to be
accountable. You can be
finished in an instant. It is
much safer to leave real
issues unaddressed, because
inquiry committees are luring
around every corner

3. Identification and Ranking of Needs
Democratic Principles Government Government and citizens Citizens

By the people

Representation of all Right to vote and to be It is a government’s duty to
individuals and groups in elected for all residents involve everybody but it is not
society (dissociation nationality and the citizen’s duty to involve all
citizenship on provincial and citizens
national level).
It might not be the citizen
initiatives’ duty to involve
everybody, but it might be their

Participation of all individuals You might have access to Biggest problems lie in the
and groups in society politics, but then learn that (lack of) transition between
they no longer have full control citizen initiative and politics.
over certain matters like
The effectiveness of citizen
energy or the care and power
initiatives greatly depends on
of health insurers. There are
the ability of the government
numerous wonderful citizen
to adapt and adjust.
initiatives in the field of care,
but health insurers are often
complicating matters

Access to public positions for
all individuals and groups in

society In the Netherlands, all access
to positions of power is
formally regulated. However,
there are numerous informal
networks that are much harder
to penetrate and which house
a lot of implicit discrimination.
If you are in a wheelchair,
have roots in Turkey and listen
to the name of Fatma, it is a lot
harder to become mayor. What
we want is better access to
public positions through the
reduction of implicit
discrimination as well as a
change in the meritocracy, and
its network relations, as we
know it in the Netherlands

For the people

Measuring government A lot more effort should go into Democracy: we are all able to The call for effectiveness is
policies and efficiency effect measurement. By learn and to adapt to the complicating things. Which of
effectively organizing feedback, things changing circumstances that the numerous citizen initiatives
will start to move. This we live in. This means that we are truly effective
includes transparency, must be able to receive and
accountability, agenda setting, deal with feedback. The Effectiveness is also a
participation and changing current system doesn’t complicating factor for
roles facilitate this. Much more effort governments. In effect,
should go into the measuring society and corporate parties
of results and effects. This will undertake various initiatives,
force us to focus less on the as a reaction to the poor
product and more on the policy quality of many government
process. We will learn from the services
processes, instead of just
making a product. Key words The government can be held
are transparency, accountable, but this isn’t
accountability, agenda setting, automatically true for citizen
and participation. All these initiatives. New initiatives as
notions express the well as new state regulations
willingness to learn. To imply state accountability
activate people, feedback
needs to be organized.

Exactly how do we measure
results? Governments are
good at organizing equality,
effectiveness, and
commitment. We might as well
ask the same transparency of
corporations and initiatives, as
we expect from the

Of the people

Human rights are fulfilled Citizen Watch

Legal Checks and Balance
are in place

Government officials and /
org public administration are
What we need is to focus on
Government officials and/or As we are living in a so-called resistance. For instance when
public administration can be blame-culture the people were building up The
held accountable government is afraid to be energy cooperation Thermo
held accountable. You can be Bello, it was very important to
finished in an instant. It is offer a large platform for as
much safer to leave real many people as possible to
issues unaddressed, because express their concerns, in
inquiry committees are luring order to use them in our
around every corner planning. This way you
connect with the resistance, to
There is a need to hold
eventually reach the best
governments and institutions
solution. This also goes for
that influence society
citizen initiatives and (local)
accountable. Also, there is a
governments. Due to

need for the right to challenge accountability and the
prevailing blame-culture, we
We will need to find different tend to shy away from
definitions for several notions. resistance while we should
In our current society, rather get to the bottom of it to
accountability has almost been come to a solution.
reduced to liability. If we start
by defining accountability as a
moral duty to express a
proactive attitude towards
problems, accountability will
be organized in whole new
ways as well

Top Five Needs

● Co-creation Government / economy / civil society
● Accountability & transparency
● Measuring effectiveness
● Care for vulnerable social groups
● Diversity based on gender, ethnic-cultural background, sexual preference, disability

4. Innovative practices: State of art of CSO's in relation to democratic renewal

Influencing public policy
● Co-creation Culemborg: how to shape the interaction of government and citizen initiatives. How to learn from fiascos in
the past.
● G1000, a national citizen initiative wherein citizens help to find the answers to the most important questions. After a
Belgium example.
● Maak de Buurt (making the neighborhood): Online decision making in co-creation, starting at Pakhuis de Zwijger
Holding state and private corporations accountable
● Budget monitoring en burgerparticipatie (pilots in six municipalities): Redefining accountability and transparency,
citizen control on government budget.
Meeting societal needs
● Development of community based (care)-cooperatives where the state withdraws and the private sector does not
● Open alliance informal care, informal care experiment, Amsterdam
● Luchtsingel Rotterdam
● Access to other powers like energy companies and health insurers

5. Definition of Democratic Renewal

Democratic renewal is both the voluntary elicitation of deficits within a considered democracy and the dynamic process to
tackle those deficits in order to renew the considered democracy. It suggests that a given democracy fails to assure the
entire exercise of the power by the people and the equal access to this power by all members of the people without regard to
their background whatever it can be. Democratic renewal entails an effort and a way to revitalize democracy. It is about
adjusting structure and dynamics of democracy to meet the people's needs in new contexts. Core values of democracy such
as participation, representation, accountability, transparency, responsiveness and solidarity are renewed from the citizen's
point of view: by, for and of the people.