Improve Dutch image with fast disaster teams: Employers association

According to the foreman of employers association VNO-NCW, Hans de Boer, a quarter of the Dutch budget for development cooperation, 1 billion euros, should be invested in emergency aid "with the expressed aim to be first in any disaster."

The Netherlands should earn its wealth abroad, says De Boer, suggesting that the country work on its international branding, for example, through emergency aid. "Defense buys one or two transport aircraft, helicopters and then we fly them straight to it with tents and food, the whole trade. That is our trademark: if there is disaster somewhere, the Netherlands is the first to help. Then you position yourself as a generous country," he said in an interview with de Volkskrant.

"Really a very foolish idea," came the response from Oxfam Novib. The last thing that should happen after a disaster is a "popularity race" between Western countries on which gets there first, says a spokesperson for the aid agency. Coordination is key and that does not work with an attitude of "every man for himself." Oxfam Novib also finds the transfer of one billion euros from development cooperation to emergency aid a bad idea. According to the organization, using military logistics resources for an "aid race" is sometimes downright undesirable. "Especially in armed conflict, humanitarian assistance must be neutral."

De Boer doubts there is parliamentary support for his plan. He believes the need for an international branding of the Netherlands has not reached the Second Chamber. "You have to run the Netherlands as a business, but the Second Chamber is not always a good business council. The positioning of the Netherlands as an export and investment country is often neglected in the Binnenhof," said De Boer.