The Dutch Global Health Strategy: From Words to Actions

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Last updated on: 13 June 2024

Next Thursday, the Dutch House of Representatives will discuss the Dutch Global Health Strategy for the first time. As Aidsfonds, we successfully campaigned with others for the introduction of such a strategy with a strong focus on HIV/AIDS and we continue to advocate for its effective implementation. In this article, we explain why the strategy came about, what it entails, why it is so important, and what the Dutch House of Representatives must do.

Why is there a Dutch Global Health Strategy?

It is early 2022. The Rutte IV government has just taken office, while the Netherlands is still in lockdown. The COVID-19 pandemic painfully demonstrated the enormous consequences of diseases that transcend borders. The question arises how we can better deal with health challenges in the future. Through pressure of Aidsfonds and partners, the new government announced that it would develop a Global Health Strategy, with the aim to increase and better coordinate Dutch efforts for health worldwide.

What is in the Global Health Strategy?

By the end of 2022, the government presented the strategy with three priorities. The Netherlands aims to internationally engage in 1) strengthening health systems, 2) better preparing for future pandemics, and 3) addressing the intersections between health and climate more effectively. The government also announced the establishment of the Dutch Global Health Hub, of which Aidsfonds and others became members, overseeing the implementation of the strategy.

The fight against HIV/AIDS is well embedded in the Global Health Strategy. The text emphasises that infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, do not stop at national borders. Therefore, we can only effectively protect the health of Dutch citizens if the health of everyone worldwide is safeguarded. The Netherlands also wants to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), including the fight against HIV/AIDS, because the Netherlands has significant expertise in this area and can demonstrate concrete results.

Why are investments in global health so important?

Investments in global health are proven to be effective and efficient. There are many examples, but let’s focus on the fight against HIV/AIDS. For instance, the Netherlands is the 10th largest donor to the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Since its inception, that fund has saved over 59 million lives (three times the Dutch population!). Moreover, it’s beneficial for the economy: for every euro invested in the Global Fund, over €31 can be earned in the long term. Read more examples in the Dutch Global Health Alliance position paper.

What should the Dutch House of Representatives do with the strategy?

Firstly, the government announced significant cuts in development cooperation. This means that many of the additional investments envisaged in global health cannot be realised. Without additional investments, there can be no additional effort. At the same time, four parties are negotiating a new government, some of which want to cut all the development cooperation funding. This puts hundreds of thousands of lives at risk! The House of Representatives must send a clear signal that it supports the strategy and does not accept any cuts. Secondly, while the strategy contains many noble values and ambitions, it is still unclear how the government intends to implement it. Therefore, it is important to further specify the strategy. For example, the House of Representatives could request the government to create an implementation agenda and informing the House annually of its progress. This ensures that we can move from words to actions.