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The Netherlands is a European country bordering Germany and Belgium. A constitutional monarch with a long tradition of parliamentary democracy, the Netherlands operates a vibrant multi-party system with a king as head of state and a prime minister as head of government. Despite a tradition of tolerance, the Netherlands has seen increasing levels of tension between ethnic and cultural groups - this, combined with the discrimination it can inspire, is one of the country's key human rights concerns.


The Netherlands is a European country with a North Sea coast along its western edge. Almost 20 per cent of the country is under sea level, with an extensive network of dykes protecting the country from flooding. To the south and east, it borders Germany and Belgium. The Netherlands are often known by the name Holland, though strictly speaking this name properly applies to only two its constituent provinces. [1]

Population and Language

The Netherlands has a population of almost 17 million people and is one of the most densely populated nations[2]. Over-65s make up a significant and increasing percentage of the population. The official language is Dutch and the capital is Amsterdam.[3]

History and Politics

The Netherlands were under foreign rule until 1648, when they achieved independence from the Spanish. The Dutch East India Company was established in 1602 and the Dutch West India Company 19 years later. Dutch merchants traded around the world and foundations were laid for the a colonial empire. The Netherlands enjoyed a period of material wealth and commercial expansion, aided by the industrial revolution after 1860. In World War I the Netherlands was neutral, but in World War II were occupied by Germany. With the end of the war, the Queen and cabinet returned and independence was restored. In the first half of the 20th century the Dutch colonies claimed independence. In second half of the twentieth century, initial attempts were made for an economic union with Belgium and Luxembourg, later superseded by the country becoming part of the European Union.

The Netherlands has a constitutional monarchy, with the formal influence of the monarch has decreasing over the years. The political climate has changed greatly in the past few years, with the growing influence of the the anti-Islamic and Eurosceptic Freedom Party of Geert Wilders, as they gain parliamentary seats. [4]


The Dutch have the 17th wealthiest economy in the world.[5] While the economy has a history of steady growth over the past 50 years, the recent economic crisis had significant consequences, with the 2009 the annual growth rate reaching a low of -3.7%. In 2011 this rate picked up to 1%. [6]

Media and Civil Society

The constitution protects freedom of expression and this is generally respected by the government. The Netherlands is ranked 3rd in the Freedom House's table of Global Press Freedom Rankings 2013.[7]

Human Rights and Children's rights

There is concern that the the tradition of tolerance for which the Dutch are known is under threat. Increased racial tension has intensified over the years with the assassination of anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn in 2002, the murder in 2004 of Theo van Gogh and the increased power of the anti-Islamic politician Geert Wilders[8]. The government has hardened its policies regarding immigration and in 2012 legislation was announced that will ban the wearing of clothing in public that is intended to conceal the face. Over the years there have been increasing controversies about asylum seekers being deported and about the centres in which they were held. [9] One recent case involved a Russian political activist who committed suicide in a detention centre in the Netherlands after he thought his asylum request was denied.[10]

The main concern regarding child rights is of increased racial tensions resulting in discrimination. The Committee on the rights of the Child also notes that the views of children are not always taken into account in decisions that regard them, threatening the principle of best interest of the child.[11]

  1. BBC, Netherlands profile
  2. UNDESA, Population Statistics
  3. BBC, Netherlands profile
  4. The Colombia Electronic Encyclopedia, Netherlands
  5. World Bank GDP
  6. World Bank [ GDP growth]
  7. Freedom House Global Press Freedom Ranking 2013
  8. BBC, Netherlands profile
  9. Amnesty International, Netherlands
  10. Elsevier, “Zelfmoord Russische activist in asielzoekerscentrum”
  11. UNHCHR, “50th session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child”


See references

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