The new Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs has committed himself to working for Dalit rights. In a recent debate in his country’s parliament, he called the position of Dalits “a very important and complex issue.”

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans

The topic of caste discrimination should be placed higher on the agenda of the European Union, the newly appointed Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Frans Timmermans, said in a parliamentary debate on 18-19 December 2012.

Mr Timmermans spoke elaborately on Dalit rights in a response to Dutch MP Joel Voordewind who has previously raised the issue on several occasions. The Minister said that “we should carefully consider the position of Dalits and also have to invest in strengthening that position.”

He spoke favourably of the recently adopted resolution on Dalits by the European Parliament. Describing it as “very relevant”, Mr Timmermans proposed that the resolution “can serve as a basis for shaping a European policy on this issue.”

The Minister also mentioned the work of the International Dalit Solidarity Network, specifically a presentation on the situation of Dalits that IDSN members gave to the EU Council Working Group on Human Rights (COHOM) in November last year. He promised that “the Netherlands will continue to support various societal organisations on this issue, also via our Embassies.”

The Dalit Network Netherlands (DNN) describes Mr Timmermans’ statement as very positive news. DNN has translated highlights from the parliamentary debate into English and posted them on its website.

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DNN web story on the Dutch parliament’s handling of the issue

DNN translation of the parliamentary debate

IDSN: European Parliament adopts historic resolution on Dalits