What are the key threats and challenges facing the Netherlands? That question that was put to officials of all Dutch ministries and most advisory bodies, as part of an project undertaken by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Most of the threats and challenges mentioned fall in two broad categories, namely:
- the adverse consequences of technological development and economic growth, and
- the lack of adequate responsiveness to these adverse consequences.
Growing inequality was mentioned most frequently as a key threat facing the Netherlands. This refers to a widening gap between usually highly educated citizens that benefit from globalization and less educated citizens who feel victimized by globalization. Most respondents expected that the direct impact of climate change and loss of biodiversity on the Netherlands will remain manageable, but that these might lead to disasters and instability in other parts of the world.
The vulnerability of the Dutch ICT infrastructure is regarded as a major problem. Also, a general consensus exists that growing scarcities of water and raw materials will not necessarily lead to armed conflict and disaster, if managed wisely at local, national, regional and global level. Respondents are more optimistic about finding technical solutions than about the political handling of these problems.
Many of the Dutch interlocutors pointed at the difficulty governments have to react adequately to new threats - either overreacting, as in the case of terrorism, or postponing necessary measures. This short-sightedness threatens to undermine the trustworthiness and legitimacy of governments.
The Strategic Monitor 2018-2019: global trends and assesses risks and opportunities for Dutch national security
The international system is currently experiencing a phase transition of sorts during a period of Interregnum. Phase transitions feature contradictory dynamics and discontinuous change. These past few years, key tenets of the liberal international order (LIO) have been shifting, and shifting quite dramatically. A range of international security and economic arrangements grounded in multilateralism and the peaceful settlement of disputes have come under fire. New players have entered the fray and the rules-of-the-game are being rewritten. Zero sum thinking is becoming increasingly dominant. Yet, other tenets of the LIO persist. This results in an amorphous system with key trends tracing divergent trajectories: freedom is on the decline but the number of democracies has not decreased; free trade is under severe pressure, while actual trade volumes continue to grow; interstate tensions are rife, yet international great power peace persists.
The international system thus displays properties of multilateral, polarized, networked and fragmented orders. The Strategic Monitor 2018-2019 tracks these different properties under the two themes of this year’s report: International Peace and Security and Societal Stability, and assesses the implications for Dutch foreign and security policies.