The Dutch National Ombudsman, the Ombudsman for Children and the Ombudsman for Veterans have today presented their Annual Report 2021 to the House of Representatives. In it, they note that the resignation of the Dutch government in early 2021, the March elections and the long process that followed in forming a government resulted in a year of government silence and official introspection. As a result, many key developments were put on hold. Citizens expect the government to demonstrate leadership.
National Ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen: “Too little progress was made in putting things right on childcare allowances and in tackling the issues caused by gas exploration in Groningen and Drenthe. There is now an awareness of how serious this situation is. But implementation is proving complicated and is taking too long. We are appealing to the government to show leadership and concern for citizens in setting out the route ahead as we recover from the coronavirus crisis. We also call on the government to make efforts to ensure that coronavirus does not become yet another recovery operation in which confusion and a lack of progress further undermine public confidence in a positive outcome.”
In 2021, the coronavirus restrictions continued to have a significant impact on citizens’ lives. The government became more distant, while at the same time intervening in the lives of citizens, children and veterans by means of restrictions. Because of the need to act quickly, the government failed to properly assess the appropriateness of the restrictions and their effect on the lives of children and adults. In the meantime, the number of people no longer able to participate fully in society grew. All of this made citizens’ lives more complex and further undermined public confidence and trust in the government.
A bespoke approach is no solution to poor policy
Increased trust in government starts with a government that shows itself to be trustworthy, acts properly and puts the perspective of citizens first. And a government that protects the fundamental rights of children and adults. But first and foremost, the government needs to do its work effectively. “We are increasingly hearing that the government should adopt a more bespoke approach. But a bespoke approach is no solution to poor policy. It hides the fact that there are issues with the basic approach, and it is this that needs to be addressed.” The ombudsmen believe it to be essential that rules, agreements and implementation focus fully on citizens: what do they really need and how can this be implemented by means of normal, understandable systems?
Time for concrete action and urgency
“It is now time for the government to take action and address the issues that have long been neglected. A lot of promises have been made and plans drawn up. It is now time for concrete action and urgency. The citizen cannot wait.”
We offer a summary of our Annual Report 2021 in English.
Photo: Jeroen van der Meyde