Report finds institutional racism at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs

A study among employees at the Dutch Department of Foreign Affairs has uncovered a “serious and worrisome” degree of racism and discrimination — both in the ministry itself, and at embassies and diplomatic posts abroad.

After an investigation commissioned by the Governing Council (the main decision-making body of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, formed by the department’s highest officials), the ministry has now apologized and expressed regret for the racist working environment, reports the NOS

From aggressive to subtle racism

The results of the investigation are shocking, revealing that bicultural employees and locally hired employees of colour experience various forms of racism.

This institutional racism would show through verbal abuse, derogatory encounters, cultural racism, racist jokes, accusations and suspicions.

Several employees have reported overt racism. Many have witnessed or experienced incidents where people have been referred to as “monkeys,” “negroes,” and “Black Piet” — because of their skin colour. 

READ MORE | 20% of young Dutch people still think Zwarte Piet is A-OK

Both Black employees and white bicultural employees often feel ignored and treated as a ‘cultural other.’

Executives not taking action

Respondents to the investigation by the Governing Council indicate that executives seem to take little to no corrective action when they hear about such incidents of racism.

To make matters worse, executives reportedly take part in racist behaviour. 

Some executives apparently referred to specific cultures as “lazy snails” and “criminals.”

Former employees come forward

Nori Spauwen, the former diversity and inclusion coordinator at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, came forward saying that she is not surprised by the investigation’s findings.

READ MORE | Mark Rutte, sociological jargon isn’t real, but institutional racism is

During her time at the Ministry, Spauwen heard concerning stories about people experiencing racism on a daily basis, she tells the NOS’s Nieuwsuur

Translation: “I had people at my desk daily with very harrowing stories.” This says @NoriSpauwen, who worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a diversity coordinator. “There is a culture of fear. Few people dare to step forward.”

A hopeless undertaking?

Spauwen said she felt hopeless while at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as though tackling racism was impossible. “The power is concentrated in a small group of people,” she states in the interview with Nieuwsuur.

That is why she decided to give up her position.  

Spauwen hopes that, now that the Ministry’s “culture of fear” has made headlines around the globe, change may now be on the horizon, as people are held accountable for their behaviour. 

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Feature Image:Depositphotos
Lyna Meyrer 🇱🇺
Lyna Meyrer 🇱🇺
Say 'hoi' to Lyna, our Senior Writer at DutchReview! Fueled by a love for writing, social media, and all things Dutch, she joined the DR family in 2022. Since making the Netherlands her home in 2018, she has collected a BA in English Literature & Society (Hons.) and an RMA in Arts, Literature and Media (Hons.). Even though she grew up just a few hours away from the Netherlands, Lyna remains captivated by the guttural language, quirky culture, and questionable foods that make the Netherlands so wonderfully Dutch.


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