The publication of the latest OECD Watch report has led to a debate within Dutch politics.

During a general consultation on corporate social responsibility (CSR), MP Corein Jonker from the ruling Christian Democrats (CDA) posed five written questions related to the OECD Guidelines. In response to the questions, Minister van Gennip stated that she is familiar with OECD Watch’s publication and believes that the government is responsible for making businesses aware of the Guidelines. Responding to a question about what the Dutch government is doing to extend the scope of the Guidelines from strictly investment relations to trade-related transactions, the Minister replied that the Netherlands has requested that the OECD Trade Committee conduct a study on CSR in trade and production chains. In answering a question about what the Netherlands and other EU Member States are doing to improve the performance of NCPs, she advocated a peer-learning mechanism.

Separately, in a consultation on the Economic Ministry’s 2006 budget, members of the opposition Green Left (GroenLinks) asked, in writing, what the government is doing to make the Guidelines more binding. Minister van Gennip responded that she is against making CSR instruments mandatory and that she currently sees no basis for making the Guidelines binding.

Furthermore, two Dutch parliamentarians, Ms. Corien Jonker of the CDA and Mr. Kris Douma from the Labour Party (PvdA), attended a public debate on CSR and the tea industry organized by SOMO in Amsterdam on November 9, 2005. The debate included much discussion about the OECD Guidelines, and both MPs contributed comments. One statement by Mr. Douma was particularly notable. He remarked, “We need to broaden the scope of the Guidelines and make them more binding.”

These instances reveal that strengthening the OECD Guidelines in order to make them a more effective CSR instrument has grabbed the attention of Dutch lawmakers and high-level officials. OECD Watch will continue to press for more debate and action on improving the Guidelines at the national, European and international level.