Mission & Strategy
Working Towards Open and Just Societies
The mission of the Netherlands Helsinki Committee (NHC) is to build and secure justice and compliance with international human rights agreements within OSCE participating states. Established in 1987, the NHC represented Dutch civil society in the Helsinki Process, following the examples of sister Helsinki Committees from across the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) area. Through our work, we contribute to wider international agendas such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Today we are recognised as one of the key non-governmental organisations contributing to dialogue and cooperation amongst actors in the areas of rule of law and human rights. The current strategy describes the internal and external factors shaping the NHC’s strategic choices for the 2019-2022 period.
NHC work is aimed at contributing to a world in which citizens across the OSCE area peacefully live in more open and just societies. In order to secure the rule of law, safeguard human rights and strengthen civil society, we believe it is necessary to:
- Hold to account and, where necessary, put pressure on authorities to act in line with human rights obligations. This is a major role for civil society, in particular of human rights organisations and people engaged in human rights as part of their professional duties such as lawyers or the media. Therefore, the capacities of these actors should be strengthened. They should also be protected against attacks and be able to operate freely.
- Cooperate with professionally run public institutions and independent oversight institutions. This entails ensuring public institutions (i.e. Ministries, Ombudsman, and Audit Authorities) have staff determined to keep up ethical standards and maintain human rights principles. Additionally this involves investing in a judiciary that is resistant to political forces, government or other undue interference in their work.
- Ensure that operations of the criminal justice system align with human rights standards. The chain formed by police, prosecution services, courts and institutions involved in criminal sanctions have far-reaching authority to interfere with the lives of citizens. Therefore, they should scrupulously maintain international standards and treat citizens fairly. Civil society can monitor and assist these institutions thereby ensuring the rights of all citizens.
- Pay particular attention to the protection of vulnerable and marginalised groups. Often neglected by government institutions and stigmatized in society, these groups are the most susceptible to violations of their human rights. It is therefore necessary to facilitate and improve access to the justice system for them.
Read the current strategy here:
The H in NHC: The Helsinki Process Explained
The Helsinki Process describes events culminating in the signing of the 1975 Helsinki Accords and follow up process. The Accords are the founding documents of the OSCE and contained the ground-breaking concept of comprehensive security. This is the notion that real security is achieved by building democratic, free, and rights-respecting societies (human dimension), combined with furthering social-economic cooperation and security (economic dimension) and with military trust-building and non-violent conflict resolution (political-military dimension). The human dimension created an environment in which domestic human rights violations could be held politically accountable at an international level. It is also intrinsically connected the notion of security to human rights and the rule of law.
The inclusion of representatives of civil society in the discussions, both at the founding conferences, and today in the framework of the OSCE, allows these actors to hold governments accountable for implementing the ‘principles of the Helsinki Accords’ as part of the wider Helsinki Process.
Today the OSCE contributes to the reduction of tension between participating states. It is a platform for dialogue between states providing security in disputed areas and a platform for dialogue between states and civil society, where the NHC actively participates.