Facts & FiguresAC Observer: 1996 Active Polar
The Netherlands is a seafaring nation with a proud history of exploration, and Svalbard was originally discovered by a Dutch the explorer Willem Barentsz in 1596. Dutch exploration in the Arctic region continued, and Dutch nationals have been engaged in industry and commerce in the area since the 16th century, when they were active in whaling and cod-fishing. Present-day involvement includes polar research and the activities of Dutch companies such as Shell.
The Netherlands has strong economic ties with Arctic nations. Dutch companies have interests in the region in with maritime and offshore technology, shipbuilding, fishing, and oil and gas. Furthermore, with the port of Rotterdam being an important Northern European port, the opening of the Northern Sea Route could have a significant impact on the economy of the Netherlands.
According to a document from the Advisory Council on International Affairs delineating Dutch Foreign Policy in the Arctic, “The main goals of the current policy are strengthening the international rule of law, protecting wildlife and the environment, monitoring the impact of climate change, engaging in the management of global public goods and defending Dutch and EU economic interests in the Arctic in a sustainable manner.”
The Netherlands has been involved in international agreements on the Arctic, from being a signatory to the 1920 Svalbard Treaty to being part of the first group granted Observer Status in the Arctic Council. As with most of its Foreign Policy, the Dutch goverment prioritizes the rule of international law and the strengthening of multilateral ties with other nations. The Netherlands explicitly believes that UNCLOS is fundamentally important in the maintenance of relations in the region. The Netherlands also believes that in parts of the Arctic that lie beyond state jurisdiction, non-Arctic countries should have a say in decisions on mineral resources. Finally, the role of non-state actors has been important for the Netherlands, both in regards to economic interests such as Shell and NGOs such as Greenpeace, which is headquartered in the Netherlands.
The Dutch have been involved in the Arctic for centuries, primarily through trade and exploration. Today, with the port of Rotterdam, Royal Dutch Shell, and Greenpeace all playing a role, the Netherlands is still actively involved in the region. As strong proponents of international law, the Netherlands focuses on UNCLOS, the Arctic Council, and the role of international treaties to help maintain peace and stability in the region.