Changing Needs – Need for Change

Evaluation of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ counterterrorism policy and operations

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Results — Evaluation counterterrorism policy and operations

The Netherlands is committed to doing its utmost to prevent and, where necessary, combat terrorism. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is one of the actors that implements Dutch counterterrorism policy. Because terrorism is not confined to borders, a broad, global approach and international cooperation are essential.

Twee agenten te paard bij de uitgang van het Binnenhof
Image: ©ANP/Peter Hilz

Since the attacks of 11 September 2001 and subsequent major attacks in Europe, there has been an enormous increase in international counterterrorism efforts. These efforts are highly diverse in nature, ranging from military interventions, the development of preventive strategies and international cooperation, to projects aimed at tackling the root causes of terrorism.

Despite these efforts, though, the world has witnessed an upsurge in violent extremist and terrorist groups in Africa, the Middle East and Asia and several terrorist attacks have taken place in Europe, such as in Madrid in 2004, London in 2005, Paris in 2015 and Brussels in 2016. Although there has been a sharp decrease in the number of terrorist fatalities since 2014, the level of terrorist activity worldwide is still significantly higher than in the period shortly after 9/11. As a result, counterterrorism and preventing and combating violent extremism are still priorities on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' security agenda.

Yet little is known about the effectiveness of all the efforts being made in the area of counter-terrorism and the prevention and fight against violent extremism. There has also been little evaluative research on counterterrorism, either at the national or international level. Against this background IOB has carried out an evaluation of the counterterrorism policy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Main Question

What results has the Ministry of Foreign Affairs achieved thanks to its activities in CT and P/CVE, and how can policy development and implementation be improved?


The unit responsible for CT and P/CVE policy and interventions at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) is the Counterterrorism and National Security Division of the Security Policy Department (DVB/TN). Based on the policy documents available, IOB has been able to distinguish three general objectives:

  1. to strive for a strong diplomatic position, in both multilateral and bilateral relations, in order to influence policies, to be well-informed, and to respond in good time to new trends
  2. to promote the Dutch approach to CT and P/CVE
  3. to support projects for addressing and tackling terrorism and violent extremism

With regard to these objectives, IOB has drawn the following conclusions:


  • Formulate a clear strategy and milestones for CT and P/CVE and its linkages with wider security and development issues.
  • Reduce the current fragmentation and strengthen the link with the security situation in the Netherlands by targeting CT and P/CVE on the southern and eastern security arenas in the ring around Europe.
  • Invest in threat analysis and identification of context-specific root causes to feed policy development.
  • Invest in coordination of policy development and implementation with other policy departments, embassies and ministries.
  • Invest in learning by creating effective feedback loops between security analyses, policy development, project implementation and evaluations.