Dutch Employers’ Cooperation Programme (DECP) was founded in 2006 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and employers’ organisation VNO-NCW. DECP focuses on strengthening employers’ organisations in emerging countries with the aim of contributing to the improvement of the business climate.
Dutch employer organisations and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs took the initiative to set up DECP because they believe that well-functioning business organisations can make a contribution to sustainable economic development in the partner countries.
Peter Bongaerts, Director, "A business climate does not change automatically"
'It takes a lot of effort to convince the relevant decision makers and stakeholders that conditions need to be different to make room for entrepreneurship as a driver of growth and jobs and as a solution to societal challenges. But it is possible. I have experienced this myself in the 20 years that I have been active in Dutch employers’ organisations and with entrepreneurship policies.
Employers’ organisations are in a position to influence these decisive factors. The knowledge and experience we have in the Netherlands with the polder model and with maximizing the economic potential of a small country can be useful for employers’ organisations in developing countries. What appeals to me about DECP is that we offer help in a demand-driven and very practical way, not by telling others what is good or bad or publishing extensive reports full of abstract recommendations, but simply by providing practical training, for example in negotiation skills together with Mondiaal FNV or CNV Internationaal, and stimulating our partner organisations to put these skills into practice.
The DECP programme is very ambitious. DECP has realised great successes, such as the establishment of a Foundation of Labour in Peru. But of course we also encounter setbacks when situations develop more slowly or different than we had intended. Nevertheless, the optimism of building positive change always dominates and leads to interesting results.'
Andrew Moore, Country Manager. "The importance of a strong Employers' Organisation cannot be underestimated"
'It not only provides the opportunity for employers to work together on a wide range of important issues but it also provides the government with a focal point from which they can hear the voice of business.
Before joining the DECP in 2007 I worked for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) for some 25 years during which I worked on Education and Training Policy as well as on representing some 200 Trade Associations at a national level. During the 25 years I spent 14 years posted to Brussels and was responsible for representing British Business at a European level. During the first seven years in Brussels I established the British Business Bureau which provided some 25 Trade associations with representation at a European level. The second seven years as Director of the CBI in Brussels.
The work with Trade Associations provided me with the opportunity to return to the UK to establish the Trade Association Forum (TAF) which was the focal point for some 300 Trade Associations to come together to share experiences on a wide range of issues such as membership and policy development.The experiences with not only the working of the CBI at both a national as well as a European level and with a wide range of Trade Associations provided me with the skills to work with Employers Organisations in developing countries.
The opportunity to work with the DECP firstly in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana and subsequently in Asia provides an excellent opportunity to be able to share the experiences gained with the CBI and to support the development of Employers' Organisations in a number of developing countries. Currently, I am Country Manager for Pakistan, Cambodia, Philippines, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Andrew brings to the DECP a wide knowledge of how an Employers' Organisation can serve its members both in terms of services as well as in policy development.'
Dirk Joosse, Special Advisor. "I like to share my experiences"
'After working 35 years for the AWVN, a Dutch Employers' Organisation in the Netherlands and giving trainings in different European countries, I got the opportunity to apply my expertise for DECP worldwide.
I have facilitated the social dialogue on local level and given trainings of trainers on social dialogue, negotiation skills and mediation skills in East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda), Asia (Vietnam and Indonesia) and South America (Peru).
These experiences made me an expert in setting up social dialogue on a local level with regard to companies, economic sectors and regions.
My core competency is how to share with people what it takes to communicate in social dialogues in such a way that everyone feels understood and taken seriously. That means being aware not only of the content and structure of the message to share, but also of the relational and emotional effects for all people involved. This results in higher productivity, better implementation of measures, less conflict and increased wellbeing of the people involved.'
Sip Nieuwsma, Special Advisor. "Social dialogue contributes to more prosperity"
'I have worked for VNO-NCW, the umbrella employers’ organisation in the Netherlands. My core business was negotiating with trade unions and with the Ministry of Social Affairs about propositions of the government. These consultations took place in the Social-Economic Council and the bipartite Foundation of Labour. Besides that, I lobbied with the political parties in the Parliament. Moreover, the Foundation had his consultations twice a year directly with the Government regarding the policy for the next year. Issues were wages, negotiations for Collective Labour Agreements, labour market, flexible contracts, bringing unemployed back to the vacancies, skills, social security and labour law.
So I have a lot of experience in the importance of having the right attitude to realise the goals of employers in negotiating / lobbying with politicians together with trade unions or in other cases separately. If employers and trade unions create solutions together, they are strong negotiation partners towards the government. This influence withholds the government to make files and laws that might turn out unfavourable.
In this way I succeeded, together with the Dutch trade union Mondiaal FNV, after four years of support to Peruvian employers and employees organisations, to establish formally an “Association of Labour “ in Peru. Peruvian employers and important national trade-unions are active in this Association.
My drive is that in relations with trade unions I can create mutual trust between employers and trade unions and make them aware of the fact that employers and trade unions are mutually dependant on each other to realise the best lobby results for their members vis-a-vis the government.'
Peter Boorsma, Country Manager. "Boosting productivity by bringing employers and trade unions together"
'After getting my degree in economic-social history, I started my career at the International Institute for Social History. After working several years for Akzo-Nobel Coatings in Spain and Belgium as a market researcher, I joined the communication departement of VNO-NCW, the Dutch umbrella employers' organisation. In 2001, I became manager of a sector organisation. Improving their reputation and visibility as wel as organising strategic cooperation were my priorities. Since 2006 I am working as a consultant for sector organisations.
I am curious to understand how complex networks are working. Which implies that I am a good listener and observer. I stimulate social dialogue and effective communication. As a near-native speaker of the Spanish language I am Country Manager for Peru, Bolivia and Colombia. Over the years I specialised in strategic marketing and communication, language and culture and facilitating cooperation between interest groups.
DECP is not a foundation that supports employers' organisations by investing big amounts of money. This seems to be a disadvantage. On the contrary; it brings DECP in an equal position with its partners. Their needs are leading in taking action together. Progress is never easy. But once improvements have been achieved, both the partner-organisation and the DECP advisor are proud and feel they succeeded by cooperating. Being a consultant, a guest and a friend at the same time in several Latin American countries makes me feel at home with DECP.'
Christine Rehbock, Office Manager. "I connect our partners to our advisors and country managers"
'I consider myself as the spider in DECP’s network, connecting the partners with the expert advisors and country managers. DECP started its operational activities in January 2006 and I joined 8 months later so I have almost been there from the start. What keeps me going is that there are always new developments taking place, new goals realised and new people to meet.
I enjoy working in an international environment and to witness first hand how the economic, cultural and political situation in a country can influence DECP’s relationship and cooperation with a partner organisation. My main responsibilities include project administration and monitoring. Occassionally I accompany my colleagues to trainings and then I am able to witness their valuable work on first hand. During the crosscutting activities it is not only the knowledge that DECP brings in. More important is the experience sharing between the partner organisations from neighbouring countries that often encounter similar difficulties and can help each other find solutions to problems they have in common.
I spent a large part of my youth abroad living in Spanishspeaking countries and consequently English and Spanish were a natural part of my upbringing. In my adult life I worked at several trading and production companies with worldwide markets, first as a secretary and later on as customer relations officer. Also these experiences enriched me as a person. There really is a wonderful world out there if we have the eyes to see it!'
Jos van Erp, Country Manager and Deputy Director. "I like to be part of your future"
'After finishing my studies as a teacher of Geography and French language I got my master's degree in Economic Geography. I got specialised in labour market studies and developing a labour market communication policy for a large Dutch multinational company.
Together with some colleagues, I set up a company that recruted employees with a technical background and organised lifelong learning structures which allowed them to be employable in every phase of their careers. And it guaranteed companies the availability of employees with the right competencies at any moment.
This highly interesting business model taught me how to work together with TVET schools and governments. It can only work if every party benefits.
Then I joined FME, which is the largest sector organisation in the field of technological industry. Connecting national policy on education and labour to business -especially to SME's- was my main focus. Being a part-time teacher at the same time at Belgian and French universities on Group Dynamics, Business Development and Intercultural Learning made my career complete.
I wanted to share my experiences with stakeholders in other countries, in their own context. DECP offered me the opportunity to share my experiences with employers' organisations in various emerging countries. Who is the teacher and who is the learner? We both are. Because the future starts today!'
And I like to be part of yours!
Martien Robertz, Senior Trainer. "Start with the end in mind: people make the difference"
'I am convinced that with my knowledge, experience and enthusiasm I can contribute to the development of our DECP partners. I only joined DECP recently, combining my work as an advisor on learning & development and organisational development for sector organisation FME. Currently, I am training trainers in Vietnam with the objective that they develop their own negotiation skills in social dialogue processes. These activities will be extended during the DECP's programme period.
During my career steps thus far, I have been advising Business Member Organisations on:
Organisational development which strengthens the competitive position. Leadership development: “Start with the end in mind”. How can leadership contribute to the success of companies and employees? Negotiating and conflict management. Strategic cooperation with business partners. Add value by helping to develop new services.
This makes me an experienced consultant on several issues. For example :Translate strategy of a partner into concrete behaviour; Achieve goals by bringing cooperation and communication to a higher level; Constructively confronting.
I am honoured to contribute to the success of employers 'organisations. It is my conviction that an effective employers' organisation works closely together with trade unions and governments, both at a national and local level. Working together they contribute to economic development, prosperity and above all: well-being.'
Jannes van der Velde, Country Manager. "Asking questions leads to the best results, the best new insights"
‘I have the privilege to be able to say that the world is my playing field. That is, of course not even half true and mostly in gest. Nevertheless I do find it very enriching to work in other countries with people from other cultures. It reminds me how big the world is compared to the Frisian village of my youth.’
‘Never during my trips to Zambia, Malawi, South-Africa, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya have I seen the Africa of my childhood, the picture that the media painted during the War in Biafra. Yes, there is poverty, there are social and political issues in most African countries, but there is also the never failing optimism and the visible progress. In the 20 years that I have been a regular visitor to Africa I have become pretty optimistic about the continent. Africa and Africans will move forward, no doubt.’
‘Business members organisations are modest players in the big event of African economic progress. And I myself am but a very small particle in this process. Nevertheless I have some things on offer. Experience and knowledge on work processes, that I transfer using a method that I borrowed from the great Greek philosopher Socrates. He knew that asking questions and thus challenging people eventually leads to the best results, the best new insights.’
Arnout de Koster, Country Manager. "It is encouraging to see progress at different levels"
'Employers' organisations are a key driving force to create a good business environment, to allow companies to grow and create wealth and employment. They are a must in developing countries. A strong voice of private business is needed to act as a countervailing power in societies where democracy is weaker and where policies for sustainable growth are often under pressure from governments and other layers in society. Uniting companies under a common flag, and where possible also cooperating with trade unions, offers a platform and a means to bring the developing countries on a path of sustainable development, which delivers the goods so much needed for so many: skills, decent work and poverty reduction.
I am Country Manager for Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Ghana.
I worked after my studies (Ph.D Labour Law and M.Sc in Industrial Relations) on a constant basis for employers' organisations, as Director Social Affairs in the Belgian Employers' Confederation (VBO-FEB) and later on at international level for the Employers department at the ILO.
Core competencies: organisational development, social dialogue, skills and employment policies.
Having worked now for about 15 years in developing countries in Africa and Asia, it is encouraging to see progress at different levels. Organisationally, employers' organisations become more representative, knowledgeable and self conscious about their role. From a policy perspective, the intensity and quality of policy interventions become more sophisticated and powerful .
However, this positive development needs strong further boosting; the challenges their constituents and their countries face are huge. Working as DECP advisor for employers' organisations helps I think and I hope. I am convinced that our expertise input, our trainings to promote experience sharing in and with the partner countries representatives, and our capacity to show avenues for more innovation and quality services all create real added value. And there is more. Seeing leaders and young staff of our partners developing themselves with enthusiasm in their jobs, and constantly improving their strengths, is very satisfying. It creates real partnerships, based upon respect, common actions and friendship.'
Madge Colthoff, Temporary Communication Assistant. "Pushing DECP forward"
'As a temporary communication assistant I got to know the activities of DECP in a short period of time. It is a privilege to contribute to the work of my colleagues and to get to know such a broad variety of people, countries, organisations and activities. Even if it is at a distance.'
A dozen DECP experts support employers’ organisations in approximately 25 countries divided over five world regions by offering advice, workshops and trainings. Themes such as social dialogue, effective vocational training, effective lobbying and involving Dutch companies (connecting) are central. DECP is active in East Africa, West Africa, Latin America, Central Asia and South East Asia.