Government apologizes for slavery past in the Netherlands

In a speech this afternoon, Prime Minister Mark Rutte apologized for the actions of the
Dutch state in the past: posthumously to all enslaved people worldwide who suffered
from that action, to their daughters and sons, and to all their descendants up to the here
and now. The prime minister expressed his apology at the National Archives in The Hague
in the presence of representatives of organizations that advocate recognition of the
consequences of slavery. In Suriname and in Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten, Bonaire, St.
Eustatius and Saba, members of the cabinet will enter into discussions after the speech
with relevant organizations and authorities about what those apologies mean on site.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte:
“We are doing this, and we are doing this now, standing on the threshold of an important
anniversary year, to find the way forward together. We don’t only share the past, but also
the future. So today we are placing a comma, not a period.”
The Prime Minister’s apology and talks by Cabinet members elsewhere are an important
part of the Cabinet response to the report Chains of the Past presented in July 2021 by the
advisory panel Dialogue Group on the Slavery Past. In it, the government is advised to
proceed with recognition, apologies and reparations for slavery, in the Kingdom. The Cabinet
response to the report was sent to the Senate and House of Representatives this afternoon.
After the speech, the prime minister, together with Vice Prime Ministers Kaag, Hoekstra and
Schouten and Ministers Bruins Slot and Dijkgraaf, will engage in a private meeting with those
Cabinet reaction
The Cabinet is making a fund of 200 million euros available for measures in the field of
awareness, involvement and impact. The programming and allocation of the fund will take
place jointly with, among others, descendants and those involved.
In addition, the Cabinet proposes to establish an independent Commemoration Committee.
In the coming years, this Commemoration Committee must ensure a grand, dignified
commemoration of the slavery past on 1 st of July , together with the Caribbean part of the
Kingdom, Suriname and other countries. The cabinet wants to use the coming
commemorative year 2023 to examine, together with social parties and the
Commemoration Committee to be established, how the annual commemoration can be
organized in a more lasting and dignified way and in a more coherent way.
The coming commemorative year, which begins on the 1 st of July 2023, will include several
large Kingdom-wide events. The King feels personally very involved and will be present at
the commemoration and celebration in Amsterdam on the 1 st of July. The upcoming
commemorative year will offer plenty of room for social, cultural and educational initiatives
from the community.

Further steps
The government sees today’s apology as a first step. In addition to the apologies, the
government announced in its response the intention to give the slavery past a firm place
within education because that is the place where young people come into contact with
The Cabinet is also committed to increasing knowledge and awareness through the
preservation and further development of museums, archives and the protection of cultural
heritage, both in the European Netherlands and in the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom and
other countries involved. Consultations are held with Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire,
Sint Eustatius and Saba about their specific wishes in these areas. The Cabinet is also
contributing to the development of a national slavery museum, with a knowledge center
attached. Announced, multi-year research on the history of slavery will provide input to
those institutions. In addition, it will be easier to change a slavery-related surname.
For the horribly murdered Curaçao resistance hero Tula, the cabinet announces an official
rehabilitation. The anticipated fund will also provide opportunities to appropriately honor
other resistance fighters.