Print this Page
Print this Page

Netherlands/ 3.4 International cultural co-operation  

3.4.3 European / international actors and programmes

The Netherlands participates in multilateral cultural relationships through its membership of Benelux, the European Union, the Council of Europe and the United Nations (UNESCO). Dutch membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is also relevant when the cultural aspect of international trade is at stake.

Council of Europe

The Council of Europe's vision, that freedom of expression is paramount as a fundamental right, plays an important role in Dutch media policy. Since the start of the programme in 1988, the Netherlands participates in Eurimages, the Council of Europe Fund for the co- production, distribution and exhibition of European cinematographic works. The Netherlands also participates in the European Audiovisual Observatory. The observatory's task is to improve the transfer of, and access to, information on the four areas of film, television, video / DVD and new media. The Netherlands also participates in the Heritage Open Days that take place in the 50 member countries of the European Cultural Convention. On a designated day in September, the doors are opened to numerous monuments and sites, allowing people to enjoy free visits and learn about national heritage. The Netherlands has ratified the Granada Convention, the Valletta Convention and the European landscape Convention. These Conventions form the backbone of the Dutch care for (archaeological) monuments and cultural landscape in its environment.

HEREIN is a European Cultural Heritage Information Network which brings European public administrations in charge of national cultural heritage policies and strategies together. At present, 44 Council of Europe Member States lend impetus to this project and form a unique co-operation network. HEREIN is part of the Council of Europe programme of activities 2016-2017.

European Union

The Creative Europe Desk (2014-2020) is a part of DutchCulture, and is responsible for promoting, and facilitating participation in, the European Commission Culture programme Creative Europe. It offers advice for organisations which want to apply for the programme. Dutch Culture also informs the Dutch cultural and heritage sector on other opportunities for cooperation in the EU outside the Creative Europe programme.

In the first half of 2016, the Netherlands held the Presidency of the European Union for the twelfth time. The Presidency was accompanied by a cultural programme, Europe by People, the Future of Everyday Living. This programme was commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and examined current social issues through art and design.

European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC)

EUNIC creates partnerships and networks between national cultural institutes in order to improve and promote cultural diversity and understanding between European societies, to strengthen international cultural dialogue and cultural cooperation with countries outside Europe. EUNIC is a partnership of national institutions for culture, engaged beyond their national borders and operating with a degree of autonomy from their governments.


In 1992, the Netherlands signed the UNESCO World Heritage Treaty 1972, to protect and stimulate knowledge of and respect for natural and cultural Word Heritage. The Kingdom of the Netherlands (which includes the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba) has ten natural and cultural sites on the World Heritage List. The canal ring [grachtengordel] in Amsterdam the Van Nellefabriek (a modernist factory complex in Rotterdam) are the most recent sites on the heritage list, added subsequently in 2010 and 2014.

The Dutch World Heritage Sites have something to say about the Netherlands and its place in the world. The Netherlands is above all a country of water, which lives and continually battles against water. The country also has a very strong trading tradition and civil society. Finally, the Netherlands is a country that believes in its ability to shape society: everything has been designed, from the layout of the polders and urban expansion to the Modernist architecture of the Rietveld-Schröder House.

As such, three overlapping themes characterise the Netherlands:

  • the Netherlands as a country of water;
  • the Netherlands as a civil society; and
  • the Netherlands as a designed country.

The Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO was established in 1947 and is part of a worldwide network of nearly 200 commissions.

Every two years, the commission provides a working programme based on the policy cycle of UNESCO, the added value that UNESCO can provide to the Netherlands in certain  areas and vice versa, and the relevance of its themes to the policy, society and professional organisations of the Netherlands. The commission also seeks to collaborate with relevant partners at both national and international levels.

As a result of the increasing demand for arts and cultural heritage, illicit traffic in cultural goods has also increased. In recent years conflicts in the Middle East have shown an increase in damage and looting of (archaeological) heritage. In 2009 the Netherlands ratified the UNESCO Convention (1970) to combat the illegal traffic. The First and Second Protocol of The Hague Convention have been in effect since 2007. The Cultural Heritage Inspectoratecooperates with both customs and police to fight the illicit traffic in cultural goods. With regard to stolen cultural goods the police cooperate in the Interpol network, especially the Database of stolen works of arts.

Cultural heritage also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from ancestors and passed on to descendants. In order to protect the intangible heritage, UNESCO drafted the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in 2003. The Netherlands ratified the Convention in 2011.The Dutch Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage [Kenniscentrum Immaterieel Erfgoed Nederland], funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, is coordinating the establishment of a national inventory of the intangible heritage of the Netherlands and the Caribbean part of the Netherlands on the basis of nominations drawn up by communities that safeguard this heritage. Over the next few years the centre will put the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage into practice.

In 2005, UNESCO also came up with a convention to promote and protect cultural diversity. The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions is a legally-binding international agreement that ensures artists, cultural professionals, practitioners and citizens worldwide can create, produce, disseminate and enjoy a broad range of cultural goods, services and activities, including their own. The convention was ratified by the Netherlands in 2010.

In May 2016 Minister Jet Bussemaker (Education, Culture and Science) and Minister Bert Koenders (Foreign Affairs) confirmed that the Netherlands intent to ratify the international UNESCO convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage. This convention improves the protection of underwater cultural heritage through international cooperation worldwide.

In 2013, the World Heritage Podium opened its doors in Amsterdam. The podium provides information about the UNESCO world heritage sites found in the Netherlands and their unique, universal and outstanding value and their historic background.

Chapter published: 13-03-2017

Your Comments on this Chapter?