2. Current cultural affairs
Last update: July, 2019
In 2013, the social-democratic Minister of Culture, Jet Bussemaker, presented Culture moves: the meaning of culture in a changing society (Cultuur beweegt; de betekenis van cultuur in een veranderende samenleving), the policy memorandum for the period 2013-2016 in which she reveals her ideas on culture in an evolving world. The priority areas for the period 2013-2016 are: cultural education, talent development, creative industries, digitalisation and social dialogue. The Minister stresses the importance of arts and culture for society and their added value for society and the economy.
Essential to the recent cultural policy approach is a balance between the intrinsic value of culture and the instrumental benefits for social and economic processes. Dynamic developments in society presuppose the powerful contribution of museums, music, theatre and other cultural domains. In spring 2018, current Minister of Culture, Ingrid van Engelshoven, published a vision statement, Culture in an open society (Cultuur in een open samenleving). She outlines the following policy themes, based on the coalition agreement: culture makes curious; space for new makers and culture; an inspiring environment; culture without borders; and a strong cultural sector. According to the vision statement: creative and artistic talent will be stimulated; everybody (irrespective of age, cultural background, income, place of residence) needs access to arts and culture; there should be a broad availability of known and unknown forms of art; and there will be a safe place for art as a reflection on society and its citizens. The government will increase its focus on creators of new forms of culture instead of only providing funds for renowned companies, symphonic orchestras and museums.
The role of the artist
Important developments in choosing focal points for cultural policy, can be recognised in how artists get a stronger position in the policy’s description. In the policy documents Ruimte voor talent in het cultuurbeleid (Room for talent, 2014) and Uitwerking visie op talentontwikkeling (Vision on talent development, 2014), Minister Bussemaker sets out her plans for talent development. These plans are developed further in her letter Ruimte voor Cultuur (Space for Culture, 2015). Itcontains the principles for cultural policy in the period 2017-2020. After the cuts in the cultural sector in 2012, instigated by Secretary of State Halbe Zijlstra (Liberals), Bussemaker's budget was increasing slightly. Over EUR 18 million was made available to artists and cultural institutions for the development of young talents, innovation and cooperation.
The increasingly precarious labour position of those working in arts and culture continues to be a theme in the policy plans of Minister Van Engelshoven. To strengthen the labour market position of artists and workers in the cultural and creative sector, the government made EUR 400 000 available in 2016. Commissioned by the Ministry, Kunsten ’92 (the representative organisation for the arts, culture and heritage sector in the Netherlands) has drawn up, in collaboration with the cultural sector, the Labour Market Agenda for the Cultural and Creative Sector 2017 – 2023 (Arbeidsmarktagenda culturele en creatieve sector 2017-2023) with recommendations and proposals for the Minister. Some important points are: improve the position of freelance artists and people in other creative professions; improve the working conditions; and strengthen sector-wide cooperation in order to conduct a social dialogue and to respond to the changes in the labour market. A special group of representatives of the arts and culture sector deals with the distribution of funds (see also chapter 2.3).
Another important development in current cultural policy is the harmonisation of cultural policy efforts between the different government tiers. The central government, the Council for Culture and the regional authorities are keen to increase coordination and cooperation between the various administrative levels. The municipalities and provinces emphasised the need to cooperate more and to have a closer look at the function and qualities of cultural institutions in the region. In cooperation with provinces, municipalities and the cultural sector, an inventory was made of what is needed for culture and the associated resources.
In June 2018, the Minister invited the municipalities and provinces to draw up profiles, together with the cultural sector, setting out their vision on culture and arts in the region (see chapter 1.2.3).
 The December 2017 letter from the organisation Interprovinciaal Overleg (Interprovincial Consultation) with recommendations for the Minister can be found here: Bouwstenen voor cultuurbeleid vanaf 2021 [Building blocks for cultural policy from 2021].
Last update: July, 2019
The Dutch constitution protects the freedom of speech and states that the central government is obliged to create adequate conditions for the cultural development of all citizens (see chapter 4.1.1). In the coalition agreement for 2017-2021 (Confidence in the Future), the current Dutch government stresses the importance of accessibility to the arts and culture: “[…] not just for those living in major cities, but throughout the country.” This widespread accessibility should be stimulated by an improved coordination between authorities on the national, provincial and local level.
The Cultural Policy Act (1993) states that the Minister of Culture is responsible for preserving, developing and disseminating cultural expressions (see chapter 1.1). In the policy letter Culture in an Open Society (March 12th 2018), Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven sets the cultural agenda for 2017-2021. Because every citizen has the right to cultural engagement (which is seen as an essential aspect of good citizenship), she formulates the following objectives in order to make culture more accessible:
- The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science will stimulate cultural engagement at a young age with additional resources for primary schools in order to visit museums and cultural heritage.
- The digital accessibility of heritage, archives and collections will be supported with extra investments.
- To reach a more diverse audience, and with that enlarge the cultural engagement of the Dutch citizens in general, pluriformity within the cultural field should be stimulated. There will be more attention for new generations and other art forms than solely the traditional.
There have been various national debates regarding the limits of the freedom of expression in the Netherlands. For example, the children’s feast of Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) generates an ongoing social discussion on the controversial figure of Black Pete (Zwarte Piet). According to the opponents, Black Pete is a racial stereotype in the tradition of black facing and should be altered, while the proponents want to maintain this Dutch cultural tradition as it is. In 2016, the Dutch Ombudsman for Children concluded that the traditional figure of Black Pete can contribute to bullying, social exclusion or discrimination, which is in violation with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Although the Dutch government does not interfere in the discussion surrounding Black Pete, the Party for Freedom (PVV) – a right-wing populist party in the current opposition – unsuccessfully tried to legally protect the traditional Black Pete.
The leader of the PVV, Geert Wilders, also sparked a national debate regarding the (limits of) freedom of speech when he advocated for ‘less Moroccans’ in the Netherlands during a campaign meeting in 2014. A total of 6 400 Dutch citizens pressed charges against Wilders because they felt hurt or discriminated against. Wilders was prosecuted and found guilty of group insult and inciting discrimination, but the court decided not to impose a punishment. Besides the national government and the Ombudsman, the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP) is another important actor in terms of (albeit implicitly) monitoring cultural rights. The SCP is an independent government agency – formally connected to the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport -- that conducts academic research on the social and cultural wellbeing of the Dutch citizens.
Last update: July, 2019
As freedom of expression is one of the main pillars of the Dutch cultural field and society, artistic freedom is secured and not an issue in the Netherlands. However, economic and social problems regarding labour within the cultural field do exist. To strengthen the position of both artists and professionals – a position that deteriorated due to previous government cuts and labour market changes – former Minister of Education, Culture and Science Jet Bussemaker invested EUR 400 000 in the cultural and creative sector in 2016. In response to a report by the Council for Culture and the Social and Economic Council on the worrisome situation of many cultural workers (Passie gewaardeerd), the Minister also commissioned the sector to develop an agenda for the labour market. The resulting Labour Market Agenda for the Cultural and Creative Sector 2017 – 2023 (Arbeidsmarktagenda culturele en creatieve sector 2017-2023)was published in November 2017 and formulated three main goals: structural social dialogue; strengthen the earning capacity; and improve the working conditions.
In the agenda, the sector also presented the Fair Practice Code, which is meant to be applied sector-wide. The code is based on the values of solidarity, trust, sustainability, transparency and diversity. This code offers a normative framework with guidelines for sustainable, fair and transparent employment and practices in the cultural and creative sector. Cultural organisations receive a Fair Practice Label when they meet the sustainable measures of the code. It should function as an instrument for the creative and cultural sector to improve the cultural labour market and make it future-proof.
In order to stimulate the
sector, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science will support the further
development of the labour market agenda (with EUR 500 000 in both 2019 and
2020) and will play a role in the area of professional training and the
development of funding guidelines. Cultural funds will receive EUR 1.95 million
in both 2019 and 2020 for the continuation or development of compensation
schemes (respectively the Mondriaan Fund and the Performing Arts Fund NL) and for pilots regarding
specific labour market bottlenecks. To develop and professionalise the HR
departments in cultural institutions regarding sustainable employability, EUR
200 000 has been made available for both 2019 and 2020. In 2019, there is a
one-off contribution of EUR 1.5 million to improve the earning capacity and the
sector also received a wage and price adjustment of 2.5 percent. In 2021, the
start of the new subsidy period, a few trajectories will be incorporated within
the conduct of business of the sector and the conditions of the subsidy policy
(e.g. the Fair Practice Code).
To stimulate the mobility of artists, there are
several initiatives in the Netherlands. DutchCulture, a government funded foundation that promotes
Dutch culture worldwide, has a Mobility Info Point where they advise Dutch artists who want to
work abroad or foreign artists that work in the Netherlands. The Mobility Info
Point also participates in On The Move, the international network for cultural
mobility. For the funding of their international activities, Dutch artists can
apply for grants at many public funds and a few private funds. DutchCulture
also publishes an overview of these funds yearly (the Cultural
Mobility Funding Guide).
 After their first explorative report in January 2016, the Council for Culture and the Social and Economic Council published an official advice regarding the labour market of the cultural and creative sector in April 2017: Passion Appreciated (Passie gewaardeerd).
Last update: July, 2019
In 2014, former Minister of Education, Culture and Science Jet Bussemaker launched the Digital Heritage Network. According to Bussemaker, digitisation offers a new perspective on the distribution and accessibility of culture. The Digital Heritage Networkis meant to strengthen the cooperation between different heritage sectors regarding the digitisation of collections and archives. In March 2015, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science presented the National Digital Heritage Strategy together with the Digital Heritage Network.
Bussemaker followed the advice of the Council for Culture to have sector-wide support for the digitisation function in the national basic infrastructure for culture. In 2017, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science therefore assigned DEN, formerly known as Digital Heritage Netherlands, to broaden their scope. Since then, DEN functions as the national knowledge institute for digitalisation in the cultural sector. Together with Dutch art institutions and other stakeholders, DEN is currently developing knowledge and methods on how digital technology can support art institutions in terms of artistic creation process, education, public outreach and heritage. The knowledge and experience gained with digitisation in the heritage sector is used as an important reference.
In her 2018 policy letter Culture in an open society, the current Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Van Engelshoven, stresses the importance of the accessibility of culture. Therefore, the digital accessibility of heritage, archives and collections is supported with extra investments (EUR 12 million for 2019 and 2020). The focus in government policy shifted from the digitisation of content to stimulating the use and re-use of digital content by citizens. This resulted, among others things, in extra attention for the use of digital heritage content for primary and secondary schools, and in funding possibilities for heritage institutions to stimulate access and re-use of their collection. The Digital Heritage Network is coordinating an extensive programme within the network of Dutch heritage institutions to support this focus in line with the principles of the National Strategy Digital Heritage.
In 2018, a second version of the DERA (Digital Heritage Reference Architecture) was published: DERA 2.0. The DERA is a set of digital architectural principles to optimise the digital information process within the cultural domain, which is also one of the principles of the National Strategy Digital Heritage. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science owns the DERA and the Digital Heritage Network coordinates the use of the DERA.
Research by DEN shows that museums, archives, libraries and other heritage institutions digitised 35 percent of their collections in 2017, while 46 percent still needs to be digitised. Of their metadata (or catalogue data), 74 percent is digitised and 58 percent is accessible online. In total, 43 percent of all metadata and 13 percent of all heritage objects are available online. In the EU, these numbers are lower: 30 percent of all metadata and 8 percent of all heritage objects are available online for a broad audience.
A major project aimed at improving the digital accessibility of culture was Images for the Future. From 2007 onwards, a total of 91 183 hours of video, 22 086 hours of film, 98 734 hours of audio and 2.5 million photos from the audiovisual sector was restored, preserved, digitised and distributed through various services. The project was completed in late 2014.
In 2016, the EYE Film Museum was granted EUR 800 000 for the digitisation of film heritage and the management and accessibility of digital heritage. From 2017 onwards, EYE receives EUR 1 million annually for digital film heritage.
The new Libraries Act (Wet stelsel openbare bibliotheken, Wsob) that was implemented in January
2015 introduced the creation of a national digital library in order to make
knowledge and information more accessible (see chapter 4.2.5). In October 2018,
the current Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Van Engelshoven,
concluded a covenant with publishers, authors, translators and libraries on
loaning e-books at public libraries, which includes the introduction of more
titles. The budget for the implementation of the covenant will rise to EUR 3
million in 2021.
 The founders are large, national institutions (the National Library, the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, the Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency, the Humanities Cluster of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Archive) that strive to professionally preserve and manage digital data. Heritage organisations and portals (theme based, region based and domain based) are encouraged to take part in the network.
Last update: July, 2019
The Prince Claus Fund, set up in 1996 by the late Royal Highness Prince Claus, operates on an intercontinental scale and aims at increasing cultural awareness and promoting the exchange between culture and development, focusing especially on developing countries. The fund grants subsidies and gives awards to mainly non-European artists and intellectuals. It also creates a platform for debate and stimulates creative processes and artistic productions.
As a platform for intercultural exchange, the Prince Claus Fund collaborates with individuals and organisations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. The goal is to realise activities and publications that reflect a contemporary approach to the themes of culture and development. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Nationale Postcode Loterij (Dutch Postcode Lottery) support the Prince Claus Fund.
Intercultural dialogue has always been an important issue in the Netherlands. The policy focus on multiculturalism in the 1990s, and on integration in the first decade of this century, has triggered a long-term debate on cultural identity and cultural diversity. After 2010, this focus was eclipsed in the policy spectrum, being rephrased in the cultural field as a sensitising concept: something to be kept in mind when decisions are to be made in planning programmes, recruiting personnel or filling vacant positions on governance boards. For this purpose, the cultural sector developed theCode Cultural Diversity in 2011 with support of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The code of conduct is a practical tool: a framework and a specific guide, to assist organisations in formulating ambitions and objectives in the area of cultural (ethnic) diversity. The code aims to embed diversity in cultural organisations permanently. It focuses on the following four aspects of cultural organisations: programming, public reach, partners and staff/management policy (4 p’s).
When receiving the recommendations by the Council for Culture on the 2017-2020 national basic infrastructure in May 2016, Minister Bussemaker emphasised the importance of theCode Cultural Diversity. The Minister concluded that there were still many opportunities for cultural institutions to reach a wider audience and to better connect to a cross-section of the population. Cultural organisations that are subsidised by the central government are stimulated to implement the Code. In 2018, the directors of the six public cultural funds published a joint letter stating that they would actively stimulate diversity when spending their money.
The Noordwijk overleg (Noordwijk consolation) consists of a group of theatre companies that gather every once in a while. In 2017, they started working on a multi-year plan to accelerate the goals of the Cultural Diversity Code. Currently, twenty-two theatres implemented the guidelines of the Noordwijk consultation. A special programme (Stimuleringsprogramma theater inclusief) was developed by members and partners of the Noordwijk consultation in collaboration with external experts, which focuses on vision, policy, learning capacity and accountability in the theatre sector. The Noordwijk consolation also created the Diversity Scanin 2018 to measure the 4 p’s of the Code and the diversity climate of the organisation.
There are several public initiatives to improve social inclusion in the Dutch society by means of culture. Examples are:
- New Dutch Connections supports Dutch citizens, and in particular
refugees, to become
participants in the multicultural and religious society. They aim to create a society in which
foreigners feel at home by means of art, theatre and training. “With its activities, NDC brings people, organisations and institutions together who otherwise would have never (in all probability) met.”
- Refugee Company’s mission is “to speed up integration by supporting people with a refugee background in social and economic independency.” They try to speed up integration through, among others, artistic and cultural activities. Examples are art exhibitions in collaboration with the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and photography museum Foam.
- STUDIO i was established by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and the Van Abbemuseum. The organisation characterises itself as “a cultural platform that wants to share inspiring ideas and inclusive initiatives, organise events for museum workers and offer training programmes around diversity, inclusion and equity.”
Diversity of cultural boards and staff
In 2018, the research institute APE Public Economics published a report on diversity in the Dutch cultural sector, focusing on the composition of boards and staff of cultural institutions:
- In 2016 and 2017, approximately one third of the board members of cultural institutions had a Western migration background (compared to 11 percent in 2008) and 7.8 percent had a non-Western migration background (compared to 5.5 percent in 2008).
- In 2017, 30 percent of the employees of cultural institutions had a Western migration background (compared to 14 percent in 2008) and 8 percent had a non-Western migration background (compared to 8 percent in 2008).
- In 2017, 8 percent of the advisors in cultural commissions, councils and funds had a Western migration background and 14 percent had a non-Western migration background.
For the results regarding the number of women as
cultural board members, employees and advisors, see chapter 2.5.5.
 Mesters, Gabbi and Cecile Brommer. 2018. “Van ‘Pas toe, óf leg uit’ naar ‘Pas toe, én leg uit’.” Boekman 115: 14-17.
 In 2017, the amount of non-Western and Western migration backgrounds within the Dutch working population is both 10 percent.
Last update: July, 2019
Since 2006, citizenship is a mandatory subject at schools for primary, secondary and special education (as laid down in Article 8.3 of the Primary Education Act, Article 17 of the Secondary Education Act and Article 11.3 of the Expertise Centres Act). Within this subject, the starting point is that pupils grow up in a pluriform society. Active citizenship and social integration should be promoted and pupils should be aware of the different backgrounds and cultures of their peers.
Within citizenship education, diversity is a theme in the broad sense of the word: from cultural to sexual diversity. Citizenship is not a separate course, but needs to be integrated in other courses or projects. Therefore, the amount of attention paid to citizenship and diversity differs per school. In 2018, the Minister of Education announced that the current law on citizenship education will be amended in order to specify the schools’ tasks regarding this subject. Recent research suggests that most schools regard cultural diversity as beneficial and do address the subject in the classroom. This is particularly the case if a large proportion of the pupils has an immigrant background.
for secondary vocational education (MBO) also need to teach their students
about good citizenship (as laid down in Article 1.2.1 of the Education and Vocational Education Act),
which includes themes such as democracy, tolerance and freedom of expression.
In September 2017, Minister of Culture Van Engelshoven and the Council for
Vocational Education and Training (MBO Raad) signed the MBO citizenship agenda (2017-2021), which is aimed at
improving citizenship education. In December 2018, Van Engelshoven announced a law amendment in order
to include the acceptance of ethnic, religious, sexual and gender diversity in
secondary vocational education.
Diversity is also present in Dutch arts
education, both formal and non-formal. Students can learn about world music and
international dance, or more modern dance styles like urban and breakdance. At
music schools, foreign instruments like the bağlama are also part of the
 Bulk, Lenie van den. 2019. “Awareness and Consequences of Ethnocultural Diversity in Policy and Cultural Education in the Netherlands.” In Arts and Cultural Education in a World of Diversity: Yearbook of the European Network of Observatories in the Field of Arts and Cultural Education (ENO). Cham: Springer.
Last update: July, 2019
Central in the Dutch media policy are freedom of speech and independence. Following the constitution, the government is obliged to guarantee plurality, accessibility and affordability of information. It encourages that the media system in general represents a sound variety of viewpoints and that media are protected against all kinds of undesired influences. Article 7 of the constitution offers independence of all media. Journalists, writers and broadcasters can publish and broadcast whatever they wish. They are fully responsible for the content, any interference from government in advance is prohibited (no censorship). Public and commercial broadcasters are obliged to take measures to ensure editorial independency of their journalists. In 2019, the Netherlands was ranked 4th in the World Press Freedom Index.
In 1967, the Broadcasting Act (Omroepwet) was created for the distribution of broadcasting. The act made it possible for public broadcasters to enter the media sector. Criterion for the broadcasters were a philosophical or/and political ideology and a certain number of subscribers. In 1988, the Broadcasting Act was replaced by the Media Act (Mediawet) with supervision of the Dutch Media Authority (Commissariaat voor de Media). The Dutch Media Authority aims “to protect the independence, the plurality, and accessibility of the audiovisual media in our country.”
As a result of emerging commercial broadcasters and to ensure pluralistic media content, the Media Act was adjusted in 1991. The Temporary Act Media Concentration (Tijdelijke wet mediaconcentraties) was into force between 2007 and 2011, which included limitations for cross-media ownership. From 2011 onwards, this issue is part of the general rules concerning competition. In 2008, the Media Act (Mediawet 2008)was renewed and a major change compared with previous versions of the Act is that public broadcasters are now formally responsible to use all modern media platforms and distribution channels, such as websites, digital channels and services offered by mobile platforms, as well as for radio and television. Like the previous Media Acts, the Media Act 2008 instructs public broadcasters to pay special attention to information, youth and culture in their programmes. Modifications of the Media Act 2008 took place in 2016, concerning the future of the public broadcasting system in a sector were on-demand watching increases and advertisement income declines. An example of one of the measures is the aim of informative, educational and/or cultural content (see also chapter 4.2.6).
In the 2017 Media Pluralism Monitor Report, the Netherlands scores very well on the criteria for media pluralism. Three areas in the Dutch media sector are at low risk: basic protection risk (13%), political independence of media (23%) and social inclusiveness (32%). The low risk on basic protection is caused by the Dutch legal framework in which the position of journalists and working conditions are recognised. Risk regarding political independence scores low because of “the absence of legislation regulating conflict of interests between owners of media and politics.” Social inclusiveness scores low on risk as well, although three indicators score between 40% and 60%. The Netherlands scores 46% (medium risk) on media plurality, “mainly because of a strong media ownership concentration and a weak transparency of ownership.”
The Netherlands consists of a dual broadcasting system that includes commercial and public broadcasters. The Dutch Foundation for Public Broadcasting (Nederlandse Publieke Omroep, NPO) functions as the umbrella organisation for public broadcasters and is financed by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Dutch public broadcasting organisations are member-based associations sharing common facilities. This arrangement has its origins in the pillarisation of Dutch society in the previous century: different social, religious and political streams all had their own separate associations, newspapers, sports clubs, educational institutions and broadcasting organisations.
Nowadays, the Media Act 2008 stimulates plurality through the following objective: “Public media services should be concerned with public values and should meet the democratic, social and cultural needs of Dutch society.” (Article 2.1) Most of the broadcasting organisations programme culture, specifically the NTR, which has a designated task to provide programmes on arts and culture. The other national broadcasters that programme culture are: AVROTROS, BNN VARA, KRO/NCRV, VPRO, MAX and EO. In general, according to the report Het culturele leven (The cultural life), public broadcasting organisations spent more time on culture (7.1%) than commercial broadcasters (3.4%) in 2017.
Commercial broadcasters do not receive financial contributions from the government, but the Media Act 2008 imposes a number of requirements on them as well. The commercial broadcasters are not allowed to broadcast sponsored news, and at least 40 percent of the programmes must be produced in the Dutch or Frisian language. At least 50 percent of the programmes aired by public broadcasters must be produced in the Dutch or Frisian language. In 2017, 85 percent of the programmes aired by thenational public broadcasterswere Dutch.
On a regional level, each province has one or two public broadcaster(s) and these regional public broadcasters receive subsidy from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The Netherlands also includes approximately 260 local public broadcasters that receive subsidy from the local government. The common interests of these broadcasters are served by the Foundation of Dutch Local Public Broadcasters (Stichting Nederlandse Lokale Publieke Omroepen).
As mentioned, the Dutch media sector has to deal with increasing numbers of on-demand watching and declining advertisement incomes. The Minister of Media also announced that he will not financially compensate the national public broadcast in their loss of incomes. In 2018, the Council for Culture mentioned in their advisory report that this problem will have consequences for the quality and quantity of Dutch audiovisual productions, which will affect media pluriformity. The top three organisations in each media category with the highest market shares are:
- Television broadcasters (2018):
- NPO: 32.0%
- RTL Nederland: 20.8%
- Talpa TV: 14.3%
- Radio broadcasters (2018):
- NPO Radio 2: 12.6%
- Radio 538: 11.6%
- Sky Radio: 9.2%
- Newspaper publishers (2017)
- De Persgroep: 49.8%
- Mediahuis Nederland: 39.1%
- NDC Mediagroep: 6.5%
 There are no public newspapers in the Netherlands, as Dutch press traditionally has been a private enterprise.
Last update: July, 2019
There are two official languages in the Netherlands: Dutch and Frisian.
The Dutch language is principally spoken in the Netherlands, Flanders and Surinam. Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch, which is still spoken by South Africans. The Dutch language policy is managed by the Committee of Ministers (Comité van Ministers), comprising the Dutch and Flemish culture and education ministers and a representative from Surinam. The Interparliamentary Committee (Interparlementaire Commissie) monitors the language policy, while the Dutch Language and Literature Council (Raad voor de Nederlandse Taal en Letteren) advises policymakers. Dutch language policy is developed and implemented by the Dutch Language Union (Nederlandse Taalunie).
The Dutch Language Union is an intergovernmental organisation, founded by the Dutch and Flemish governments (see chapter 4.1.8). To emphasise their mutual cultural interests, a cultural treaty was signed in 1995. In 2004, the Flemish-Dutch House (Vlaams-Nederlands Huis deBuren) opened in Brussels. The aim of the house is to promote Flemish-Dutch culture in Europe and to hold debates on culture, science, cultural diversity, society and politics in an increasingly unified Europe.
Surinam joined the Dutch Language Union as an associate member in 2004. The union also cooperates with the Caribbean islands that have Dutch as an official language: Aruba, Curaçao, Saint Martin (countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands), Bonaire, Saint-Eustache and Saba (municipalities within the Kingdom of the Netherlands). For these municipalities, Papiamento and English are also official languages, which can be used in contact with the government.
In 1996, the satellite and cable television channel the Best of Flanders and the Netherlands (BVN) was founded. The international channel is a joint venture of a Flemish and a Dutch public broadcaster and airs Dutch spoken television programmes.
The Frisian language is recognised as the second official language in the province of Fryslân, both in Dutch law and through the European Charter for Regional Minority Languages.
The province of Fryslân and the central government made agreements on the development of the Frisian language and culture. For the period 2013-2018, an Administrative Agreement on the Frisian Language and Culture was developed. The Fryske Akademy determines the spelling in the Frisian language and preserves the cultural and literary value of the language-related Frisian heritage. In 2016, an update of this administrative agreement regarding media in the Frisian language was signed. The agreement has been renewed in December 2018 with the Administrative Agreement on Frisian Language and Culture 2019-2023, which aims to increase the use of Frisian language in the education system.
The Netherlands has recognised Limburgish (since 1997), Low Saxon (since 1996), Romani/Sinti and Yiddish (since 1996) as regional or non-territorial languages under the European Charter for Regional Minority Languages. This recognition enables provinces and municipalities to create policies for these languages. The Limburgish and Low Saxon languages are recently recognized as official regional languages. The government has made objectives in collaboration with the representatives of the Limburgish and Low Saxon language by means of covenants.
Last update: July, 2019
Since 2007, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has been coordinating policies regarding the emancipation of women and the LGBTI community. The Emancipation Department of the Ministry is responsible for the specific policies. The current Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid van Engelshoven, has the function of Minister of Emancipation as well. The main objectives of the Emancipation Department are the employment of women, combating violence against women and LGBTI citizens and equal rights for the LGBTI community.
For the coalition agreement 2017-2021 (Confidence in the Future), eight parties of the current government signed the Rainbow Agreement: “A range of measures will be adopted to tackle discrimination, including a supplement to Article 1 of the constitution prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and disability.” The coalition agreement also states that “unnecessary gender registration will be restricted wherever possible” and that the position of LGBTI people will be improved in the education sector. In 2018, a proposal for the amendment of the Equal Treatment Act (1994) was submitted in order to explicitly include transgender and intersexual citizens in the act. The amendment was adopted on March 12th, 2019, which means that the act will also protect citizens from discrimination based on gender characteristics, gender identity and gender expression.
The coordination of the Rainbow Agreement is the responsibility of the Minister of Emancipation and the measures to be taken are included in the latest emancipation memorandum (Emancipatienota 2018-2021). In the introduction, Van Engelshoven writes that the right of equal treatment is anchored legally, but that these principles are still too often ignored in practice. Three serious bottlenecks are being addressed: the labour market; social security and acceptance; and gender diversity and equal treatment. Important measures include:
- The compliance and enforcement of the Law on Management and Supervision (which includes a quota scheme) will be strengthened in order to increase the share of women in top level functions.
- WOMEN Inc., an organisation that strives for the equal treatment of women and men, will broaden their alliance with the Dutch media outlets NPO, RTL and Vice (a project that started in 2017 with the support of the Ministry). The goal is to raise awareness and stimulate diverse representation in the media. The Ministry also started researching the possibility of monitoring the media representation of women and the LGBTI community structurally.
In 2018, the research institute APE Public Economics published a report on diversity in the Dutch cultural sector, focusing on the composition of boards and staff of cultural institutions:
- In 2017, 40 percent of the board members of cultural institutions was female (compared to 33 percent in 2008).
- In 2017, 60 percent of the employees of cultural institutions was female (compared to 53 percent in 2008).
- In 2017, 46 percent of the advisors in cultural commissions, councils and funds was female.
 In 2017, 48 percent of the Dutch working population was female.
Last update: July, 2019
In the Netherlands, several foundations focus on the improvement of the position of disabled citizens in the cultural sector. Examples of these foundations are Special Arts (that aims to improve the artistic participation of the disabled) and 5D (that tries to enhance the position of the disabled in the performing arts sector). Also, initiatives such as Creative Access (sign language or subtitles) and Disabled Led Theatre are used to improve the accessibility of performing arts for citizens with vision problems in particular.
The Netherlands ratified the UN-declaration on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2016. The convention ensures disabled citizens to have equal rights in society regarding, for example, housing-, education- and cultural facilities. A plan was constructed in 2017 by the Ministry of Public Health, Well-Being and Sport to implement the guidelines of the convention in the Netherlands.
National legislation includes the Participation Act, which focuses on the improvement of inclusiveness on the labour market. One of the goals of the law is to stimulate cultural organisations to hire the disabled.
The Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid van Engelshoven, explicitly mentioned the Dutch disabled citizens in her 2018 letter Culture in an open society: “Culture is by and for everyone. Regardless of where you live, who your family are or what your own cultural background is. Regardless of age, sex, disability or education.” In October 2018, she announced an investment of EUR 1 million to improve the connection between the cultural- and social domain, and this investment includes a reserved budget for Dutch citizens with a disability. On an international level, the Netherlands collaborates with, among others, Creative Europe. Creative Europe started the four-year project Europe Beyond Access in 2018 to improve the inclusion of the disabled within the cultural field and the performing arts. Seven dance and theatre organisations and more than 900 artists are involved in the project. An example is the Dutch organisation Holland Dance Festival and their dance activities for the disabled (DancAble).
 Keulemans, Chris. 2018. “De segregatie die niemand wil en die niet nodig is.” Boekman 115: 44-47.
Last update: July, 2019
In the policy letter Culture in an open society (2018), the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science focuses, among other things, on the process of inclusion by means of culture: “Culture is significant for the future of our nation, in the public debate about identity and in the search for what connects us all.” The Ministry implemented the following objectives to improve diversity in the cultural sector:
- The Ministry aims to match the interests of the diverse groups in society with diverse cultural offerings. Examples to reach this goal are the creation of talent programmes and the improvement of the accessibility of culture.
- The Ministry focuses on the characteristics of citizens that don’t engage with culture in order to increase their cultural participation.
- The Minister argues “culture is by and for everyone” and therefore the Ministry invests in the improvement of cultural accessibility. For example, the government will invest EUR 1 050 000 (2019-2021) in the Youth Fund Sport and Culture to support cultural accessibility for children that live in poverty.
- There will be more attention for historical consciousness, for example, by means of cultural education.
- Minister Van Engelshoven will invest EUR 1 050 000 (2019-2021) in the Youth Fund Sport and Culture to improve cultural inclusion among youth that live in poverty.
All in all, the objective of all tiers of government is to make culture accessible and relevant for as many inhabitants as possible. “Through culture, people participate in society. Culture also has a connective power.” (Culture in an open society) In the guidelines for the cultural policy in 2021-2024 (2019), Minister Van Engelshoven states she will invest EUR 2 million annually to match funding by local and regional governments of projects that contribute to the national goal of broadening and renewal in cultural offerings. Another policy plan in this respect is to make room in the national basic infrastructure (see chapter 1.1) for younger, less canonical art forms.
Last update: July, 2019
In the 2018 cultural policy letter Culture in an open society, the theme of diversity is highlighted by the following objectives, which the Ministry deems important for all tiers of government:
- “Creative and artistic talents are given chances and opportunities to flourish.
- Everyone, regardless of age, cultural background, income and place of residence, should have access to culture.
- The range of culture on offer should be pluriform, with established forms cherished and new forms embraced.
- Culture needs to be a safe haven within which to reflect on society and its citizens, and to criticise them.”
On the local level, programmes are developed to enhance the accessibility of culture for vulnerable groups in society. For example, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and the Van Abbemuseum offer guided tours for citizens with dementia or Alzheimer's and their caregivers. Twelve museums in the Netherlands are currently involved in this programme. The VU medical centre mentioned the positive influence of the programme on the acceptance of dementia in society. Another example is an non-irritable exhibition tour for people with autism organised by the National Maritime Museum (Nationaal Scheepsvaartmuseum).
An example of a public initiative is the Music at Bed Foundation(Stichting Muziek aan Bed), which is initiated by two cellists who perform at 25 hospitals and healthcare institutions. They believe in the positive impact of music on a person’s well-being. The theatre company Power of Experience (Kracht van Beleving)is specialised in performances with topics regarding disabilities, chronic- and mental illnesses. The company organises talk sessions after each performance to create consciousness and to support the people that have these illnesses.
Last update: October, 2018
On an international level, the Netherlands participates in UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention (1972). The convention includes guidelines regarding the conservation of nature and the preservation of cultural properties. Countries that have signed the convention “are encouraged to integrate the protection of the cultural and natural heritage into regional planning programmes, set up staff and services at their sites, undertake scientific and technical conservation research and adopt measures which give this heritage a function in the day-to-day life of the community.”
An example of a regional initiative regarding cultural sustainability is the policy of the province Zeeland. Their recent cultural policy report (Provinciaal Cultuurbeleid 2017-2020 ) focuses on a sustainable future and mentions, among other goals, the environmental friendly restoration of cultural heritage in Zeeland.
On a local level, the many monuments of the municipality of Amsterdam are restored using sustainable techniques. The municipality also subsidises sustainable initiatives of cultural institutions, for example the sustainable restoration of the building of the Royal Concertgebouw. The Dutch institute for digital heritage (DEN) also deals with sustainability regarding digital information, ensuring the long-term usability of digital files. Another public actor, the Dutch Green Building Council, initiated the BREEAM-NL In-Use programme. Functioning as a monitoring instrument, the programme assesses the performance of existing buildings, for example cultural institutions, regarding sustainability.
Last update: July, 2019
Good governance in the cultural sector has been an issue of growing interest since 2000, when a special commission, headed by Melle Daamen, published a report on cultural governance. This report was followed by a code of conduct for the cultural sector in 2003, which in its place was replaced by the first Code Cultural Governance in 2006. The latest version of the Code was published in 2019 and offers a normative framework for good management and supervision in cultural organisations.
In the coalition agreement for 2017-2021 (Confidence in the Future), the current government emphasises the value of culture for the Dutch identity. The knowledge on shared history, values and liberties – “the anchors of Dutch identity in times of globalisation and uncertainty” -- should be increased and actively propagated. In school, children will learn the national anthem and it should be possible for them to visit the Rijksmuseum (the largest national museum) in Amsterdam and the Dutch parliament in The Hague. Important historical places need to be more visible and accessible, as they tell the story of Dutch history (see also chapter 3.1). The Canon of the Netherlands (an overview of important events, people, texts, artworks and objects from the Dutch history, established in 2006) will be distributed to young people who reach the age of 18 and to people who acquire Dutch nationality.
The Canon of the Netherlands is currently being redeveloped by an independent commission in order to include ‘the darker sides’ of Dutch history and more diverse perspectives, as requested by the current Minister of Education, Culture and Science Ingrid van Engelshoven. The new canon is expected to be presented in spring 2020.