Through the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, RCE), the Dutch government is one of the players in the global heritage field. We work with a whole range of partners to help achieve the goals set in this domain by various international bodies, as well as through treaties and resolutions. The most important of these for the Netherlands have been concluded under the auspices of UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The European Commission, too, has raised the importance of heritage with member states through Council conclusions (which identify issues of importance to the European Union and the actions or objectives they should give rise to) and policy.
Treaties and resolutions
The Hague Convention includes a protocol for the protection of cultural property in times of war. This convention was signed and ratified by the Netherlands as soon as it had been drafted in 1954. The same applies to the second protocol of 1999, which complements and extends the first.
In 1992 the Netherlands acceded to the 1972 World Heritage Convention. This allows us to nominate cultural heritage of universal importance to the history of mankind for placement on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Aruba acceded separately in 1993.
The 1954 European Cultural Convention, agreed in Paris, provides the framework for European cooperation in the field of culture and heritage. It also includes articles on the preservation of common European and world heritage. Ratified by the Netherlands in 1956.
The 1985 Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe (the Granada Convention) complements and elaborates the European Cultural Convention and UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention. It introduced a broader definition of heritage, extending it to include industrial heritage, cultural landscapes, ensembles and moveable heritage. As well as containing provisions on inventories, documentation, protection and restoration, it also makes the first references to town and country planning as a means of conservation. And it recognizes heritage as an economic factor. Ratified by the Netherlands in 1994.
The 1992 Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (the Valetta Convention) aims to preserve and protect this heritage as a source of Europe’s collective memory, using town and country planning as a management tool. Dutch legislation has been adapted to comply with its provisions. Ratified by the Netherlands in 2007.
The 2000 European Landscape Convention (the Florence Convention) seeks to protect natural, rural and urban landscapes for their identity-defining significance. It covers both land and water. Ratified by the Netherlands in 2005.
The 2015 Namur Declaration, in which European culture ministers called for a European heritage strategy.
The 2018 Davos Declaration on “Baukultur” stresses the importance for European societies of quality in their building culture
In consultation with the ministries of Education, Culture and Science and Foreign Affairs, Dutch input is provided to international bodies such as the European Union, the Council of Europe and UNESCO. In addition, the RCE is involved in ICCROM, ICOM and ICOMOS.
The Blue Shield oversees implementation of the Hague Convention to protect cultural goods in extraordinary circumstances. The blue shield is the international symbol used to mark heritage assets, evacuation shipments and shelters. A number of countries, including the Netherlands, have national Blue Shield committees. Blue Shield Netherlands is active in the global deployment of experts in damage prevention, control and aftercare in situations where heritage is in danger on a large scale. It also coordinates international assistance and training requests and provides information. Both the international organization and Blue Shield Netherlands are based in The Hague.
In 2011 the European Union decided to create a European Heritage Label for sites of importance to European history or the unification of Europe. In the Netherlands, this label is assigned to the Westerbork transit camp, the Peace Palace, the Maastricht Treaty, and the Colonies of Benevolence.
The European Heritage Heads Forum (EHHF) is an informal network founded in 2006 and comprising some 30 directors of public heritage institutions committed to improving the management of the historic environment in Europe.
The European Heritage Legal Forum (EHLF), founded in 2008, is a network of law professionals monitoring the effects of European regulations upon national legislation related to heritage management.
The European Heritage Network (HEREIN), founded in 1999 by the Council of Europe, is a group of 42 countries which uses a database and a multilingual thesaurus to monitor the international conventions in order to preserve cultural heritage.
The European Archaeological Council (EAC) was established in 2008 with the aim of improving archaeological heritage conservation through cooperation and the exchange of information.
Consideration of heritage in the European context has increased significantly in recent years. As part of initiatives like the European Commission’s Horizon Europe programme to build a more sustainable, inclusive and equal society, we are collaborating at the European level to use heritage as a resource to help make these changes.
Heritage is also prominent in the EU’s Work Plan for Culture, where it is listed as one of the five priorities for a resilient Europe.
In addition, there is substantial demand for knowledge, exchanges and partnerships through the Council of Europe and in the EU context. For example, in such areas as training (Erasmus+), tourism and climate (the Green Deal) and a better living environment (the New European Bauhaus).
Recent years have seen growing worldwide interest in heritage, not least through the so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These are seventeen targets to make the world a better place by 2030. As well as reducing hunger and poverty, improving human well-being and so on, they include access to arts and culture for all. Heritage is an important aspect of Goal 11.
The New Urban Agenda, like the SDGs a United Nations initiative, emphasizes links between sustainable urbanization and job creation, livelihood opportunities and improved quality of life. It calls for all these aspects to be included in every urban development or regeneration policy and strategy.
The UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development focuses on a sustainable and healthy future for oceans. The ocean is an important player in the fight against climate change and a source for important cultural, aesthetic and recreational values. The Ocean Decade builds scientific capacity to develop knowledge that can contribute to the SDGs, which also take into account underwater cultural heritage.