Dutch reportedly plan apology for slavery, launch of a legacy fund this year — or maybe next year

The Netherlands would be among the first European nations to reserve money to launch legacy initiatives as an apology for slavery.

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The Dutch government reportedly will apologize for the Netherlands’ role in the slave trade but apparently not right away, planning to do so by the end of this year or the beginning of 2023.

According to Bloomberg, people familiar with the plan but speaking on the condition of anonymity also said that after the formal apology for slavery, the government will establish a fund that may be worth at least 200 million Euros, which equals $204 million in America, that would be used for initiatives that seek to raise awareness about slavery’s legacy. The prime minister’s office declined to comment on the plan, Bloomberg reported.

The Netherlands joined the transatlantic slave trade early — as did other maritime nations in Europe — shipping roughly 500,000 Africans across the Atlantic between 1596 and 1829, according to Slavery and Remembrance

This engraving shows the 1619 arrival of a Dutch slave ship with a group of enslaved Africans for sale in Jamestown, Virginia. The Dutch government reportedly plans to apologize for the Netherlands’ role in the slave trade by the end of 2022 or the beginning of next year. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Those enslaved people were transported in large numbers to the Caribbean islands of Curaçao and St. Eustatius, with the majority of the Africans who arrived there later being shipped to Spanish territories. The Dutch also sent about 500,000 Africans to their colony of Dutch Guiana, now Suriname, where they primarily worked on sugar plantations.

Bloomberg reported the decision to apologize and set up a slavery apology fund was unusual in Europe, where support of the Black Lives Matter movement has led to a push for former colonial nations to acknowledge their complicity in the slave trade. In fact, the Netherlands would be among the first nations on the continent to reserve money as an apology for slavery.

According to Reuters, an independent advisory panel established in the Netherlands following the 2020 murder of George Floyd previously urged the government to acknowledge that the transatlantic slave trade constituted crimes against humanity. The panel also recommended in its 2021 findings that the government apologize for the Dutch role.

Although Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte – whose government helped set up the panel – admitted that racism and discrimination were issues in the Netherlands, he said last year that his government would not apologize for slavery because it was not his position to assess the country’s history, and doing so would further divide opinion.

“History cannot be turned back,” panel chairwoman Dagmar Oudshoorn said in a summary of its findings, according to Reuters. “However it is possible to state the intention that this historical injustice … whose ill consequences are still being felt today, be corrected as far as is possible, to make that the starting point of policy.”

There also has been considerable effort outside of Europe to confront the economic legacy of imperialism and slavery through reparations, Bloomberg reported.

Canada has agreed to a CA$40 billion accord to compensate First Nation children for being torn from their families, plus New Zealand and Australia plan to pay its Indigenous people millions to compensate them for the harm they suffered. In the United States, legislation has been adopted to establish a commission to investigate potential reparations for slave descendants.

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