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DNB apologises for its historical links to slavery
Published: 01 July 2022
De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) apologises for its role in the Atlantic trade in enslaved people in the nineteenth century. DNB is also taking measures to help reduce the repercussions of the legacy of slavery for those directly affected to this day. The measures involve funding for projects and initiatives in the Netherlands, Suriname and the Dutch Caribbean. DNB is offering apologies and taking these measures after several months spent reflecting on the scholarly study into its historical links to slavery and following many conversations with people who have a voice in the contemporary debate on this topic. An internal and external focus group provided support in this process.
Involvement of DNB and former board members in slavery
DNB acknowledged on 9 February 2022 that it had been involved in slavery between 1814-1863. For example, part of DNB’s start-up capital was derived from the proceeds of slavery. Moreover, certain board members were personally involved in the trade in enslaved people. Many defended slavery’s existence and its prolongation. Later, many disregarded the consequences of slavery for a long time. When slavery was abolished, DNB paid compensation to plantation owners on behalf of the Ministry of Colonies, including to DNB board members.
Klaas Knot, President of DNB: “Today, on behalf of De Nederlandsche Bank, I apologise for these reprehensible facts. I offer our sincere apologies to all descendants of enslaved people in the Netherlands, in Suriname, in Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, in Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. I apologise to all those who, because of the personal choices of many, including my predecessors, were reduced to the colour of their skin. Over the past few months, I have heard many personal stories – stories of suffering, but also of resistance and struggle. I heard painful stories. I learned a great deal. And it hurt. What I heard brought the suffering of the past and present very close to home. The conversations I had made it clear that the suffering of long ago is far from over, that the fight is far from over.”
Read the full speech that Klaas Knot gave today at Keti Koti.
Acknowledging the past and learning from it
DNB aims to achieve financial stability and sustainable prosperity for all. This means that everyone should be empowered to participate fully in society. In our society today, however, we still encounter the racism, exploitation and discrimination that defined slavery. Slavery created impediments and inequalities that are difficult to eliminate.
As we contemplated our apologies and the measures to be taken, we gained valuable insights from the many discussions we held with grassroots organisations, civil society organisations, researchers and descendants of enslaved people. We also convened an internal and external focus group to support us in our process of reflection. The external focus group’s report on their activities over the past several months is available here.
All these discussions made clear to us how important it is to apologise. Acknowledging the suffering and offering apologies are essential for learning from our historical links to slavery and applying those lessons as we move forward. It is important for all who today still bear the consequences of the legacy of slavery.
Measures: appropriate, meaningful and proportionate
The measures we are taking are in keeping with our role in society and can be significant for those who experience the repercussions of slavery to this day. The measures are designed to be appropriate, meaningful and proportionate. We will therefore not provide reparations in the form of financial compensation for historical suffering and loss. This is not up to us, but rather a decision for the government.
We have decided on the following measures:
- We are establishing a fund for multi-year projects that will help to reduce contemporary negative effects of nineteenth-century slavery. These projects will have a direct impact on the daily lives of those affected, for example in the fields of education, healthcare and the sharing of knowledge. We are allocating €5 million for this fund for the next ten years. Funding will be granted on an application basis. We are currently structuring the fund, and we will make an announcement as soon as we are ready to accept applications. We will also provide assistance as needed to groups or entities that wish to apply for funding.
- In addition, we are allocating an additional €5 million for one-off contributions to projects and initiatives with an educational character such as the National Museum of Slavery and its associated research centre.
- We are also focusing on boosting diversity and inclusiveness in our own organisation, for example in our recruitment & selection procedures, internships, traineeships and promotions.
- Moreover, we are going to be more open about our past in our new building in Amsterdam. Among other activities, we will promote openness and dialogue by using works of art from our collection, which we moreover intend to make more diverse and inclusive.
- We also intend to commission another historical study into our past.
- We will publish our progress on these measures in our Annual Report.
Not the end of a journey, but a turning point
Today we are opting for more than just words, but also for deeds. Today does not represent the end of the journey for DNB, but a turning point. Our historical links to slavery are an enduring mandate for us to apply ourselves to eliminating inequalities and impediments and to building a more inclusive society and a more inclusive organisation.
For more information, please contact Farley Asruf, spokesperson, by telephone on 06-44 13 50 53, firstname.lastname@example.org
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