Decolonisation and human rights in the Kingdom of the Netherlands

ACELG & T.M.C. Asser Institute & NNHRR joint workshop

Datum en tijd:
14 oktober 2021 09:00 - 17:15 uur


When King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands formally apologised last year for the Dutch violence visited on Indonesians during their struggle for independence, it came as a late acknowledgement of this particular moment in Dutch history. It was also illustrative of a broader trend: if recent societal debates and movements confronting imperial legacies have made one thing clear, it is how former colonial powers only reluctantly and recently have come to address their violent past. With a self-image built around human rights promotion which sits alongside a long history of overseas exploitation, the Kingdom of the Netherlands holds a unique position in this debate that deserves to be further examined and problematised.

In this workshop, we seek to critically engage with decolonisation in the Dutch context by focusing on its specific nexus with human rights. Until now, the academic debate has focused on the foreign policy and outward promotion of human rights by the Netherlands, on the one hand, and the integration of minorities and the constitutional status of former colonial entities within the Kingdom, on the other. More recently, however, the role of non-Western actors in the development of human rights standards has been restored, prompting critical reflections on the compatibility of the human rights framework with empire, including their modes of co-existence with unequal post-colonial structures.

We seek to address these questions by transposing them to the context of the Dutch decolonisation process. In doing so, we seek to disentangle the relation between decolonisation and human rights in the context of the Kingdom of the Netherlands from different points of view and critically reflect on the legacies and contemporary implications of this interaction. By incorporating different contexts, perspectives and voices, we deliberately step away from a singular focus on the continental Netherlands and engage with postcolonial frameworks to understand the relation between empire and human rights in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

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