26.02.2021 - Netherlands Commission for UNESCO

Netherlands Commission for UNESCO in 2020 and its future outlook

Overview of the Commission’s activities and priorities for 2021

While the COVID-19 pandemic caused the Netherlands Commission for UNESCO to cancel several live events and face-to-face activities in 2020, the Commission quickly adapted to the new situation of meeting and working digitally.
One of the main events of 2020 was a preparatory meeting for the upcoming World Summit on Climate Adaption that is to be hosted in the Netherlands in January of 2021. With this digital event, the Netherlands Commission called for a greater recognition of the power of employing culture, heritage and traditional knowledge in climate action. 

Climate adaptation is not just a matter of finding the best technical or management solutions; rather, it is a human and cultural challenge. Local and traditional forms of knowledge, building on experiences from the past, and the use of heritage are of vital importance in order to create the necessary changes in mindset and to make climate action more inclusive and socially acceptable.

During the event four project managers showcased culture-based solutions to particular climate related challenges in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. 

In addition to the event, the Commission released a statement on ‘culture-based solutions’ to climate adaptation, a best practices paper, and the background paper ‘Changing minds, not the climate: culture-based solutions to local climate adaptation’ that further illustrate this approach and vision.

Other activities led in 2020


The Netherlands Commission for UNESCO, together with the Centre for Global and Inclusive Learning, organised the annual launch of the Global Education Monitoring Report in the Netherlands. Students and teachers discussed the 2020 report’s theme of inclusion, as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education in the Netherlands.

In 2020, the number of ASP schools increased to 61. The Dutch network now comprises of 9 schools for primary education, 37 for secondary education and 15 schools for TVET and/or teacher training.


The pandemic put UNESCO’s science mandate (‘science for society) in the spotlight. UNESCO is preparing new Recommendations on two important subjects: ‘ethics of artificial intelligence’ and ‘open science’. The Netherlands Commission facilitated several national consultation rounds to gather input on both Recommendations. In December 2020, the Commission organised an expert meeting to help formulate a Dutch response to the draft text of the Open Science Recommendation.


The pandemic has had an enormous impact on the cultural sector in the Netherlands. The Commission made great effort to raise awareness for the hardship it caused in all parts of the sector, and advocated for a government support package. Special attention was raised for World Heritage sites that not only experienced a significant income decline but also faced the temporary loss of their numerous volunteers, especially older people who had to stop their activities.

The COVID-crisis has shown the importance of preventive measures, in order to be able to act adequately in crisis situations. The Commission officially advised the government of the Netherlands to take better care of important heritage in the country and to update and revise its blue-shield-strategy. 

Communication & Information

In 2020, the Netherlands was the host country for the annual World Press Freedom Day. The Commission organised a side event on the declining public trust in journalism in democratic societies. The rise of social media and forms of citizen journalism have led to more articulate and vocal citizens, who are increasingly questioning the functioning of journalism and the reliability of reporting. Concepts such as ‘fake news’ and – with a negative connotation – the ‘mainstream media’ have become commonplace. News makers from the Netherlands, Hungary and India discussed the consequences of this declining trust and the options to counter this further decline.

Future Priorities 

The working program of the Commission 2020-2021 has five priorities:

1.     To further anchor the UNESCO values in the Dutch educational system (SDG4)

2.     To view and use science and technology as a basis for a sustainable society (SDG4, 9 and 10)

3.     By embracing diversity, the Commission strives for inclusion, in particular in the domain of culture (SDG 5,10 and 11)

4.     To promote freedom of expression, freedom of press and respect for the diversity of opinions (SDG16)

5.     Climate change as seen from a UNESCO perspective (SDG 11 and 13).

The Netherlands Commission also serves as the National Commission for the Dutch Caribbean islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba. The Commission aims to increase collaboration with the local UNESCO focal points on each island in order to better address specific needs and priorities. 

The Commission continues its collaboration with the National Commissions for UNESCO of the three independent Caribbean islands in the Dutch Kingdom, Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, for instance in the fields of education, intangible heritage and disaster preparedness & response.

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