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Unity in Diversity is last act of Kingdom’s bicentennial

page4a111AMSTERDAM--A successful celebration involving all parts of the Kingdom with the emphasis on doing things together, sharing the past and the future: On the eve of the final event titled Unity in Diversity, Chairperson of the National Committee for the Bicentennial of the Dutch Kingdom Ank Bijleveld-Schouten looked back on a positive celebration that lasted two years and covered six large public events.

“Our goal was a celebration not only for big shots, but for everyone – commemorating 200 years of the Kingdom together,” Bijleveld-Schouten said at a press conference in Amsterdam on Friday, one day before the final event at Carré Theatre which will be attended by King Willem-Alexander, Queen Máxima, Princess Beatrix and other members of the royal family.

“Having a Kingdom requires maintenance. It is important to keep working on this together and to observe our achievements,” said Bijleveld-Schouten, representative of the King for the province Overijssel and a former State Secretary of Kingdom Relations who was involved in the process to dismantle the country the Netherlands Antilles and to establish the new countries Curaçao and St. Maarten.

The six events that were organised in the past two years, from December 2013 to September 2015, were centred on a specific theme relating to the Kingdom. Democracy was a recurring element in the celebration. Saturday’s event in Amsterdam, the final event, is Unity in Diversity, “With room to be different and still be together.”

The Prime Ministers and Governors of the Dutch Caribbean have been invited to the final event on Saturday. Kingdom Youth Parliament Chairperson Marifer Aguirre Broca of Aruba will be sharing her dream for the Kingdom when she addresses the audience at Carré. “We want to demonstrate that we are doing this together, that we give attention to one another,” said Bijleveld-Schouten.

The formal part at Carré will be succeeded by a large outdoor event on the Amstel River where more than 30 artistes will be performing, including Izaline Calister from Curaçao. The show will be broadcast live on NOS and can be seen on the islands via BVN.

The Dutch Government and private sector organisations invested two million euros and 1.5 million euros respectively in the six events that have been organised in the past two years.

The Committee made sure that sufficient attention was dedicated to the Caribbean part of the Kingdom. The Kingdom Youth Parliament took place in St. Maarten in May 2014. Princess Beatrix gladly accepted the National Committee’s invitation to be present at this three-day debate in which 50 youngsters from throughout the Kingdom participated.

Also a booklet with the time-line of 200 years Kingdom was distributed among all primary schools in St. Maarten, as well as the other Dutch Caribbean islands. The booklet was published in the four languages of the islands: Dutch, English, Papiamentu and Papiamento. Bijleveld-Schouten said on Friday that it always struck her that children in the Dutch Caribbean knew much more about the Kingdom than their peers in the Netherlands.

She said it was important to talk about the Kingdom, its democracy, fundamental rights, and what it meant to people. She said this was not easy to achieve with such a large group. The Kingdom Youth Parliament helped to facilitate this. She said all aspects of the Kingdom had been part of the commemoration: “We didn’t conceal the darker sides of our Kingdom, such as slavery. You have to name that part of our shared history.”

Asked about the growing tensions between the Netherlands and the Caribbean part of the Kingdom, Bijleveld-Schouten said it was essential to keep an open mind and to talk with each other on a regular basis, to discuss the norms and values, but also the many colours in the Kingdom. She added that the National Committee had no political role.  

Not everyone in the Netherlands was aware of the bicentennial celebrations, showed a survey by the bureau Ipsos, carried out on the request of Dutch public broadcaster NOS. Some 45 per cent of the interviewees indicated that they did not know about the anniversary of the Kingdom and the related activities. Only six per cent said they had taken part actively in one of the celebrations held in the some 200 municipalities in the Netherlands in the past two years.

Bijleveld-Schouten did not seem too worried by the figures: “This means that 55 per cent did know about 200 years Kingdom.”

She presented the results of another survey carried out on behalf of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations. This survey showed that at the start of the bicentenary celebrations in December 2013, 41 per cent of the public knew that the Kingdom was celebrating its 200th anniversary. This percentage increased to 50 per cent in the week before the final event this Saturday.

Some 23 per cent indicated that they had attended one of the smaller events organised throughout the Netherlands in the past two years, while 24 per cent watched the official opening in Scheveningen near The Hague in December 2013.

A large part of the people who were interviewed for the survey considered it important that attention was paid to democratic fundamental rights (80 per cent), unity (78 per cent), history (75 per cent), the future of the Kingdom (64 per cent) and orientation abroad (60 per cent) during the celebration of 200 years of the Kingdom.

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