Papiamentu in the Netherlands recognised under Charter

Speaking Papiamentu is a very important way for speakers of the language to express their identity and cultural wealth, making it crucial to protect Papiamentu for current and future generations. The official recognition of Papiamentu in the European Netherlands under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages is an important milestone.

Handvest Europees Nederland

On the 11th of March 2021, the then Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations concluded 'The Papiamentu on Bonaire Administrative Agreement' with the Public Entity of Bonaire, partly on behalf of the ministers of Education, Culture and Science and Primary and Secondary Education, as well as the state secretary of the Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations. The Administrative Agreement Papiamentu on Bonaire underlines that Papiamentu has come under increasing pressure from other languages, which may eventually prompt the undesirable weakening of the language. The administrative agreement therefore laid out a route to recognition of Papiamentu under the charter, both on Bonaire and in the European Netherlands.

European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages

The Charter is a Council of Europe convention for the protection of minority languages traditionally present in the territory of a State. Being recognised under the charter strengthens the position and status of the language. The Charter recognises the value of Papiamentu to the identity and cultural experience of its speakers.

Languages can be recognised under Part II or Part III of the Charter. Part II recognition protects language in a broad sense and requires States to remove legislative barriers to the use of a language.  Languages recognised under Part III of the Charter should not only be protected but also actively promoted. Under Part III of the Charter, agreements must be made on the use of a language in, for example, education, the legal system, governance, media and the cultural sector. In January this year, Papiamentu was recognised in Bonaire under Part III of the European Charter. Now, children can be taught in Papiamentu on Bonaire and Papiamentu can also be spoken in Bonaire's courts. In the European Netherlands, Papiamentu has been recognised under Part II of the Charter from the 1st of July. The decree was officially handed over to the Council of Europe today, on National Slavery Remembrance Day, following the opening of an exhibition on the history of slavery at the Palais de l'Europe. The exhibition "Slavery. Ten True Stories of Dutch Colonial Slavery" was organised by the Permanent Representation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Council of Europe. The opening ceremony was also attended by the Public Entity of Bonaire and Fundashion Akademia Papiamentu. After the opening ceremony, the decree was formally handed over to the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Bjørn Berge.    

Permanent representative to the CoE Tanja Gonggrijp:

"These personal stories expose a story of dehumanization, and at the same time a story of human dignity. This history shows us the importance of respect for and promotion of equality and dignity for all; the foundation of all human rights and at the core of work of the Council of Europe.”

Island Commissioner den Heyer:

“Papiamentu is regarded on Bonaire by many as a living monument to cultural syncretism and durability of survivors born out of that dark chapter in our human history. Needless to say, for those born on or descending from the islands, Papiamentu is an undeniable heritage, foundation of culture but above all, a much-loved language among its native speakers and diaspora. Let us remember that every language, no matter how small, is a cornerstone of our shared human heritage. By protecting and celebrating endangered languages, we affirm our commitment to a Europe that values diversity, respects cultural differences, and cherishes the myriad voices that contribute to its narrative.”

Financial boost for Papiamentu on Bonaire

To further accelerate the protection and promotion of Papiamentu, the Minister of the Interior made available €1 million to support the implementation of the Papiamentu Administrative Agreement on Bonaire after signing the Bonaire Administrative Agreement earlier this year. The Public Entity of Bonaire intends to use these funds to set up a language institute in order to support the implementation of the Papiamentu Administrative Agreement on Bonaire.

For more information about recognised minority languages in the Netherlands, visit: Which languages have been recognised in the Netherlands |