The BES Public Records Act. Exploratory study of the care for public records on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

Every citizen has the right to know which decisions the government makes and on which grounds. Government organisations must be able to reconstruct these records for their own operations and for the purposes of accountability. Some public records are also part of our cultural heritage. Citizens can, for example, use these records from the past to find information about their ancestors and land ownership. Public records must therefore be easily accessible. The BES Public Records Act (2010) establishes a framework for the realisation of these objectives for the islanders and governments of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

Afbeelding van een gebouw op Bonaire met bomen


In April 2018, the Cultural Heritage Inspectorate visited the Caribbean Netherlands to fulfil its mandate to monitor compliance with the BES Public Records Act and the 1995 Public Records Act. The purpose of this visit was to gain an initial impression of how the public entities manage public records. We also took the opportunity to form a general impression of the information management practices of central government institutions on the islands and the extent to which they cooperate with the public entities.

The Cultural Heritage Inspectorate has held discussions with administrators, Island Council members and civil servants and appreciates the candour and constructive attitude shown in these discussions. These meetings gave us a good impression of the extent to which information management supports the work of the administrations and how the archives are currently managed. We also note that they cannot yet assume full administrative responsibility for the BES Public Records Act, simply because the basic facilities and conditions are lacking. Effective management is conditional on the implementation of the legal framework.

The Inspectorate believes that a systematic, island based approach and timetable are necessary to achieve this. Three topics also require urgent attention on each of the islands:  

  1. The establishment of a safe archive space where citizens can access their cultural heritage.
  2. Processing and preservation of old archives.
  3. Updating the tools for storing and destroying public records.

A financial contribution is required from the central government of the Netherlands to realise these objectives.

This report was published on 12-6-2019 at And translated into English at the request of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science  (November 2023).