The First World War (1914-1918) had a profound impact on the history of Belgium and of the whole world. “More than any other modern war, ’14-’18 lives in the memory as the ultimate example of a mismatch between what was at stake and the price that was paid. It is the war of the ‘lost generation’, sacrificed for a cause which, in hindsight, is difficult to pinpoint.” (Sophie De Schaepdrijver). Although the last human witnesses are no longer with us, the First World War remains etched in the collective memory of our nation. Belgium played an important role in the conflict, not least through the courageous resistance shown by our soldiers during the German invasion. ‘Poor little Belgium’ earned the admiration of the world.

It is only fitting, therefore, that Belgium will play a central part in the centenary commemorations. These will include a number of national commemorative ceremonies with international scope. In addition, Belgium’s various levels of government will oversee a range of cultural, artistic, historical and scientific initiatives throughout the period 2014-2018.


The federal government has identified three focal areas:

  • Collective remembrance. All sections of society that made personal sacrifices for the war effort – military personnel, members of the resistance and civilian victims – will be remembered. Passing on memories to future generations must be a central focus.
  • Working together for a peaceful future. Over the years, Belgium has carved out an international reputation as a neutral bridge-builder, an advocate of global disarmament and a promoter of the rule of law and the fight against impunity.
  • Solidarity and partnership. The courage displayed by Belgium during the First World War has had a galvanising effect, confirming the importance of international cooperation and multilateralism. Belgium was a founding member of such powerful institutions as the United Nations, NATO and the European Union.