A group of African dignitaries raise their smartphones to take photos in the Peace Palace. As they are introduced to courts of a century ago, a Ugandan Minister looks for his country’s coat of arms on an embroidered chair at the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
By Janet Anderson, The Hague
This new project—inviting justice experts from around the world—is an exercise in public diplomacy by the city and the Dutch government. Its documents describe its role as consolidating the Netherlands “as THE global centre of excellence for peace and justice”.
It has taken since the triumph of Rome in 1998 [read Part II], when The Hague was selected as the seat of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the city to realise the potential benefits. At first, the Dutch were caught sleeping when the ICC was born in 2002 ahead of the predicted schedule and says Thijs Buchli (umlaut) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs—the Dutch also had to deal with internal disagreements over the new court. The Ministry of Justice slogan at the time was the Netherlands “shouldn’t end up as the criminal rubbish bin of the world.” Diplomats were concerned that setting up the court “shouldn’t be a free ride for the rest of the world at the Netherlands’ expense” and argued for “a proper cost-sharing arrangement,” Buchli says.
William Pace of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court blames the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) for “negligence in not setting up a competition and working out what the host country would give and not give.” That lack of preparation dogged negotiations over financial rules and a permanent site for the court. When the end of the ten-year rent-free period in temporary offices loomed this year, the ICC threatened to look elsewhere. But the Dutch agreed to pay another six months’ rent—3 million euros—and the court plans to pay itself for the next few years.
Willem Genugten, professor of law in Tilburg says the cost of international justice is a recurring theme in the Netherlands. “At the beginning of the millennium it was not clear what the economic benefits would be. The Dutch are extremely Calvinistic—making things difficult when it comes to money issues,” says Professor Peter van Krieken of Webster University. But, says van Genugten, research by the municipality has helped tone down arguments.
From 2005 to 2010 the number of international organisations in The Hague increased from 72 to 199 and embassies from 95 to 111. Jobs in these institutions increased from 12,000 to over 18,000. Employees’ spending power and the purchase of products and services by international organisations in and around The Hague support another 17,500 jobs. The Hague’s new slogan, ‘International City of Peace and Justice’ is the key. The mayor, Jozias van Aartsen told Dutch Honorary Consuls last month that he was busy “put[ting] the Netherlands more firmly on the map over the next ten years as the worldwide centre of expertise in the area of peace and justice”.
In their report, van Genugten and two colleagues recommended making the city the place where “not only practising law, but also studying and making international law, is more relevant.” Van Genugten was asked to put his ideas into practice when he became Dean of The Hague Institute for Global Justice (HIGJ)—a brand new legal think tank. It has received 17.5 million from the government, more than 2 million from the municipality and about 10 million in kind from Dutch institutes over five years. “So that’s quite an investment,” he points out.
Ugandan deputy ambassador Mirjam Blaak agrees that “coordination was lacking” in the past and wonders whether there was a degree of “complacency” within the Dutch government after getting the ICC. Now, she says, more academic institutions are filling gaps. She believes the Dutch should take “an extra step to make the city more hospitable.” She was surprised when the intergovernmental group, Justice Rapid Response, didn’t get a more generous offer from the Dutch when they asked to relocate here. A better offer came from Switzerland, where they are setting up headquarters.
At city level, money—hundreds of thousands from its own pot and Dutch ministries—is invested in finding synergies between legal institutions and business counterparts through organisations such as The Hague Security Delta and The Hague Utilities for Global Organisations. The city spent more than 13 million euros this year on city marketing, with over 350,000 hotel guests expected.
At national level the Ministry of Foreign Affairs put more than 100 million euros into strengthening international law and respect for human rights, as “a strong international legal order requires well-functioning international institutions with broad public support.” Over the last decade, according to ASP budgets, Dutch contributions to the ICC amounted to nearly 22 million euros. This year’s contribution is almost 3 million - in addition to the rent subsidy.
Part of the new emphasis lies on potential economic benefits for Dutch companies. At The HIGJ, one project involves development of a bio-economic dispute resolution mechanism. “This is about companies in the Netherlands and elsewhere using natural resources,” explains van Genugten. Seed money—300,000 euro—comes from the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Minister Maxime Verhagen, opening the HIGJ last year, noted the ”links between global justice and the economic realm,” saying they are “two sides of the same coin. Ultimately responsible business conduct benefits everyone.”
Even in a long-established tribunal such as the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), the emphasis has shifted from arbitrating between states to solving problems for investors. It’s a “rapidly-expanding area of law” according to new Secretary-General Hugo Siblesz. There is a “growing network of bilateral investment treaties,” he adds—more than 3,000 and the PCA is now being called in when there are disputes.
From a diplomatic perspective the Netherlands expects to profit from championing justice and the ICC. Mayor van Aartsen—who was Foreign Minister when the ICC came into being—likes to tells audiences abroad that international justice is the “vocation of Holland” and that “the Netherlands ha[s] a leading role to play in a supranational legal community.” The new project bringing visitors to the legal institutions also portrays international justice as a “high potential niche for Dutch foreign policy.”
But some Dutch officials worry. Warner ten Kate, former political advisor to the UN at the Juba peace talks, describes Dutch support for international justice as “very extreme”. He says, “It doesn’t allow much space for other considerations to do with conflict resolution. I mean these things do tie your hands diplomatically.” He cites tensions earlier this year around the South Sudan independence referendum. Dutch Development Minister Ben Knapen argued that despite the ICC’s arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al Bashir for genocide, it was important to engage with him. “Al-Bashir going down might destabilise the North. But you need a government that is able to deal with this appropriately. Chaos is in nobody’s interest,” he said in an interview with Radio Netherlands Worldwide.
“It was a fragile situation so that’s why he said it,” says Ten Kate. But then there was “noise from pro-international justice circles. And he tried to claw back.” The implications are “that Knapen is not capable of making a potentially better policy towards Sudan that takes questions around stability into account. He is obliged to take the route of simply supporting the ICC and nothing else. It’s a limitation on policy options.”
The Hague as a new brand
“The Hague cannot take its leading position as city of peace and justice for granted. Maintaining that privileged position demands constant care and attention,” says van Genugten. “Diplomatic efforts should not stop, but should be accompanied by a combination of the practical and the PR world. Economics is important—it leads to extra jobs and extra economic attention for The Hague. But also important is the immaterial, strengthening our image as the country of Grotius and peace conferences, and competing as a world city.”
Hugo Siblesz of the PCA is sure the world is starting to recognise what the Dutch have to offer. “When you read the Economist or International Herald Tribune or an African newspaper, you see a new phrase is coined: ‘He will be sent to The Hague,’” says Krieken. “The Hague is an institution in itself. It’s tremendous.” The new brand may well succeed, but are its true long-term benefits a certainty?