Why The Hague?
There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask: "Why?"
I dream of things that never were, and ask "Why not?"
Robert F. Kennedy
When IMI's Founding Institutions were planning the creation of the International Mediation Institute, the inevitable question arose - where should it be located? There were only two serious answers - from a practical perspective, IMI needed to be everywhere, meaning in cyberspace; from a physical standpoint, the place to be was clearly The Hague. Today, both represent IMI's locus.
The Hague was chosen as our physical location not because one of IMI's founding institutions, the Netherlands Mediation Institute, is Dutch (NMI is in any case based in Rotterdam) but because The Hague is the City of International Peace, Justice, Reconciliation and Security, a status it has acquired from a number of roots.
One important root is Dutch culture. Pragmatic, forthright, open, industrious, flexible. The Dutch are proud of their origination of the world's first multinational corporation (the Dutch East India Company). Dutch explorers from the 17th Century onwards traversed the globe and colonized new found lands - Ghana, Taiwan, Indonesia to name a few. It was a Dutchman who, as director-general of New Netherland founded the settlement of New Amsterdam, later re-named New York by the British. The centuries-old urge to travel and to trade have generated for the Dutch not only their legendary multilingual capabilities and negotiating expertise, but an international orientation. The Netherlands is widely acceptable cross-culturally, it is located in the geographic heart of Europe, has exceptional transportation connections, is small, efficient, modern, and internationally-minded. The Netherlands is also a multi-cultural society, partly a result of its colonial past but also its openness to immigration; today, almost a quarter of the county's population is non-indigenous, a high proportion of which are non-European residents and citizens.
The most tangible root of The Hague's position in the international legal framework can be traced to the Hague Conference on Private International Law in 1893. That initiative continues today. One of its modern achievements is the Hague Securities Convention, providing certainty to the global process of acquiring, holding and transferring securities.
An appropriate setting, then, for the Dutch jurist and later Nobel Prize winner, Tobias Asser, to engineer the world's first Peace Conference in The Hague in 1899, and its sequel in 1907 which resulted in the world's first forum for the settlement of international disputes, the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The PCA's operation was hugely aided by Andrew Carnegie's endowment that enabled a Peace Palace to be constructed in The Hague, and the PCA remains located there today together along with the International Court of Justice, formed by UN Charter in 1945.
The Hague quickly became the most natural and appropriate place in the world to promote peace and resolve international conflict. The Hague Conference in 1948 stimulated the European Movement that led to the Common Market and the European Union as the way to avoid war. The Iran-United States Claims Tribunal was established in The Hague in 1981, and is still technically in operation. Twelve years later, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was established in The Hague, as was the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 1994 and the International Criminal Court in 2002.
This formal concentration of peace, conflict avoidance and resolution institutions in The Hague, ranging from private and public international law, through settlement and arbitration to social justice, criminal restitution and international development and co-operation has earned the city a unique position as the acknowledged world law center and as the international city of peace and justice. A wide and diverse spectrum of over 150 International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) has consolidated this status by making The Hague their home, or, in some cases, one of their homes. They include:
The Hague Academy of International Law
The Hague Institute for the Internationalization of Law
European Centre for Conflict Prevention
Center for Justice and Reconciliation
Foundation for Peace
International Association of Prosecutors
Association of Defence Counsel
International Dialogue Foundation
Kreddha - International Peace Council for States, Peoples & Minorities
IBA's Human Rights Institute
And there is a further reason why IMI is located in The Hague. The Netherlands has embraced mediation enthusiastically, perhaps more so than any other civil law country. The Netherlands Mediation Institute (NMI) has certified the competency of over 800 mediators, with a further 3,000 registered as members. The NMI is one of IMI's founding institutions, a source from which great inspiration can be drawn.
The IMI office is located in the self-contained, modern Bertha von Suttner Building, Laan van Meerdervoort 70, which is close to the Peace Palace. This fine building has been dedicated by The Hague City Executive exclusively to accommodate some of the non-governmental organizations and to enable them to cross-fertilize, and to share ideas, developments, initiatives and ideals.
The building is named for the Austrian writer and pacifist who became the first female Nobel Peace Prize Laureate in 1905. Bertha von Suttner, author of the best selling novel 'Lay Down your Arms', was a leading peace activist at the turn of the 20th century, contributing articles, lectures, interviews and writings to the peace movement. Her work led to the establishment of the Austrian Peace Society, the German Peace Association, the Hungarian Peace Society and the International Peace Bureau in Geneva. She also played a key role in the formation of the first Hague Peace Conference in 1899, contributing to the idea of a Permanent Court of Arbitration.
The reasons why IMI is located in The Hague cannot be expressed in a single word. But one final factor in the choice is a concept which is essential to effective mediation and which The Hague exemplifies: Neutrality.