opening of The Hague Institute for Global Justice

Speech by the Dutch Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, Maxime Verhagen, at the opening of The Hague Institute for Global Justice, on 10 June 2011 in The Hague

Your Royal Highness,

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Promoting peace and global justice is a painstaking, often frustrating process. It requires perseverance, focus and belief. Yet in the end, it pays off. We are all here today because of our conviction that pursuing peace and global justice pays off.

The arrest of Ratko Mladic, on May 26th, is a case in point. The international community worked for almost sixteen years before one of the main suspects in the massacre at Srebrenica could be brought to justice. But now, here he is in The Hague. That validates all our efforts, both here in The Hague and around the world. The message is clear: war crime suspects can flee, they can hide, but eventually, they will have to face justice.

Dr Albright, I am delighted that we are able to celebrate this success with you today, as you in particular worked so hard for peace and justice in the Balkans.

This arrest is first and foremost an important step in offering justice to the thousands of victims and their families, whose dreadful plight is etched in our memories. But for Serbia it is also an important step toward becoming a fully accepted member of the international community.

I am glad that the Netherlands stood its ground and set full cooperation with the Yugoslavia Tribunal as a precondition for Serbia developing closer ties with the European Union. By doing so, we made clear that justice is one of the basic European values.

Global justice and economics

This is not to say that global justice is the exclusive domain of states. On the contrary. There are many links between global justice and the economic realm, too. I am convinced of that, both as former Minister of Foreign Affairs and as the present Minister of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation.

More and more, companies, too, are realising that they have a responsibility to respect human rights. Especially in countries and regions where governance is weak. This understanding stems in part from the illuminating work of John Ruggie, the UN special representative on business and human rights. But responsible business conduct, or corporate social responsibility, is also clearly linked to support for open trade and investment policy. These are two sides of the same coin. Ultimately, responsible business conduct benefits everyone. It’s the only guarantee for sustainable, long-term business.

This is why, two weeks ago, the business community applauded the 'Ruggie-proof' update of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises at the OECD’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

Strengthening the role of The Hague as city of global justice

Ladies and gentlemen,

As you are all aware, this is no time for complacency.

Our world is complex and the concept of global justice is constantly evolving. We need to deal with conflicts between states and within states. With fragile states. Failed states. Terrorism. Weapons of mass destruction. Environmental issues, natural disasters and global warming. Entrenched poverty and massive flows of refugees.

All these issues require that people from different academic backgrounds and different fields of expertise get together and work together. By doing so, they can develop new insights. Present more complete analyses. Give better policy advice. Offer new integrated services. Services to fragile states with multiple needs, for example, including the training of clerks, judges and prosecutors. Professor Schrijver will tell us all about that in a moment.

The Hague has a vital role to play in this respect, as ‘legal capital of the world’ and the fourth United Nations city after New York, Vienna and Geneva. In recent years, the Netherlands has been attracting an increasing number of international organisations, NGOs, research institutes, think tanks, international schools and embassies. According to a study released today, their number has almost doubled, from 167 in 2004 to 310 last year. The number of jobs generated by these organisations, directly or otherwise, increased by 50 per cent, rising to a total of 36 thousand jobs last year. So the economic spin-off is considerable.

So The Hague benefits from its position as legal capital of the world, just as the world benefits from the knowledge and institutions concentrated in The Hague. Yet, the commission that recommended the establishment of the Institute for Global Justice two years ago was right to point out that The Hague cannot take its leading position as city of peace and justice for granted. Maintaining that privileged position demands constant care and attention.

But this is not simply about increasing The Hague’s appeal as a place to establish an office. This is about the underlying conviction that peace and justice go hand in hand. That they are inextricably linked. That one cannot exist without the other.

TH Institute for Global Justice

Ladies and gentlemen,

The new Institute for Global Justice is a response to the challenges facing the world today. It will help The Hague continue to meet its responsibilities and achieve its ambitions. Many of you have worked hard to make it happen. This is especially true of the Institute’s ‘founding fathers’, and various individuals at city hall, including The Hague’s Municipal Secretary Annet Bertram and Mayor Jozias van Aartsen.

I understand that the task was not an easy one. But you did it. And I commend you for your efforts.

The Dutch government has also worked hard to support you. The result is a grant of 17.5 million euros over a period of five years. This should help you set up an institute that can stand firmly on its own feet and take its rightful place in the City of Peace and Justice. I hope it will also help attract other international organisations and institutions to The Hague and add to the critical mass needed to protect peace and justice worldwide.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I believe in this city’s vocation. I believe in the Netherlands’ vocation as a promoter of global justice -- in line with our constitutional obligation to safeguard the international legal order and the rule of law. Fighting impunity is part and parcel of the Netherlands’ human rights policy. Human rights apply to all people, in all places, at all times.

Every time a helicopter lands at the detention centre in Scheveningen, the message from The Hague rings loud and clear: impunity is not an option. Perpetrators of serious international crimes know that they will be held accountable. The world will not let them go unpunished.

Global justice has won many battles. And there are many more to be fought. I sincerely hope that the Institute for Global Justice will help us win them all.

Thank you.