GaWC Research Bulletin 160

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This Research Bulletin has been published in Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, 97 (3), (2006), 253-266.


Please refer to the published version when quoting the paper.


'Legal Capital of the World': Political Centre-Formation in The Hague

H. van der Wusten*


The Hague, government center of the Netherlands, has intermittently played some role as a center in international judicial affairs. There is now an ambition to underline and further specify the city's international profile. In this paper I analyze the arrival and establishment of the international organizations and the actors involved in international political center-formation in The Hague. Contingencies, the functional dynamics of center-formation, relevant actor performance and the competition of constructed images of the center all play a role in the eventual outcome.


The Hague, political center of the Netherlands though not its official capital city, has recently gained a renewed reputation as a host of international organizations, particularly in the broad area of law, peace and justice. This continues a tradition and new efforts are now made to brand The Hague as the world's main center of its kind (‘legal capital of the world'). The presence of similarly orientated academic institutions within the city, the actions of city administration and national government and the support of an international network of interested parties underline and encourage this process. This is one instance of ever recurring processes of geographical center-formation in different sectors at various scales. In this paper I describe this case of judicial-political center-formation at the international level, speculate about the conditions that set the terms for its course in this specific instance, and consider the importance of policy initiatives.

As the political center of the United Republic, venue for the most important meetings of the Dutch governing class since its inception, The Hague also played a crucial role in the diplomatic exchanges of the early Westphalian system. One of the earliest peace congresses after 1648 was the Congress of Ryswick (Rijswijk in Dutch, 1697) at one of the Stadtholder's mansions just outside The Hague. During the final years of the long 19th century The Hague saw the most sustained common effort to tame international relations under the rules of international law resulting in the establishment of a court. Since the early 1990s The Hague has become home to a series of new international initiatives in the judicial-political field. While The Hague lacks a university, a number of institutions of higher education including library facilities focused at the same issue area has gradually been established in the city, thus helping to provide an important and rich supportive milieu for international governance in this sector.

In order to realize the ambition to become a world class center national governments' negotiating skills are needed to bring the international institutions to the Netherlands and local government's managing skills are needed to provide a hosting environment that nurtures existing institutions and encourages further growth. An international supportive network of some consequence is useful, perhaps indispensable, to sustain the further evolution of such a center. It is often thought that this kind of endeavor can only be successful by a broadly shared and approved constructed reality that highlights the features of the project in the public eye. For such branding a broadly supported image of the city rooted in the reality of its appearance is needed and a persuasive ‘mythistory' (MacNeill 1986), a narrative that connects this interpretation of the present to the past and the future.

Center-formation is one of the basic principles in the organization of social space. Centers are aggregates of facilities on which many social actors (individuals, groups, companies, associations) are (made) dependent. They may be the headquarters or branch offices of organizations, the outlets for service provision or goods deliverance, the stages for the display of the arts or the symbols and the substance of political authority. The functions they perform, may be economic (materially resulting e.g. in shopping malls), cultural (materially resulting e.g. in museum miles, bohemia) or political (materially resulting e.g. in government complexes). The nature of the dependency differs (relative utility, aesthetic preference, submission to authority). Its range may be local, national or global.

The geographical concentration of the locations where these functions reside, occurs for a number of reasons. The locations of important functions provoke or are the result of favorable accessibility and therefore attract new functions, centers gain symbolic significance and become the ‘natural' places to be oriented to, centers provide opportunities for face-to-face contacts with personnel of other central functions, centers can afford high quality supportive milieus that consequently develop and add to the existing central quality of a place. Such combinations of aggregates of central functions and their supports develops into ever higher concentrations and is accompanied by land pressure and congestion, possibly also decrease of utility, aesthetic satisfaction or loyalty. This results in new center formation and so on. This long term historical development at various scales is altered but certainly not completely destroyed by the electronic revolution. Overcoming basic uncertainties and distrust by face-to-face relations for non-routine interaction, the power of physical symbolism, the importance of a supportive milieu in real time and space, the dead weight of history, all these factors work for the enduring importance of centers in social affairs.

Center-formation results from the interplay of the decision-makers who realize and maintain the facilities and attract an audience, and the public that orients itself to these facilities and makes demands for further developments. This interplay can be imagined as extremely unbalanced: e.g. political authority imposes a center versus markets that produce centers based on aggregate demand. But there are theoretical reasons and empirical evidence suggesting much more balanced sets of causes and considerations in actual cases. Nonetheless the relative importance of factors connected to decisionmakers and public will vary considerably among cases. For the establishment of international organizations the aggregate ‘demand' of state governments is of paramount importance given the absence of an overarching political authority. But this aggregate demand is the sum total of highly unequal individual contributions, articulated during negotiations. Consequently, the result is not a mechanical aggregate but one weighted for the distribution of negotiating skills and the dynamics of a decisional process.

Policy by public authority will thus always have an impact on center-formation in the economic, cultural and certainly in the political sector. Even for economic functions in market economies with minimal intervention public policies aim to influence private investment decisions. Cultural and particularly political functions are more often financed by public means but their location decisions are frequently in various hands simultaneously and their eventual location is the outcome of a bargaining process sometimes guided by rivalries about symbols, sometimes the result of a competition on the basis of bid books. The actual location of functions will exercise governments at different tiers of the administrative hierarchy of a country. In this instance the national government of the Netherlands and the local government of The Hague are particularly involved. Both are affected by factors like the assets of the local and national context that determine the preference for a particular type of function (e.g. international organizations in the judicial-political domain) and for selected locations in a particular city (e.g. specific parts of the national political center of the Netherlands) and factors that provide tangible empowerment in the relevant arenas to acquire the institutions and to provide them with adequate housing (the advantages in terms of tax exemptions and housing provisions on offer, the necessary international contacts) (Savitch & Kantor (2002, 46-52) use the metaphors of steering and driving to elucidate a comparable but not quite similar phenomenon: the attraction of international investment by city governments).

Processes of center formation have mostly extensively been studied for economic functions in market economies, first at the local and regional scale but more recently also at the global level. There is a range of studies about the retail trade but also more recently about the role of producer services in the emergence of global or world cities. There has only been a modest interest in the political sector that will exercise us here. For international functions, such interest has so far been minute (Christaller (1933), Whitney (1970), Sassen (1991), Guy (1999),Taylor (2004),van der Wusten (2004)).

To properly portray The Hague's history and recent re-emergence as an international political center of a certain kind and better understand the conditions of this process, I in fact need comparative evidence. In the Dutch context The Hague and Amsterdam are useful cases for comparison. Amsterdam is the nominal capital city of the country and also has a clear international presence, but of a different kind. The main question here is how the two relate to the national government and how their different historical profiles impinge on their emerging international positions despite a lot of similarities. In the European context The Hague may be well compared to Geneva and Vienna that apparently followed similar courses in terms of attracting international organizations though with somewhat different timelines and rates of success. The questions here are about differences in local and national qualications, policy differences, historical contingencies and the resulting differences in timeline and success. Finally a comparison with the European apex of international political center formation is called for. The positions of Brussels, London and Paris provide some perspective to The Hague's relative importance. In this exploratory presentation I will only briey touch upon these comparisons.

Center-formation affects urban life as a whole. Cities are by denition nodes in larger networks and/or centers of a surrounding hinterland. That is, they contain aggregates of functions that contribute to either of these two different roles. The quality of city life is predicated on what specific kind of center they will be and how well they will play that role. The civic life of thriving market towns contrasts with run down regional centers, benign courts make different towns from cities where a tyrant resides. Market towns differ from political centers, global cities housing a plethora of producer services from cosmopolitan cities where international courts reside and global monitoring mechanisms have their home base. The question of course is how these different aggregates of central functions precisely help shape the social structure of cities and the contents of urban life. Does an extensive presence of international organizations, and additionally a specific profile of such organizations result in particular consequences for the city of The Hague? This is an important question to consider, for local government in particular. Speculative answers inform policy-making in the field. There are snippets of evidence e.g. concerning the extra income from international meetings, the estimated numbers of foreign residents as a result of these functions and their contribution to purchasing power, the use of facilities as consumers and city life more generally, but no systematic study has been done to my knowledge (in this case reported in Verkerk 2003). I will refrain from further discussion of this question in this paper.

In brief in this paper I will concentrate on the following questions:

  • What is the inow of international organizations in the Hague and what is the contribution of functions in the judicial domain?
  • To what extent has a service component of center-formation evolved?
  • How can the center-formation that has occurred, be interpreted in terms of historical contingencies, functional dynamics of center-formation, local and national policy and the impact of international professional networks?
  • To what extent has a convincing and widely shared imagined construction of the center (a branding of the project) been produced?


The locations of the first post-1648 peace congresses were somewhat concentrated in the United Provinces (Duchhardt 1999), one ended at the outskirts of The Hague. They were exceptional incidents interrupting the ongoing series of bilateral dialogues among states, but lacking any permanent diplomatic machinery to accommodate the multilateral structure of their interactions. Permanent interstate cooperation based on multilateral treaties and provided with some organizational apparatus slowly started in the decades preceding World War I. In 1919-1920 the League of Nations system took shape with its seat in Geneva. After World War II there was a new round of institutionmaking at the global level and in Europe with major new international center formation in Washington D.C. and New York and in Brussels. The end of the Cold War changed the structure of international relations and the parameters of international co-operation. The Iron Curtain, already rusty in places and shaky at the margins, collapsed. A new architecture of international politics was required. In this architecture there was room for new groupings of states, for a new distribution of roles among the various political centers, but also for adapted versions of well-established institutions. It is in this political context that The Hague emerged and re-emerged as an aspiring international political center.

Table 1. Intergovernmental Organizations with major offices in The Hague according to period of establishment and sector of activity


Other domains


Hague Conference on Private International Law

Permanent Court of Arbitration

Permanent Court of International Justice / International Court of Justice


European Patent Ofce (branch The Hague at Rijswijk)

ESTEC/European Space Agency(at Noordwijk)

Paris MoU on Port State Control


High Commissioner on National Minorities OSCE

International Nickel Study Group

Organisation of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

NATO C3 Agency

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

UN Environment Programme GPA Coordination Office

International Criminal Court



(Data particularly from Eyffinger 2003 and Municipality of The Hague 2004)

In Table 1 I divide the city's current collection of intergovernmental organizations based on multilateral treaties in those established in the three periods earlier mentioned. They are also classied according to their sector of activity as perceived in policy circles in order to separate those that in particular qualify The Hague as an international center in the sphere of the law. In this way we get a view of The Hague's traditional and newly emergent profile as the seat of intergovernmental institutions and can then assess the emphasis on judicial institutions in different periods.

The most recent period has also been characterized as one in which the predominance of state-oriented institutions is on the wane and transnational institutions emanating from civil society are increasingly preponderant. I do not consider this view in this paper. To my mind it is premature to declare the European nation state dead or seriously declining and it is still highly relevant to consider the interconnection of states as a vital mainstay of international social life. Nonetheless the transnational, civil side of international organization - the international NGO's in current parlance - , has always been important for the understanding of intergovernmental cooperation and I will refer to an instance of this kind further in the paper.

Before World War I The Netherlands participated frequently in the multilateral agreements that were made in that period but it was slow in putting itself forward as the host of the ensuing organizations (Reinalda 2004, 10). The country was only at a late stage and indirectly involved in the negotiations concerning the League of Nations as it had remained neutral during the preceding war (Hunter Miller 1923, Smit 1973, 144-148; Northedge 1986 ). Nonetheless The Hague became home to several institutions concerned with different aspects of the law as they occur in interstate relations and in relations between private parties across state boundaries. A few intergovernmental bodies in other sectors, European in scope, were established much more recently after the main organs of co-operation in Western Europe had been well established. Some are pretty large and they have been located outside the municipality of The Hague proper.

In the most recent period The Hague acquired a number of judicial institutions and a few in other fields. This is also true if we would compare the new acquisitions to the relevant new judicial institutions established in the world or elsewhere in Europe during this period. This conclusion would probably remain valid if we put weights on the different institutions, e.g. in terms of staff, formal authority and reputation. In short, since 1989 The Hague indeed has become more prominent as a city where international functions connected with the law further aggregated. Already for a long time home to some of the most prestigious organs representing international law in the world, the city was further endowed with important functions and thus strengthened its central position in this field. However, it is important to remember that some of the major legal institutions that emerged in the intervening years do not have their seat here. Think of the European Court in Luxemburg, the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg and the Tribunal concerning the Law of the Sea in Hamburg.

In the following paragraphs (largely based on Eyffinger 2003 plus some interviews and a few literary works) I characterize the origin and aims of the judicial organizations, as this paper is focused on that area, and enumerate the main parties involved in the decisions concerning their seat. I start with the three traditional institutions and then move on to the new additions. They incrementally strengthen The Hague's international position in this field. It should be emphasized at this point that it is uncommon for international organizations to die. A few have been meant as temporary, but even so their duration may be considerable. If organizations fade away, they are often transformed into new institutions of similar kind or they are reinvigorated under new circumstances.

Contrary to the three legal institutions that have been present in The Hague for a long time, there is some articiality in labeling all of the new acquisitions as judicial. This particularly applies to the OSCE High Commissioner and the OPCW. These institutions are probably considered part of the effort to position The Hague as a center of international law because their presence is more closely linked to the initiators of that effort in the field of diplomacy and law and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In fact the Paris MoU Port State Control, an inspection system of unsafe ships, qualies just as much but it is more closely connected to the Ministry of Trafc and Waterworks as does the major branch of the European Patent Office, that is more in the purview of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (and is established in Rijswijk). I will nonetheless follow the labeling used in policy circles as exemplied by Eyffinger (2003) in his recent book accompanying an exhibition commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and co-sponsored by the municipality of The Hague. I leave out of consideration the Iranian-US Claims Tribunal established in The Hague since 1981 as it is really a bilateral affair that is outside the scope of the multilateral initiatives that are at issue here. It is nonetheless a signicant indication of the presence of a supportive local milieu that the Claims Tribunal was established in The Hague. The support is produced by the existing aggregate of central functions (in this case in particular the Permanent Court of Arbitration) plus the locally available legal expertise and specialized services as a result of the presence of the initial central function.

The three traditional institutions stem primarily from the period of internationalism before World War I that was to provide the mechanisms for smooth international contacts as they increased and stem the tide of intensifying nationalism, unprecedented arms racing and geopolitical competition. The growing international trafc provoked (apart from technical coordination as regards standard time, weight and measurements, train schedules and the like) the development of legal instruments to deal with the consequences of actions that emanated from within different legal systems and had to be accommodated. The increasing interstate tension provoked efforts to diminish the chances of war outbreaks and mitigate their consequences by introducing novel ways to resolve interstate conicts, restraining rules for the conduct of war, disarmament proposals. Much of this programme was moved to the agenda of the League of Nations. It gave rise to one more international institution that eventually landed in The Hague.

The improvement of the accommodation of varying legal systems was facilitated by a number of conferences that eventually found a permanent home base in The Hague not least because of the presence of an inspiring individual, Tobias Asser. In 1893 a series of Hague Conferences on Private International Law was inaugurated (1893, 1894, 1900, 1904, 1925, 1928, 1951) chaired by Asser until his death in 1913. These conferences attracted new kinds of legal experts, knowledgeable about the different legal traditions and aiming to nd workable solutions for practical problems arising from increased contacts and they had some practical consequences. In fact, only in 1951 a statute for a permanent institution was drawn up under the same title as the conferences. It came into force in 1955 and currently has 62 signatories. The seat is in the Hague in a stylish accommodation opposite the Peace Palace (on which more below).

One of the efforts to accommodate interstate tension was the Hague Conference of 1899, initiated by the Russian Czar, incidentally and without encouragement from the Dutch government held in The Hague (a major analysis is Eyffinger 1999). It was attended by large delegations of 26 countries plus numerous observers. As regards arms control/disarmament the conference ended in failure despite serious efforts and a highly qualied presence of politicians and specialists for a considerable period plus the best minds of the international peace movement. However, it agreed on some aspects of humanitarian law (ius in bello). In addition, its third commission initiated a Permanent Court of Arbitration. This provided a mechanism that states could call upon to resolve conict but not an institution to uphold the law. The court was as a matter of fact, an obvious result of the place of the conference, established in The Hague. It consisted of a very small bureau that could call upon outside expertise from across the world to act as arbitrator in a specific case if need be. It also had meeting rooms for a case to be heard.

Despite its limited results the first Hague conference left a sufciently strong impression to enable a second conference in The Hague in 1907 particularly induced by the efforts of Th. Roosevelt and preparations for a third conference in 1915 that had to be cancelled on account of the war. Even more important for anchoring The Hague's vocation as an international judicial center was Andrew Carnegie's gift that financed the Peace Palace, a permanent gathering place for the study of international law including a library and the eventual accommodation of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. It was The Hague conference of 1899 and more in particular the suggestions of an American and a Russian delegate to Carnegie, that provoked the gift in 1903. This resulted after many difficulties, that did not show the Dutch government or The Hague municipality to be particularly purposeful or efcient to successfully accommodate the project, in the completion of the building in 1913. As Carnegie had made his gift conditional on the lasting maintenance of the building at the expense of the Dutch state (plus the acquisition of an appropriate plot), which was accepted, the government brought into being a Carnegie Foundation administered by longtime members of the political elite of the country that has been in charge of the building ever since.

When the League of Nations after 1920 decided to the Institution of a kind of World Court, the Peace Palace in The Hague was one ‘natural' place for it to sit, but not the only one. The seat of the League itself had mainly been disputed between Brussels and Geneva. Particularly as a result of American preference based on the local humanitarian tradition and earlier experience with arbitration with the Americans as a party in Geneva, and against French preferences and an outstanding dispute on the international border close to the city, the issue was provisionally (according to article 7 of the League) decided in favour of Geneva. It was only since 1929 that the League disposed there of its huge headquarters. Geneva, Brussels and Copenhagen were alternative candidates for the Court. The Statute for the Court was drafted after the League had been brought into being by a committee of ten prominent jurists brought together in the Peace Palace and it is probably not least their influence that brought the Permanent Court of International Justice to The Hague. Some extra lobbying efforts by the Dutch government have been mentioned. The country's position was still tainted by a presumed pro German attitude during the war and the acceptance of the German Kaiser as a refugee plus the tense relation with Belgium one of the war's main victims. Dutch international civil servants were also prominent in the legal affairs department of the League.

The Court got two functions: adjudicating conicts between state parties willing to recognize its jurisdiction and legal advice for the organs of the organization itself. The court obviously did not dispose of any enforcing capacity. The interconnection between The Hague and the League's headquarters is strongly expressed in G.B. Shaw's bitter satirical play called ‘Geneva' written in 1938. It ridicules the League as an institution. The later acts are in fact situated in The Hague's Peace Palace where Hitler, Mussolini and a Russian commissar all make their pleas and express their threats in front of a feeble court (Shaw 1938).

During the negotiations on the future United Nations the Court was with some adaptations inscribed in the Charter as one of the main organs of the organization, in large part maintaining the functions it already had in the days of the League. Without major discussion the seat was maintained in The Hague. Consequently the Permanent Court of International Justice became the International Court of Justice. Both have always been important occupants of the Peace Palace.

The six post-1989 initiatives in the judicial field stem from different groupings: three from the United Nations but from different parts of that extended family, two from the European Union, one from the set of states involved in the Helsinki process encompassing the American bloc, the Soviet bloc and the European neutrals. The conversations and lobbying activities concerning their arrival, the negotiations and decisions about the seats of these institutions all occurred between 1992 and 2001. Within the national government the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Justice (in the case of the EU institutions) have been the most involved. The effort to acquire the seat of an international organization is always a cabinet decision and in the case of the European Union institutions the prime minister was directly involved through his membership of the European Council. The Office for the Management of Government Buildings (Rijksgebouwendienst) that is part of the Ministry of Housing, Physical Planning and the Environment plays a vital role in providing office space though this is not necessarily always within government owned buildings. In particular where a sustained international lobby was maintained and bidbooks had to be presented (e.g. in the case of OPCW and ICC), the municipality of The Hague played an important supportive role. It was also actively involved in finding adequate space for the ICTY which ended in an agreement with a private insurance company that moved address.

The position of High Commissioner of the OSCE materialized as part of the institutionalization of the Helsinki process. Even before CSCE was transformed into OSCE, the Netherlands pressed for this position of High Commissioner (ethno-national conflict threatened the political map), proposed a very experienced and generally acceptable first candidate and then also acquired the seat of this branch of the institution as the headquarters were located in Vienna's Hofburg. The High Commissioner works through quiet diplomacy in order to prevent outbreaks of ethnic conict. He runs a small office situated in a 18th century patrician house at the edge of golden century The Hague. The first Dutch officeholder M. Van der Stoel has been succeeded by the experienced Swedish diplomat R. Ekeus.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons came to The Hague as the result of a sustained, professional lobbying effort directed by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs assisted by The Hague municipality. The decision was part of the final negotiations for the treaty by the UN disarmament conference in Geneva. Talks had been going on for decades without much success. The negotiating process was speeded up and the treaty finalized as the Cold War unraveled, Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against the Kurds and interested parties like the Australian and Canadian government moved the diplomatic process forward. It is not obvious why The Hague got the seat. Vienna was a major contender. It already had IAEA, which on the face of it might result in synergy, and the UNO city facility. But at this stage its president Kurt Waldheim had become a diplomatic liability whereas he had in earlier times given a boost to Vienna's international ambitions during his tenure as secretary general of the UN. In order to attract more international organizations the Austrian government seems to have been extremely forthcoming in granting benefits to incoming diplomats. Since the treaty entered into force in 1997 the OPCW has been housed in a new office building designed by an American architect in a prestigious location completely different from the one announced in the bidbook, somewhat out of the center of the city. One of the reasons for the move was the WTC bomb attack in 1993 in New York which changed the housing requirement for this type of institution.

Europol was launched as a result of the Maastricht treaty among the member states of the European Union instituted at this occasion. The Maastricht Treaty made the area of Justice and Home Affairs into a new field of intensified cooperation and Europol was one of the first results. The cooperation among police forces of member states was deemed urgent and necessary to fight transnational crime. Cooperation was initially aimed at the international drugs trade. The prevention and suppression of terror has subsequently put new emphasis on this kind of cooperation. An effective cooperation of police forces necessitates the sharing of information. This is by no means easy to achieve. A major aim of Europol is to improve the possibilities for information sharing. The seat of Europol was awarded to the Netherlands during the gathering of European political leaders in Laeken 1993. The Dutch lobby had primarily been conducted by the Department of Justice. A major argument was the immediate availability of adequate housing. Particularly as a result of the recent new entrants to the EU this housing has now been filled to the limit and extra accommodation is prepared close to OPCW headquarters.

The Yugoslav Tribunal as it is commonly known, resulted from an initiative in the UN secretariat in New York in early 1993. It was on short notice offered to the Netherlands and readily accepted, as the situation in former Yugoslavia deteriorated. Offer and easy acceptance may have been helped by the presence of a new Minister of Foreign Affairs (Prof. Kooijmans) who was a respected international law scholar with a wellestablished network in the small world where diplomacy meets law. He later became a judge in the International Court of Justice. The ICTY functions on the basis of a Security Council Resolution. At first sight it was seen by many as a problematic, risky initiative. The established court in the Peace Palace in The Hague (ICJ) was unwilling to be involved too intimately and kept the newborn institution at arms length although informal assistance for its initial stages was provided. The Yugoslav Tribunal grew from very humble beginnings. It has grown through various ups and downs and has produced a number of surprises. It is a temporary institution that will probably close around 2010 after it has winded down. It resides in the former office of a large insurance company built in the 1950s not too far from the new building of the OPCW.

The International Criminal Court was established as the result of a diplomatic conference of 160 states in Rome in 1998. In the final treaty (the Rome Statute) The Hague was inscribed as the seat of the court. Negotiations about the court had been going on for a couple of years and the Dutch government, particularly the Department of Foreign Affairs had been actively lobbying for the seat since 1995. The Court was instituted to deal on a permanent basis with conduct in violent conict on the basis of possible personal responsibilities as laid out in international covenants and case law. It was a contested institution from the start particularly by the refusal of the US government to ratify the treaty and its active undermining of the treaty's provisions. Nonetheless the ICC treaty came into force much quicker than expected, in 2002. As a result housing was needed on shorter notice than initially anticipated. This was found at the edge of The Hague in a brand new building, the scheduled headquarters of the recently privatized national telecom giant KPN. As a result of the recent miscalculations and craziness in that sector the company had nearly gone bankrupt. As part of its turnaround it had left and sold off its prestigious offices. The ICC will sit here for a couple of years after which it will move to new buildings on the location of a former military barracks in the Northwestern part of the city. The ICC is now building up its staff.

More judicial cooperation within Europe was initiated by the European Council in 1999. After the development of a decentralized network to help overcome international barriers in the investigation and prosecution of crime the need for an office arose. Whereas Europol is concerned with the cooperation of police forces, Eurojust should provide advice and assistance to prosecutors and judges in particular. It does not initiate cases. The Judicial and Home Affairs Council of the EU is primarily responsible for the functioning of the organization that is still in its infancy. A pilot project operated in Brussels in 2001, the organization was then officially launched with its seat in The Hague from early 2002 onward. Its development has been speeded up by the terrorist events since 9/11. On who's initiative (the prime minister acting in the European Council) or the ministry of Justice (acting in the JHA council) Eurojust moved to the Hague is not clear. Eurojust resides temporarily in the same facility as ICC. Like ICC it is in the process of recruiting staff.

The six other international organizations in and around The Hague differ widely. As earlier mentioned some of them are close to the judicial domain but they are more intimately connected to other departments than to foreign affairs (and to a lesser extent justice). After 1945 the Dutch government did not succeed to obtain the seats of the most important international organizations that eventually shaped the Atlantic cooperation or of the main organs of Western European integration. Eventually some subsidiary organizations, UN offshoots and singular cooperation efforts found their way to the Netherlands.

Map 1 International Political Center The Hague

Map 1 portrays the seats of these international organizations within the municipality of The Hague. The central area of national government and the focus of municipal government have been added. To the extent that the international central functions cluster, they aggregate to the West of the center in the higher class extensions of the city since the late 19th century where early on the Peace Palace was erected but where also headquarters of international companies like Royal Dutch/Shell and later on insurance companies were located (Schmal 1995). In fact the pattern of the eleven potential locations of the Peace Palace considered in the 1903-1905 period is similar Eyffinger 2004, 46). Likewise the current pattern will eventually cover a pretty large zone and there is no clearcut small scale central area for The Hague's international role in the making.

In architectural proposals for the physical planning of the city by de Bazel and Berlage during the early years of the 20th century such a center for international functions had been proposed in specific parts of this same zone (Bosma 1993, 62-70; Eyffinger 2004, 53-64), but reality will probably only be a weak reection of these proposals. As the city faced wartime destruction in 1945 another architect Dudok, to improve The Hague's international role, proposed a prestigious cultural center modeled after the late 19th century example of Brussels in this same zone plus a concentrationof national administration close to the Parliament offices (Provoost 1995, 321; Valentijn 2002, 106-126). These proposals have – more by chance than by intent - been more or less realized, but no new building for international functions, apart from the existing Peace Palace, was considered at the time.


A center is not merely the aggregate of central functions but it also consists of service providers aiming at locations in the direct vicinity of these central functions. The interest may become reciprocal to such an extent that the presence of services becomes a feature in the attraction of further central functions. In fact this is basic to Sassen's (1991) idea of global city formation as constituted by a high concentration of highly sophisticated producer services. How does The Hague's collection of central functions do in this respect?

The Hague has incrementally developed elements of a supportive milieu for its centerformation in the judicial domain. Primarily this consists of a number of specialized small-scale initiatives in higher education and research (an overview is in Opschoor 2003). The oldest is a summer school for young practitioners at the crossroads of international law and diplomacy held since 1923 at the Peace Palace. It has attracted famous legal minds as teachers and has helped to transfer and elaborate a body of knowledge aimed at the courts sitting in The Hague. Apart from its significance as an intermittent, temporary, local presence of dedicated scholarship The Hague Academy of International Law has acted as a vital source of strength for enlarging and maintaining a worldwide network of influential professionals sharing the ideals of The Hague's central international functions. Since 1952 the Institute of Social Studies has educated generations of leaders of developing countries with a program focusing on the problem of development. Issues of justice and human rights have become increasingly prominent over the years. Since 1965 the law faculties of the Dutch universities have jointly maintained the Asser Institute in The Hague as a high quality study center for international, in particular European law. It provides short international courses and organizes conferences. In 1983 a few smaller institutions concerned with questions of international security merged as the Clingendael Institute after the beautiful estate where they found a common residence. Since that time the institute has become an increasingly high profile adviser to the government, research institute and school of international affairs. Finally Leyden University opened a subsidiary in The Hague in 1999 particularly aimed at law and administration. Map 1 shows the addresses of these institutions in the same large area of The Hague.

Since the late 1990s there have been increasing efforts to join forces among these various educational establishments. It takes shape in the Hague Academic Coalition, that will probably become a foundation. One underlying motive is the provision of services for the central functions of The Hague's international profile, but this is still in its infancy. Obviously these educational institutions are not immediately dependent on these central functions. Nonetheless their presence is important. They provide a captive audience for these institutions and a critical following, they control further information in the field and scholarship to sustain their activities. The municipal administration has been active in encouraging cooperation among these institutions and creating connections with the central functions. This is not an easy task and there is no question that more synergy is possible.

All of these institutions have library and information retrieval services, primarily for their own work. The Hague also disposes of the Royal Library which is the most central reference library in the country. In the judicial domain the most famous collection is undoubtedly in the Peace Palace. A library was one of its initial goals following Carnegie's philosophy. Although the library's fortunes have waxed and waned with the times particularly on account of changing budgets, the collection is still considered important particularly from a historical perspective. Efforts have been made to update the information structure and focus on the renewed international ambition by opening a website called . This ambitious project has not yet come to full fruition. Some of the institutes publish their own series or act as publishers more generally (particularly the Asser Institute is active in this respect). The Hague also has a few very specialized booksellers and publishers in the field of law.

All of the educational institutions and the Peace Palace foremost among them have conference facilities. The municipality of The Hague has stakes in a local conference, congress and festival center (NCC), that has proved difficult to run protably over the years. Since the late 19th century the city has been richly endowed with hotels. After a lean period the seaside resort of Scheveningen has recaptured some of its earlier lustre. Together with the traditional glory of the national political center and the adjacent, recently revitalized heart of town called Spuikwartier the city disposes of an attractive urban milieu with lots of opportunities for high quality public life. Eyffinger (1999, 2004) has rightly stressed the importance of the urban setting for the international functions of The Hague. A view of the contemporary importance of this setting as a functional requisite for its international position is still missing.

The Hague is also home to some international associations and NGO's, mainly in the field of law. They further strengthen the international profile of the city. They are the contemporary equivalent of the late 19th century internationalists and pacists, who gathered in their numbers at the first Hague peace conference and had influential members in the Dutch elite. The Hague is however not the prime center of such organization seats in the country. The city also does not rank as regards the presence of globally operating law firms. In both regards Amsterdam is a much more central place (Van der Wusten 2004, the GaWC database shows 7 out of 11 of these firms sitting in Amsterdam and none in The Hague).

Finally, with the development of the Yugoslav Tribunal The Hague has obtained an international prison facility. With the advent of the International Criminal Court it is quite possible that more facilities of this kind will have to be provided. This is one of the consequences of this type of international profile that does not attract much attention but that is nonetheless of vital importance for its proper functioning. The whole set of issues connected with security does not get pride of place in the planning and public discussion of this kind of ambition. Their consequences can colour the experience of hosting these international organizations and therefore should explicitly be taken into account in guessing and assessing the consequences for urban life.


Comparatively speaking, in European terms, The Hague's position as an international political center is still modest. The city indeed has a position specifically in the domain of international law. Even here it has competitors. In Europe alone Luxemburg, Strasbourg and Hamburg also boast the presence of important legal institutions, but The Hague's position is pretty strong in this context. Compared to the other Dutch cities and particularly to Amsterdam, The Hague is less important in terms of numbers of seats of International Non-governmental Organizations. Amsterdam is also significantly more important as a venue for international meetings and it has a large presence of international law firms that The Hague lacks altogether.

Compared to cities in smaller European countries for which similar ambitions have been held over time, the most appropriate comparisons are with Geneva and Vienna. Brussels was a comparable case in the early 1900s but the city has far outgrown its immediate competitors since it became the most important focal point of West European integration in the 1950s. Geneva's international role started from humble beginnings in the private sphere in the 19th century as it became the city where the Red Cross resided, as an early venue for international political meetings and the location of early experiments in arbitration that helped secure the seat of the League of Nations for the city in 1920 (Hunter Miller 1923, Guichonnet 1974, Northedge 1986, Van Diepen 1999). Despite all the criticisms of bureaucracy and senseless meetings the League remained a fairly small organization, but in comparative terms Geneva was by then a very important international center. The massive growth of the international presence in Geneva occurred after 1945 only, when the city became the center of most technical UN operations for the most part located in the former League's Palais des Nations. In some instances during the 1960s there was resentment of parts of the old citizenry vis à vis the new incoming international civil servants and other immigrants that undermined local traditions (Guichonnet 1974, 372-375). International political presence is much larger in Geneva than in The Hague in terms of seats of interstate organizations, NGO's headquarters and venues for meetings (Boisard & Chossudovsky 1992, 25-26, Van der Wusten 2004). The international character of the city has been used to effect in literary texts like Debrot (1963) and Garcia Marques (1979/1994).

Austria's capital had lost most of its political significance after 1918. Vienna then survived some tumultuous decades. From the 1970s a new extension plan moved urban development across the Danube. One of the major elements in infrastructural planning and general outlay was UNO city (in use since 1979), a huge office complex that was meant to make Vienna into an important international political center. In fact the ambition was to make Vienna the third UN city with a specialization in social issues (after New York as political center and Geneva as the economic center) (Lichtenberger 1993, 177). This has only partially succeeded and the resulting profile of activities is not very clearcut. The city also acquired OPEC's headquarters. More recently a much more central part of the traditional national political complex the Hofburg has been put to use as the seat of OSCE. UNO city and Hofburg have major conference facilities. Vienna's successes in attracting international functions started in 1957 (IAEA) soon after the country had reached its neutral status. While it started at a different point in time its international role is now roughly comparable to The Hague's. The differences are also obvious. While Vienna's functions are less concentrated in one substantive domain despite ambitions in that direction, the addresses are much more concentrated and apparently more centrally allocated than has proved possible in the Netherlands.

In summary international political center-formation in Geneva and The Hague started early at about the same time. Geneva has consistently outperformed The Hague since the city won the seat of the League of Nations in 1920. International political centerformation in Vienna started at the time the further development of The Hague as an international political center particularly in the judicial domain stalled. Vienna's centerformation steadily progressed and the development in The Hague re-started. The two cities have now perhaps reached similar ranks while the functional profiles of their centers and their material realization are quite different. While The Hague plays some role in this kind of European comparison, two things should be added. Comparisons so far are with pretty important players in a European league table of international political centers. Many cities have much lower centrality and would not figure at all in straight comparisons. On the other hand there is no comparison with the big three in Europe: Brussels, Paris and London. In all respects they are the most central places in Europe as far as international politics are concerned (Van der Wusten 2004).

How can we account for The Hague's distinctive process of international political center- formation? In my view the argument to be made has to follow three separate paths. Historical contingencies have set the terms for the two phases of growth. Growth has subsequently occurred due to the functionality of center-formation (that is the synergy enabled by from shared location and vicinity) and the performance of relevant actors (parts of national government and local administration, communities of professionals at the interface of diplomacy and law making demands).

Twice in modern history a fortunate conjunction has given rise to important steps of international center-formation in the judicial domain in The Hague. At the czar's initiative an innovative diplomatic conference was held in The Hague in 1899. It was not the Dutch polity at the national or local level that brought it there but national assets in an international context as read by the Russians: neutrality of the country, no local security threats to delegates, a papal diplomatic representative available (to allow the Pope some form of representation at the conference – a Russian wish - without offending the Italian government too much), kinship ties between the royal families, a city in full development as a new attractive leisure resort (Eyffinger 1999, 4, 39-40). A few foreign delegates to the conference then convinced Carnegie to finance a peace temple in The Hague. After many difficulties locally and nationally the building was realized in 1913. The conference and the building were pivotal to the first phase of The Hague's performance as an international center.

In the early 1990s the second phase took off after the operation of the Peace Palace (run by the Dutch Carnegie Foundation) had been set on a new footing since the 1970s. This second phase was more immediately conditioned by the end of the Cold War and the new élan of European cooperation. They set the terms for a new round of international institutionalization and provided a restructured manoeuvring space for the Dutch in which to operate. The refurbished and reorganized Peace Palace acting as a renewed anchor and symbol of The Hague's international vocation plus the (unrelated) new opportunities for attracting international organizations provided the initial setting for the second phase of center-formation.

The functionality of center-formation, in this case translated as expected synergy because location decisions have to be made on the basis of estimates of future developments, apparently plays some role in the further growth of international centrality in specific places. One should, however, remain cautious as such effects can be ignored in decision-making or, on the contrary, be put forward in a negotiation as an argument that perhaps sounds convincing but lacks empirical corroboration. Nonetheless, I consider the presence of the Peace Palace a substantive influence in attracting the International Courts of the League and then the UN. This is a factor separate from the advantages or disadvantages of the locational continuity of the two Courts. As mentioned earlier, the establishment of the Iran-US Claims Tribunal as an offshoot of the Permanent Court of Arbitration using its technical expertise to get underway is a further instance of the importance of short distances. In the decisions concerning the seats of the Yugoslav Tribunal and the International Criminal Court the presence of the Peace Palace and its courts has been relevant even if these institutions have not always been wholeheartedly cooperative among each other. This is in fact not too different from retailers sharing locations in shopping malls. Central functions always have to strike some balance between competition and cooperation. For as long as the Yugoslav Tribunal lasts, there will also be functional advantages in the immediate availability of its experience and qualied personnel in setting up the Criminal Court. Finally, the recent arrival of Eurojust is probably partly due to the earlier establishment of Europol in The Hague and the expected added synergy of short distances between the two offices. It is interesting to remember that Eurojust was preceded by a network that lacked a material central office. Such an office turned out to be indispensable for the sort of coordination required between the judicial institutions of EU member states.

There are also contrary examples where functional arguments would suggest a different outcome from the one that actually occurred. In the case of the High Commissioner and the OPCW a seat in Vienna would on the face of it be more functional given the presence of the parent bodies. As mentioned before Kurt Waldheim's internationally contested position as Austria's president at the time possibly inhibited the realization of these expectations. Another argument also preventing functionality to determine the outcome might be the case of the NATO C3 office in The Hague as it was split half/half between Brussels and The Hague. Apart from the functional consideration that would lead to a preference for Brussels, cost considerations apparently favoured The Hague with a resulting split in the final decision.

The Dutch government, particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was basically the receiving party in the first phase. Despite occasionally strong popular feelings (e.g. as regards the Boers in South Africa) official policy was still largely dominated by aloofness, a preference to stay away from the troubles among the big powers. The handling of issues connected with The Hague's international role was benevolent at most but never pro-active. The closest one gets to such an attitude is Minister Van Karnebeek's active approach as the League negotiations unfolded. He cleverly used all diplomatic means available to defend the country's interests from an unfavourable position and did very well indeed. Not only did he help secure the arrival of the Permanent Court of International Justice in The Hague, he was chosen president of the League Council in the next year.

After a period in which the Dutch lost the battles for new international organizations and the ministry neglected the existing ones, new commitments were made during Van der Stoel's tenure at Foreign Affairs (1973-1977) to better maintain and improve the Peace Palace. In the decades before 1989 some other departments succeeded in attracting other, mostly European, organizations. The most important ones settled outside The Hague. National physical planning was not in favour of further concentrations of activities in major cities at the time. It is not clear if Foreign Affairs was during this period actively trying to attract more international organizations, eventually to The Hague, but failed until the 1990s or that sustained lobbies were only maintained after 1989. In any case they were after 1989 across the national government. Efforts were apparently increasingly aimed at The Hague. Still, there is no national policy in this respect. Activities unfold on a case by case basis after cabinet has made a decision to actively pursue the acquisition of a certain international organization.

Before the 1990s the municipality of The Hague was not actively engaged in promoting the city's international political profile and hardly interested at all in functions that were not closely connected to the domain of international law. In the 1970s some large international organizations found office space in The Hague's vicinity, sometimes even using The Hague's name as the indication of their whereabouts (the Patent Office calls itself ‘The Hague branch' although it is situated in Rijswijk). In the most recent period this did not happen any more suggesting a shift in interest and housing opportunities for this type of activity over the years. As a matter of fact the municipality for a long time lacked a clear economic development policy, and was unable to create attractive new office locations. It was also confronted with a tightly bounded territory and a national government with an intention to deconcentrate a considerable part of the national administrative apparatus outside The Hague and even its region.

Many of these conditions changed during the 1980s and early 1990s. In the 1980s the local authority shifted emphasis from a policy completely dominated by welfare issues to a policy geared to the necessity to accommodate international business (on the accompanying changes in public discourse, Ter Borg & Dijkink 1992). As a side-effect of this reorientation local authority realized in the early 1990s that an international ambition in the political sphere also made sense from a perspective of urban development. Large restructuring projects and boundary changes allowed The Hague municipality somewhat more opportunities for new office locations. The policy preference of national government decisively moved back to an emphasis on the large cities thus generally supporting moves to establish new international activities in The Hague.

The local administration now fully supports the further development of an international political center in The Hague. As a small indication it has published four times since 1998 a very handy International City Directory (Municipality of The Hague 2004). More substantially it has denite plans for a new residential community in the Southwest of the city geared to the needs of the expat community, that denitely includes the personnel of the international political organizations. The availability of international schools will also be extended. The municipality now has a desk for international organizations and is very active in encouraging the educational institutions earlier mentioned to come under one umbrella and connect more closely to the international organizations. For the coming years the expectation is that fewer new intergovernmental organizations will be created and consequently less new offices will be opened, also in The Hague. The municipality is keen to accommodate offices of International Nongovernmental Organizations that are connected with the existing IGO-seats. This supposedly further stimulates a receptive milieu in which all international organizations can thrive and that will strengthen The Hague's role as international political center.

Finally, a civic demand articulated by an emerging professional community at the interface of diplomacy and law has been influential in dening the terms for The Hague's evolution as an international political center and in maintaining and improving its position over time. This emerging professional community was not merely part of civil society e.g. through the occupation of chairs in academic institutions. Many of its members (sometimes the same) also walked the corridors of power as temporary diplomats or even ministers. Ideas debated in the Hague conferences were often proposed by this kind of experts who were members of the different national delegations. The Permanent Courts of Arbitration and of International Justice and the intellectual and financial preparation of the Peace Palace were fruits of their labour although of course such plans had in the final analysis to be approved by those politically responsible. Professor Asser, the initiator of the Hague conference on private international law, one of the moving spirits of the Hague conferences and Nobel Prize winner for peace was one influential member. More recently the development of international courts has greatly exercised this circle. Many of the innovations of the last years have originated from within this group. One highly influential Dutch figure during The Hague's second phase is Professor Kooijmans, one of the fteen judges in the International Court of Justice since 1996. He has held chairs in international law at the Free University and at Leyden University, has been secretary of State in the Foreign Ministry and Foreign Minister for a short period. He has been member and chair of the Carnegie Foundation. I introduced two influential Dutchmen as examples to stress the local connections of an international community. Through the Hague Academy of International Law and the weight of tradition that community maintains a special link with the Hague, which in its turn is a precious asset for the city's international political ambition.

In sum, during the first phase the Netherlands and The Hague provided the assets for a selection of the city as venue for the conference and seat of the courts to which Dutch decision-making in fact hardly contributed. Other state actors and the community of ‘internationalists' were the most relevant protagonists. In the second phase a favourable international conjunction was accompanied by an unrelated preceding turn of fate for the better of the Peace Palace, anchor and symbol of The Hague's profile as an international center. In this case Dutch decision-making was relevant as regards the improvement of the Peace Palace and, later on, because of various lobbying activities. The city became an increasingly important partner. Functional considerations apparently played a role in several sequential decisions concerning the establishment of central functions. But so far there are only early beginnings of a service component to strengthen and further extend the center.


Branding is now seen as a necessary part of constructing something: a good, a service, but also a center that should be known. To brand a center it has to take some shape or form in real terms. One has to collect the necessary central functions and their complementary services. Branding it is packaging the whole set in an appropriate frame, expressive symbolism, and a mythistory that attracts attention, teaches the correct lessons and mobilizes for the future. A number of participants in the crafting of The Hague's international role have been busy doing all this.

Much of the framing of this ambition has been in terms of indications of the long roots and the imposing past on which it is constructed. Compare Geneva's imposing pedigree from Calvin through Voltaire and Rousseau to Henri Dunant, the inevitable sequence in the grounding narrative of the city's international vocation (Fatio 1920, Fournet 1951). The first Hague Conference was held in Huis ten Bosch one of the royal palaces in The Hague. While the current queen has made it her main residence, the major connotation of the building until that time was in its early history. It was made into a monument to her deceased husband by the widow of Frederick Henry, the Stadtholder just before the final peace with Spain and the country's independence was agreed in 1648. The 1899 conference sessions were in a room decorated with huge allegorical paintings of that period expressing the Stadtholder's important role as one who brought peace to the country (in fact he is mainly remembered as an able army commander and a lover of luxury). The Hague's significance as the stage for European peace-making in the Treaty of Rijswijk (what a pity that this is the standard reference) has been mentioned frequently by stakeholders in The Hague's renewed profile. Very curious is the use of Grotius as a major standard bearer for The Hague's ambitions. Although this is understandable in light of the concentration of Grotius scholarship around the Peace Palace library, it is slightly weird in light of the historical record. Grotius of course had to seek refuge from persecution by the Dutch authorities and wrote his major works elsewhere, notably in Paris. In a turn of phrase that struck the right tone notwithstanding the obvious irony Dominique de Villepin as French foreign minister finished his recent address on ‘Law, justice and the international community' to the Hague Academy of International Law thus:

“Cette grande ambition prend toute sa dimension ici, à la Haye, sur cette terre des Pays Bas dont Descartes disait: ‘Quel autre lieu pourrait-on choisir, quel autre pays où l'on puisse jouir d'une liberté si entière, où l'on puisse dormir avec moins d'inquiétude? Au même moment Grotius, le père du droit international voyait dans la France ‘le plus beau royaume après celui du ciel' - vous voyez que les Francais restent chauvins. Quel meilleur symbole des liens profonds entre deux pays et de leur vocation commune à servir la tolerance et l'humanisme.” (www.carnegiefoundation 11.3.2004)

While in the first phase of The Hague's internationalism there was a standard reference to ‘l'oeuvre de la Haye' to indicate the international ambitions for the city, there is in the current period prolonged confusion about the proper expression to use. The more ambitious call it the ‘legal' or ‘judicial capital' or even ‘legal' or ‘judicial' capital of the world. Somewhat more restrained but also wider ranging is the ‘international center of justice and peace' sometimes softened to ‘residence of justice and peace' probably to suggest some continuity with the traditional reference to The Hague as ‘the residence' (even in use when the royals lived elsewhere). Further indication of the still confused or insufciently articulated or contested international ambition of The Hague is the authorship of the ‘legal or judicial capital city'. Boutros Boutros-Ghali (one influential international member of the community of professionals, former student and officeholder of The Hague Acedemy of International Law) is generally referred to as the author. But not only is the precise expression differently quoted, there is no direct source easily available. According to the website of thehaguelegalcapital Boutros-Ghali introduced the expression ‘judicial capital' in 1998, according to the website of the Asser Institute he repeatedly called the city ‘legal capital' in his speeches. Every interviewee for this project knew Boutros-Ghali's role in this, but references to a specific instance when he used it could not be produced.

There is probably a reason for this confusion. The Hague's international ambition is so far not formally circumscribed or made into a denite policy. The ministry of Foreign Affairs has not mentioned it in policy documents. The local authority of The Hague has recently inscribed it in the list of policy intentions for the current four year period (2002-2006) (Verkerk 2003). The first municipal policy document to elaborate on this intention is due out later in 2004. Although public authority has lent support over the recent years, it has been intermittent in a number of separate cases. While local authority has been increasingly adamant in pursuing this kind of ambition, national government has been less committed. Consequently there has not been a need for clear demarcation. While traditionally the global network of international jurists has been the main carrier of The Hague's ambitions, new actors have entered the scene as the world of international relations has broadened. Social scientists tend to prefer a broadening of the terms of reference (e.g. from legal and judicial to justice and peace). There are also somewhat differently focused interests. The Hague could set itself up as the capital of water management. The crown prince focuses on the water issue in his public appearances and an uneasy but fairly influential alliance of civil engineers and environmentalists has been formed. The Hague has acted as venue for a large international meeting. In a related vein global environmental governance to improve environmental security has been mentioned as proling element for The Hague's international ambition (Veening 2003).

The Peace Palace has served The Hague's international ambition very well so far. It has guaranteed the attraction and continued presence of some of the most prestigious international courts, also those located outside its premises. Although the courts became contested in the 1930s and the building physically declined in the post 1945 years, a timely turnaround has prepared the Palace for a renewed iconic role. However, the site is too small (compare Geneva's Palais des Nations) to act as the residence for all the major institutions that now look for seats, nor is a Dutch municipality despite its extensive competences as regards land use powerful enough to impose a land use pattern that arranges the new acquisitions in a way that underlines the symbolic significance of the complex (compare the Vienna example).

Uncertainty about the headline of the project and the absence of an integral urban plan for its international ambition despite or even because of the presence of a strong but possibly partial icon, exemplies the absence of a convincing mythistory that relates past, present and future. Eyffinger's series of works on the palace (1988), the conference (1999), the whole set of institutions (2003) and the Carnegie foundation (2004) including The Hague as a pleasant stage on which the narrative unfolds, is a labour of love and demonstrates a thorough knowledge of the subjects. They are beautifully illustrated and printed. They are on the whole serious historical contributions despite the fact that most of them have been written on the occasion of celebrations and exhibitions. The celebratory intent is muted, the didactic intention and the teleological argumentation of the effective mythistory are for the most part absent. An effective mythistory now needs a broadening of the scope to include the most recently acquired central functions, to take into account the qualities of all the service providers and to gain broad based attention and support. The question is if in that context the Peace Palace can and should still act as the overwhelmingly important icon of the International Center of Justice and Peace as presented in the 2003 exhibition mentioned earlier (Eyffinger 2003, Figure 1).


The Hague has a century long tradition of international center-formation in the domain of law and justice. The process has had its ups and downs. Two periods of growth have been 1890-1930 and the years since 1990. The central functions that supposedly make up the center are not a systematically delimited collection. In actual fact the main criterion for inclusion seems to have been the involvement of the ministries of foreign affairs and/or justice in the acquisition. The Netherlands has also attracted some functions that are apparently outside the domain of the imagined center. A few of these organizations are also situated outside The Hague, probably a consequence of national policy in physical planning at the time of their arrival and lack of interest and opportunity within the local government of The Hague. The institutions that are part of the center are located in a pretty large part of prestigious The Hague, spatial concentration is rather low at this scale. In that sense The Hague's judicial international center is more a collection of central functions.

The Hague also has a number of supporting institutions that may act as services for the judicial center. These are mainly schools of higher education and their libraries and congress facilities. The Hague also has a wider supportive urban milieu that just emerged at the time of the initial buildup of the center, that then lost out in a number of ways and has recently regained some of its traditional attractiveness. In terms of service provision and synergy much is still to be gained. An unavoidable aspect of center-formation of this kind is the availability of prison capacity, public safety and the personal security of all those involved.

The Hague is still a fairly modest international political center. Even as a specialized judicial center it has competitors in other European cities, but in this specialized niche it has a pretty strong position. Its emergence has to be interpreted as a sum total of historical contingencies, the functionality of vicinity and the performance of actors in national and local government and an influential international circle of professionals at the interface of diplomacy and law. Historical contingency and external political actors, not Dutch policy brought the Hague peace conference of 1899 to the political center and royal residence of the Netherlands and eventually also the Peace Palace as a consequence. This set the terms for the first courts. Even earlier dedicated private internationalists amongst whom a Dutchman and his local circle had begun in The Hague to institutionalize mechanisms for solving disputes among private parties that were subject to different national systems of law. The second wave of judicial centerformation in The Hague was enabled by the restructuring of the Peace Palace in the 1970s and the new international atmosphere that provoked a new round of international organization. National government now became an important actor but it still lacks an overall policy in this domain and the local administration became increasingly active to help attract and accommodate international organizations in The Hague. It is in the process of formulating an elaborated policy. The material conditions for local government to act also changed for the better during the most recent years. The international professional community that had been pivotal for the first round still played a prominent role in maintaining and strengthening the further buildup of The Hague as an international political center in this domain. In a number of cases sequences of incoming institutions were probably at least partly determined by assumptions of functionality. The synergy of existing educational services towards the central functions that primarily make up the international center can still be considerably improved.

In its present guise The Hague's international center still lacks a uniformly accepted imagery. A number of partly overlapping slogans has been introduced and there is some rivalry concerning the exact substance of the center. A justifying and guiding narrative that unies and enhances support has still not come forward although a number of elements can be found in the recently published works of Eyffinger. The center also lacks a physical expression in the townscape of The Hague dispersed as its different elements nd themselves. Perhaps the Peace Palace that has for a long time acted as the all encompassing icon of the center should gradually give in to a new imagery, still to be found that will orient the successors of the internationalists (the widening circle of interested professionals, the NGO world) of yesteryear to the newly emerging center that is now emerging in The Hague. This needs careful consideration because the Peace Palace and its inhabitants have been of the utmost importance so far.


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Interviews were conducted with: Prof. P. Baehr, Prof. Th. Van Boven, Dr. M. De Kwaasteniet (Ministry Foreign Affairs), Drs B. Lagerwaard (Municipality of The Hague), Prof. J.B. Opschoor. None of them has any responsibility for the way I have used their information.


* Herman van der Wusten, Department of Geography, Planning and International Development Studies, University of Amsterdam.

Edited and posted on the web on 15th December 2004

Note: This Research Bulletin has been published in Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, 97 (3), (2006), 253-266