September 26, 2017

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Visitors’ Centre of the Peace Palace

By Jhr. Alexander W. Beelaerts van Blokland LL.M.

Since it was built in 1913 the Peace Palace in The Hague – the icon of The Hague International City of Peace and Justice- has been visited by millions of people from all corners of the globe. But only five years ago a visitor’s centre in front of the Peace Palace opened its doors. With an average of 125,000 (one-hundred-twenty-five-thousand) visitors a year, the visitors’ centre has received more than roughly half a million visitors since it first opened its doors. On this special occasion, it is important to reflect on what this means for the Peace Palace, The Hague and the world of international law.

In the small building itself, anyone can see for free the small permanent exhibition about the history and the work of the institutions inside: the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), The Hague Academy of International Law and the famous Library. The exhibition shows also photos of highlights in the history. The exhibition itself is in French and English, but the free audio tour is in even ten different languages. In a small shop one can buy books in several languages about – and other things related to – the Peace Palace and its institutions.

The guided tours and activities organized by the centre not only enrich the public’s understanding of the palace’s history and its impressive grandeur. It unmistakably serves to make the important work of both the International Court of Justice and Permanent Court of Arbitration, the institutions at the heart of the Peace Palace, accessible to all. As such, it has literally thrown the doors of international law wide open to the public. International law touches at the centre of our daily lives and the visitor’s centre has done a great job in making this remarkable fact palpable.

The visitor’s centre is the bridge that connects the two worlds of international law and the public together. The guided tours, events and other activities bring this connection to life. It communicates a vision of peace and justice that makes international law possible in this world. A vision of international law in the world – as it was, as it is, and as it will be. In those first five years, the visitor’s centre has done excellent work in communicating this vision.

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About the author: Jhr Alexander W. Beelaerts van Blokland is Justice (Judge) in the (Dutch) Court of Appeal and honorary Special Advisor International Affairs, appointed in 2004 by the Mayor and Aldermen of The Hague.

a.beelaerts@planet.nl

Diplomat Magazine July 2017

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