June 20, 2019

The city with a worldwide view

By the Honourable Pauline Krikke, Mayor of The Hague.

That’s how I have come to know The Hague since I became Mayor on 17 March 2017. Of course, I already knew of The Hague’s particular reputation as a diplomatic centre and as the city of peace and justice. But it was really only after I became involved in the day-to-day aspects of the job that I started to understand just how much that international element is a quintessential part of The Hague. Not just in many specific places in our city but also while on foreign trips.

I met many diplomats and people working for international corporations, I spoke to the young participants at The Hague Model United Nations and with international students pursuing their education here. I have enjoyed the Embassy Festival, the celebration of Chinese New Year and all the other festivities which build bridges between different cultures.

I am amazed by how many, often young, researchers and entrepreneurs here in The Hague are looking for solutions to the challenges of the 21st century. I have been particularly struck by how the work of our international organisations, tribunals and NGOs is felt in the lives of countless people all over the world. I was greatly moved by the stories of refugees in Lebanon where The Hague provides practical support – with waste processing, for example- to the municipalities there that provide reception for these displaced people.

As Mayor of a city which is so international in character, I am made all the more aware of the movement in the opposite direction that is taking place all over the world. Following a period of close international cooperation, based in part on the bitter experiences of two world wars, we are now seeing a tendency to pull down the hatches and raise all the bridges. I am truly concerned about these developments. The problems we need to overcome are largely transnational in nature and we can only solve them by working together. Ignoring them is not an option. Dealing with the effects of climate change, the issue of migration and refugees, or tackling terrorists, to mention just a few: problems which do not end at national or city borders.

As the international city of peace and justice The Hague will not stand on the sidelines. Even if it means going against the spirit of the times – we will continue to be active and open to the idea working together to create a better world. Fortunately, we find that there are other like-minded cities. Last year, for example, together with Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, we set up the Global Urban Air Pollution Observatory (GUAPO).This a collaborative platform for multilateral cooperation between cities to combat air pollution and to take the lead in reaching the climate goals. The Hague also founded the Global Parliament of Mayors (GPM), in which cities work together in areas such as the environment, migration, discrimination and poverty. In October I was in Bristol for the Annual Summit of the GPM.

We face huge challenges. Three quarters of the world’s population lives in cities and urban areas. This number will only grow in the coming years. But this should not be at the expense of the welfare of those who already live there. We must ensure that the city is still a pleasant place to live. By ensuring that our cities have sufficient greenery, for example. By making it possible for people to get about easily. By providing heat and light for their homes in a way which is has as little environmental impact as possible. The threat of social division is also a serious concern. Cities are seeking international cooperation in all these areas. In the 100 resilient cities network set up by the Rockefeller Foundation, for example. The Hague is proud to be part of that and actively contributes to the exchange of knowledge and experience in the areas of physical and social resilience.

And in doing all these things we constantly need to ask ourselves: who are we doing it for? It will take time for much of what we are doing now to bear fruit. We are therefore doing it largely for generations to come. And that is precisely why I consider it so important to include young people when we are setting out a course for the future. Because it is about their lives. It was therefore also a great honour recently to welcome 1800 talented and passionate young people to The Hague from all over the world as participants at the One Young World Summit. They came together here to offer creative solutions for a better world. Where better to do that than here in The Hague, the international city of peace and justice? The city with a worldwide view.

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