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The Hague

Located in the west of The Netherlands, The Hague is home to the Dutch royal family, and plays a significant role as the administrative capital of the Dutch Kingdom. The Hague benefits from an impeccable international reputation, built on historical prestige and influence.

Besides being the second UN city in the world, the pro-business attitude of the Dutch government has attracted numerous international organisations to the city. Today, The Hague is a culturally-rich economic hotspot, with talented people from more than 180 nationalities working, living and influencing the vibrant culture of the city.

The flourishing business and academic environment together with an established tradition around certain expertise have shaped the profile of The Hague as a global hub. The city is actively taking the lead in six knowledge clusters, among which Peace & Justice plays a key role.

The City of Peace & Justice

The Hague is known as ‘The Legal Capital of the World’. It was none other than the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who uttered these words to describe the unique position of The Hague. These are weighty words, but not at all unjustified: The Hague has been an international city and a centre of legal knowledge for several centuries.

Arbitral environment

The Permanent Court of Arbitration and the United States-Iran Claims Tribunal (both situated in The Hague) have shaped the arbitral environment in the Netherlands. While these state-level bodies have helped foster respect for arbitral proceedings, large organisations like the Netherlands Arbitration Institute and the Arbitration Board for the Building Industry indicate the extent to which arbitration is established in the country.

The Hague itself is perceived as an ideal location for international arbitration. The city is well regarded for its neutrality and its pioneering ideas in the legal field. Since the 19th century, The Hague has been a centre of private international law, with the Dutch lawyer and legal scholar Tobias Asser recognised as a key innovative figure in this area. Asser initiated the First Diplomatic Session of The Hague Conference on Private International Law, which, under his leadership, developed numerous multilateral treaties. In addition, the Dutch Professor Piet Sanders drafted the New York Treaty on Worldwide Enforcement of Arbitration Awards as well as modern Dutch Arbitration Law, which was recently modernised.

As the host of many international courts and tribunals, including the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and various specialised arbitration institutes, the Netherlands possesses a highly favourable legal and logistical environment for accommodating, administering and conducting international arbitral proceedings. Furthermore, The Netherlands has tangible cost advantages over more expensive cities such as Paris, Geneva and London.

The Hague’s role as host to international organisations and the international community is part of a tradition dating back more than 500 years.

  • Since the late 16th century, the city has been a home to foreign diplomats.
  • It was in The Hague that the famous jurist Hugo Grotius wrote his book Mare Liberum (The Freedom of the Sea). Published in 1609, this work forms the basis for modern international law.
  • The 17th-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza, known on account of his fundamental ideas on peace and freedom, spent the final years of his life living and working in The Hague.
  • The Supreme Court of the Netherlands, the highest court of the country, has been based in The Hague since 1838.
  • A new chapter opened at the end of the 19th century when Tobias Asser, who would later go on to win the Nobel Peace Prize, founded The Hague Conference on Private International Law in 1893. This makes it the oldest international organisation in The Hague in existence today.
  • Between the First and Second World War, the Permanent Court of International Justice was based in the Peace Palace. This was the legal branch of the League of Nations (the forerunner to the United Nations).
  • The First Peace Conference took place six years later, leading to the creation of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Peace Palace.
  • The International Court of Justice was founded in 1946 and was housed in the Peace Palace. This highest legal body of the United Nations is the only main branch of the organisation not based in New York. 
  • In 1981 the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal was established, further consolidating the role of The Hague as the centre of international legal arbitration.
  • The city and its surrounding area are now home to 160 international organisations. The largest are the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (1993), Europol (1994), the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) (1997) and the International Criminal Court (2002), all of which are based in The Hague.
  • The Hague has become an international knowledge centre in the field of peace and justice. A solid basis for this has been laid by organisations like the T.M.C. Asser Institute, Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’, The Hague Academy of International Law, The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, the International Institute of Social Studies and Leiden University.

Picture of the International Court of Justice, located in The Hague, the Netherlands.

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