Conference report

From 1 to 3 July 2015 The Hague University of Applied Sciences (THUAS) demonstrated its commitment to peace and justice by organizing the 3rd Hague Peace Conference, 100 years after World War I prevented it from being held. Seventy-four students from 33 countries attended the event. They had been selected after submitting essays on modernizing the humanitarian rules of war and improving the maintenance of peace. Bantayehu Demlie Gezahegn from Ethiopia emerged as the winner of the essay competition.

Watch the video of The Third Hague Peace Conference here.

Wednesday July 1

3rd World Peace ConferenceOn Wednesday July 1 the conference started at The Hague’s Peace Palace. Opening speaker and World Press Photo winner Ton Koene presented photographic work about humanitarian issues of war and conflict. His presentation was followed by a spirited discussion, which set a trend that ran through the whole conference: the audience raised more questions than the speakers had time to answer.

Keynote speaker Nico Schrijver, Scientific Director for International Legal Studies at Leiden University, addressed the UN’s decision-making process. After criticizing its effectiveness, transparency and global governance, he pointed to the role of civil society and the business sector. You can find his presentation here.

 In the afternoon, the participants followed workshops at THUAS on the following subjects:

Thursday July 2

3rd World Peace Day 2Thursday July 2 began with THUAS President Leonard Geluk, who introduced the concept of the ‘thin line’ which has to be crossed for intercultural contact. Robert Heinsch, Associate Professor at Leiden University, spoke on the need for revision of the Geneva Conventions . Nowadays, up to 90 percent of all wars are not inter-state or are hybrid. In these ‘new wars’ a multitude of heterogeneous, elusive parties are involved. The modern battlefield, with its drones and increasingly automatic weapons, calls for a new system of weapons control.

Heinsch continued sharing his ideas during the parallel sessions that followed. The students worked in small groups, each of which approached the idea of reforming the Geneva Conventions differently. Meanwhile Professor Joris Voorhoeve, a former Dutch Minister of Defence and the initiator of the conference, proposed the establishment of ‘safe havens’ in Syria and discussed the strategy of deterrence: “If it works it’s great, so long as it isn’t challenged.”

The causes of conflict were addressed by Rens Willems, a Fellow of The Hague’s UPEACE Centre. He listed the different phases in a conflict, its catalysts and triggers, the role of education and the concept of the ‘fragile state’. His subject, the maintenance of peace, was approached from a different angle by Paul Meerts, Associate of the Clingendaal Institute. Meerts had devised a competitive game about a fictitious crisis in the Mediterranean. It was his way of teaching the participants a thing or two about the process of diplomatic negotiation.

Friday July 3

3rd World Peace Conference Day 3Friday July 3 was ‘reflection day’. The students now had to present their ideas for a more peaceful world. Some of these were a little obvious, others highly original. They included the rewriting of the complete Geneva Conventions, the introduction of a new world currency, more influence for regional organizations, institutionalization of mediation, arbitration and dialogue, a greater role for NGOs, a legal status for non-state fighters and a new, ‘moral’ army for the UN.

The conference’s ended in the Humanity House in The Hague’s city centre in the form of HagueTalks. Joris Voorhoeve delivered the first pitch, talking about his career, motivation and lessons learned. He was followed by five students who gave presentations ranging from a plea for better protection of children in conflict zones to disenchantment with the way the US treats its enemies.

He was followed by five students who gave presentations ranging from a plea for better protection of children in conflict zones to disenchantment with the way the US treats its enemies:

The inspirational talk concluding the conference was held by Maryam Faghih Imani. The daughter of a prominent ayatollah in the Islamic Republic of Iran, she had managed to disentangle herself from her conservative environment to create a new life for herself in the West. “Get together, keep together and work together,” she advised her audience. “Peaceful coexistence is the only way".

Here you’ll find an extended version of the conference report. Are you interested in what others wrote about The 3rd Hague Peace Conference? Please refer to:

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