Peace Palace

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For the Peace Palace in Cambodia, see Peace Palace, Phnom Penh.
The Peace Palace, pictured in March 2006

The Peace Palace (Dutch: Vredespaleis; pronounced [vrɛdɛsˈpalɛis]) is an administrative building in The Hague, the Netherlands. It is often called the seat of international law because it houses the International Court of Justice (which is the principal judicial body of the United Nations), the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Hague Academy of International Law, and the extensive Peace Palace Library. In addition to hosting these institutions, the Palace is also a regular venue for special events in international policy and law. The Palace officially opened on 28 August 1913, and was originally built to provide a symbolic home for the Permanent Court of Arbitration, a court created to end war which was created by treaty at the 1899 Hague Peace Conference. Andrew Dickson White, whose efforts were instrumental in creating this court and securing the funding to provide it with a "worthy accommodation", wrote of the idea to his friend Andrew Carnegie, who eventually provided 1.5 million dollars to build the Peace Palace:

"A temple of peace where the doors are open, in contrast to the Janus-temple, in times of peace and closed in cases of war (…..) as a worthy testimony of the people that, after many long centuries finally a court that has thrown open its doors for the peaceful settlement of differences between peoples".

Were such a fabric to be created, men would make pilgrimages from all parts of the civilized world to see it. It would become a sort of holy place, prized and revered by thinking men throughout the world, and to which, in any danger of war between any two countries, the minds of men would turn naturally and normally. The main difficulty now is that the people of the various nations do not really know what was done for them by the Conference; but such a building would make them know it. It would be an "outward and visible sign" of the Court, which would make its actual, tangible existence known to the ends of the earth"

Andrew Dickson White to Andrew Carnegie, 5 August 1902

28 August 2013 is both the Centenary of the Peace Palace, and the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech. King's embrace of pacifism and the Gandhian method of satyagraha is a clear legacy of the 19th century Peace Movement from which the Peace Palace and the Permanent Court of Arbitration emerged. 28 August 2013 is also the anniversary of the death of Hugo Grotius. Grotius, who died in 1645, is recognized as the founder of the vision of International Law of which the Permanent Court of Arbitration is an expression. In his autobiography, Andrew Dickson White, who led the U.S. delegation to the 1899 Hague Peace Conference which established the Permanent Court of Arbitration, wrote "Our work here, at the end of the nineteenth century, is the direct result of Grotius' work at the end of the 17th century"

In less than a year after the opening of the Peace Palace, however, Europe would be engaged in the First World War.


Carnegie and the original map of the Peace Palace

The idea of the Palace started from a discussion in 1900 between the Russian diplomat Friedrich Martens and the US diplomat Andrew White, over providing a home for the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), which was established through the first Hague Peace Conference in 1899. White contacted his friend the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie about this idea. Carnegie had his reservations, and at first was only interested in donating money for the establishment of a Library of International Law. White however was able to convince Carnegie, and in 1903 Carnegie agreed to donate the US$1.5 million ($40,000,000, adjusted for inflation) needed for a Peace Temple that would house the PCA as well as to endow it with a library of international law.

At first Carnegie simply wanted to donate the money directly to the Dutch Queen, Wilhelmina of the Netherlands for the building of the palace, but legal problems prohibited this, and in November 1903 the Carnegie Stichting was founded to manage the construction, ownership, and maintenance of the Palace. This foundation is still responsible for these issues at present.


Inside the Peace Palace
Vase offered by Russia

To find a suitable design, the foundation called for an open international competition. The winning design, set in the Neo-Renaissance style, was submitted by French architect Louis M. Cordonnier. To build within budget, Cordonnier and his Dutch associate Van der Steur adjusted the design. The palace initially had two big bell towers in front and two small ones in the back. Only one big tower and one small tower remained in the final building. Also to save money, the separate library building from the winning design was incorporated into the Palace itself.

In 1908 Thomas Hayton Mawson won a competition to design the grounds. Because of the budget constraints, he also had to discard design elements—fountains and sculptures. He made use of a natural watercourse on the site.

The Palace is filled with many gifts of the different nations who attended the Second Hague Conference as a sign of their support. Among the gifts are a 3.2-tonne (3.1-long-ton; 3.5-short-ton) vase from Russia, doors from Belgium, marble from Italy, a fountain from Denmark, wall carpets from Japan, the clock for the clock tower from Switzerland, Persian rugs from Iran and wood from Indonesia and the United States of America. The palace also features a number of statues, busts and portraits of prominent peace campaigners from around the world and of all eras.

In 1907 the first stone was symbolically placed during the Second Hague Conference. The construction began some months later and was completed with an inauguration ceremony on 28 August 1913, attended by, among others, Andrew Carnegie.

In 1999 an eternal peace flame was installed in front of its gates.

In 2007, Queen Beatrix opened the new building for the Peace Palace Library of International Law, housing the entire catalogue of the library, a lecture hall and a new reading room in the bridge to the main building of the Peace Palace. Like the new Academy Hall, the library was designed by architects Michael Wilford and Manuel Schupp.

The European Heritage Label was awarded to the Peace Palace on 8 April 2014.[1]


Main hall of the Peace Palace. The background is the entrance of the Courtroom of the International Court of Justice

The Peace Palace has been occupied at different times by a number of organisations:

  • Permanent Court of Arbitration (since 1913) The original occupant for which the Peace Palace was constructed. From 1901 until the opening of the Palace in 1913, the Permanent Court of Arbitration was housed at Prinsegracht 71 in The Hague. As of July 2015, it had 117 State Parties.
  • Peace Palace Library of International Law (since 1913). Being the original vision of Carnegie, the library grew quickly to house the best collection of international law. Although this stature is well in the past, the library still contains some original classical works, as the original copies of Hugo Grotius' works on peace and law and Erasmus' Querela Pacis.
  • The Hague Academy of International Law (since 1923). Established in 1914, strongly advocated by Tobias Asser. Funds for the Academy came from another peace project by Andrew Carnegie, namely the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, established in 1910.
  • The Carnegie Foundation (since 1913).
  • Permanent Court of International Justice (1922–1946). In 1922 the Permanent Court of International Justice of the League of Nations was added to the occupants. This meant the Library was forced to move to an annex building, and the Permanent Court of Arbitration was moved to the front left of the building. This Court was followed by the;
  • International Court of Justice (since 1946). In 1946, with the birth of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice was established as her principal judicial organ.

Other international courts in The Hague, the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Court are separate organizations, located elsewhere in The Hague.


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Coordinates: 52°05′12″N 4°17′44″E / 52.0866°N 4.2955°E / 52.0866; 4.2955