World Class The Hague

25 Jun 2013 | Roy Lie A Tjam

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Launching the World Class The Hague event recently in the Hague, Mayor Jozias van Aartsen asked  ‘How do we create a better world?’ The guest speakers at the second World Class event, Dr. Abiodun Williams (President of The Hague Institute for Global Justice) and Professor Sherry Mueller (The American University in Washington D.C.) addressed this important question.


The Deputy Mayor and Alderman for Education and Public Service, Ingrid van Engelshoven, welcomed the World Class students and the speakers on 7 June 2013 to The International Club, praising the location as being an inspirational partner in The Hague’s international community.

The Deputy Mayor noted that The Hague has always been a city without walls, an indication of its open and positive attitude to newcomers. The Hague, like Washington D.C., is the seat of its country’s national government and recognises the importance of education. The Hague is a world class international city, which is reflected by the many international institutions accommodated here. In The Hague, the world is at your feet!


Dr. Abiodun Williams - idealism and realism.

Dr. Abiodun Williams took the stage and recalled how Dr. Willem Post, an envoy of Mayor Jozias van Aartsen and director of the World Class Programme, visited Washington D.C. to convince him to move to The Hague. The fact that he is now in the city shows what a persuasive person Willem Post is!

Having served as an advisor to several Secretary-Generals of the United Nations, including Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon, Dr. Williams talked about ‘How to make a better world’ from a UN perspective. He referred to it as ‘the view from the 30th floor’, the floor in the New York UN Building where the office of the Secretary General is situated.

Dr. Williams responded to the question ‘How to make a better world?’ using four main points:

1. The UN’s role as a world forum

2. The importance of norms

3. Crisis management and peacekeeping

4. The role of the UN Secretary General


1. Whether it concerns a response to a pandemic, proliferation or passport problems, in all global problems the UN serves as a forum where the parties involved can meet.


2. Norms are critical and indispensable in the search for solutions. We all have an obligation to prevent holocaust, genocide or ethnic cleansing from happening again.

In 2009, the nations of the world made a solemn promise to protect their citizens from genocide and war crimes. Should they fail to do so, the International Criminal Court is expected to step in. Libya is an example of what could happen when a government fails to provide the required protection to its citizens. In other words, not observing the norms.

On September 14 2009, the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution on the Responsibility to Protect. Member States offered overwhelming support for the norm and concrete proposals on how to take the norm forward. These proposals included strengthening the UN’s early warning capacity and the Peace building Commission, building the capacity of regional and sub-regional organisations, and adopting criteria for the use of force to prevent misuse.


3. Peace, security and peacekeeping, rank high on the UN’s order of business and are its most difficult roles. Interestingly, no mention is made of peacekeeping in the charter (Dr. Williams highly recommends reading the UN charter, saying ‘It is like poetry’ and ‘inspiring’). Requirements for proper peacekeeping are a UN mandate and given sufficient resources.


4. The role of the Secretary General is first and foremost an administrative one. It is a non-political role and the post stands above any party. The first UN Secretary General, Mr. Dag Hammarskjöld, described the post as ‘the most impossible job in the world’ when he handed it over to his successor.

Most of the work of the Secretary General is carried out behind closed doors; by phone, trying to defuse tensions and by acting as a mediator. The Secretary General has affectionately been nicknamed ‘a scapegoat’ for the Members States.

To Dr. Williams, the UN aims at striking a balance between idealism and realism.


Professor Sherry Mueller - one handshake at a time

Professor Mueller began by expressing her admiration for The Hague and giving kudos to the city of peace.

Her speech focused on Citizen Diplomacy, the concept that the individual has the right, even the responsibility, to help shape (U.S.) foreign relations 'one handshake at a time'. Citizen diplomats are motivated by a responsibility to engage with the rest of the world in a meaningful, mutually beneficial dialogue. Through their actions citizen diplomats help eliminate stereotypes and ‘understand other people’s cultures’.

Professor Mueller cited Ayatollah in the Cathedral, a publication by the former U.S. diplomat Moorhead Kennedy. His twofold message was an appeal to his fellow Americans to understand the perspective of others and the denunciation of dogmatism by the American equivalent of the ayatollah.

Professor Mueller explained that there are two forms of citizen diplomacy; spontaneous and deliberate.  The first can be a simple act, such as helping a tourist. The second refers to more deliberate actions (i.e. making the decision to study abroad).

Professor Mueller believes that that one needs to reconcile nationalism with internationalism. Mueller dislikes the phrase ‘It’s a small world’ because it is so untrue and said that it is preferable to have a holistic view of the world if we want to make it a better place. It is also her hope that the World Class students will consider citizen diplomacy their calling, ‘whatever their professional field’.



Both speakers further reflected on the theme ‘How to make a better world’ during the Q&A that followed the speeches.

According to Dr. Williams, there is no such thing as a citizen of the world but rather an overlapping of identity. A better world might be achieved by UN peacekeeping and individual Member States taking responsibility and refraining from maltreating their citizens.

Professor Sherry Mueller suggests educating citizens with the concept of the diplomatic citizen.

These hypotheses may not bring about lasting peace, however, they do offer a glimmer of hope.

World Class The Hague was held on 7 June 2013 at The International Club The Hague

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