Column by Eelco H. Dykstra, MD
For Diplomat Magazine
Eelco Dykstra writes a monthly column called “A smile and a thought…” The columns put a playful spotlight on the interface between the Dutch and the International Community it hosts. Yes, his musings may appear at times to be mildly provocative at first sight but they are first and foremost playful – with a little irony thrown in here and there… You be the judge!
His columns are intended to give you ‘a smile and a thought’. A smile because perhaps you hadn’t quite looked at something that way and a thought because the column may leave you wondering…
How secure is The Hague as a UN City of Peace and Justice…?
The city of The Hague has long aspired to become a fixed item on the list of “UN cities”. After New York and Geneva and with an emphasis on “Peace, Security and Justice”, The Hague has been busy to find a niche to promote and position itself as a city of geopolitical relevance. With ambitions this high, it is time to take a look at the results – and the future.
At first sight, things look impressive. Many international entities related to “Peace” and “Justice”, have flocked to The Hague. Below this surface however, I hear that things are not running all that smooth.
What is going on?
Due in part to the recent and ongoing Euro-crisis, most cities in the Netherlands, including The Hague, have been forced to bring down costs and cancel high-profile investment plans. Despite the gallant efforts of entities within City Hall such as the International Desk – where staff are dealing with an onslaught of questions by visitors and expats on a daily basis –, I hear that The Hague is increasingly putting the burden of cooperation on its international partners.
While everyone knows that true partnerships require an investment from both sides, I hear that the city of The Hague is increasingly taking an “all talk and no money” approach. Eventually, this will drive the international organizations out-of-town.
Is The Hague also a city of “Security” – along with Peace and Justice?
It is clear that the topic of “Security” is structurally related to “Peace” and “Justice”. But what that means in The Hague remains unclear. Sometimes The Hague is linked with Security, sometimes it is not.
The Dutch language only uses one word (“Veiligheid”) to incorporate both “Safety” and “Security”, even though the two are clearly different.
In the case of Peace and Justice, the City of The Hague (and the national government right behind it…) invested in attracting well-known foreign entities to set up shop in its city. The focus was on practice, experience and knowledge.
In the case of Security, the City of The Hague (and the national government right behind it…) did not so much seek foreign entities with practical experience but invested instead in setting up various platforms for Dutch “security expertise” to be exported to other countries. This is not working well, perhaps because the focus was too much on policy (and not practice), technology (and not on human factors) and emphasizes trendy topics (short-lived attention span).
So, what will our advice as readers of Diplomat Magazine, be to the City of The Hague?
Some suggestions for the City of The Hague and the Dutch:
- Invest in establishing a stronger and more visible ‘International Office’ in the City of The Hague;
- Be more pro-active about involving the diplomatic and international community, for instance by establishing an “International Council”
- Combine the policy-driven and export-oriented Dutch approach to Security with the practical experience and knowledge from partners abroad, for instances through HSD (The Hague Security Delta) and conferences such as PISAS (www.pisas.org)
- Establish formal working relations with Diplomat Magazine…
What you say?