Peace Palace

1899 First Hague Peace Conference

From 18 May 1899 until 29 July 1899, the First Hague Peace Conference was held in the Netherlands with the aim of promoting the peaceful settlement of conflicts and disarmament. The conference was initiated by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and hosted by the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina at the Dutch Royal Palace Huis ten Bosch.

The Hague
The Hague was chosen as venue for the First Peace Conference. Several aspects played a role in this choice. Having great philosophers and legal academics like Erasmus and Grotius, the Netherlands already stood at the cradle of international law. Moreover, the country had a relatively neutral position in the European arena of tension and The Hague had already hosted an international Hague Conference on Private Law chaired by Tobias Asser in 1894. It is likely that also family ties between the Dutch and Russian royal houses may also have played a role in the choice of The Hague. It can certainly be concluded that the First Hague Peace Conference launched The Hague as International City of Peace and Justice.

Conference Agenda
Russian diplomat and ambassador Egor Egorovich Staal was the chair of the conference which was divided into three main sections: disarmament, international law, and arbitration. The more than 100 delegates from 26 countries discussed a wide range of issues related to these topics, including the regulation of armaments and the use of force:
The agenda of this First Hague Peace Conference of 1899 included proposals such as the freezing of military expenditure, a ban on the use of submarine torpedoes and the throwing of explosive projectiles from balloons or other aircraft, and a ban on the development of new weapons with greater firepower than existing ones. Moreover, the representatives also wanted to discuss the acceptance of the principles of arbitration to settle or prevent international disputes in the future.

Results of the Conference
The 1899 Peace Conference was a milestone in the history of international relations and set the stage for future efforts to promote peace and international jurisdiction. The conference was a response to the growing concern about the arms race and the possibility of war in Europe. It reflected the growing interest in international law and the need for a system of international justice.
The outcome of this conference was the acceptance of three conventions:
– Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes,
– Convention respecting the Law and Customs of War on Land,
– Convention on the Adaptation to Maritime Warfare of the Principles of the Geneva Conventions of 22 August 1864.

Subsequent measures included a ban on asphyxiating gases and expanding bullets as well as the adoption of a resolution on military charges. Probably the most important outcome of the First Hague Peace Conference was the establishment of the Permanent Court of Arbitration as a result of the Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes. During the closing ceremony on 29 July 1899, these decisions were signed and included in the Final Act of the Conference.

Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)
During the debates of the First Hague Peace Conference, there was a urging proposal for mandatory arbitration based on a so-called permanent treaty. The ‘Hague Convention on the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes’ decided at the conference established the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). Since its establishment 125 years ago, the PCA has played a crucial role in the peaceful settlement of international disputes and has administered more than 300 cases. The Court remains one of the most important institutions in the field of the peaceful settlement of international disputes.

Peace Palace
Following the First Peace Conference, it was decided to build a ‘Temple of Peace’ to house the Permanent Court of Arbitration and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie was approached to fund the construction. In 1903, the Carnegie Foundation was established to administer his donation and manage the construction of the palace.
During the Second Peace Conference in 1907, the foundation stone of the Peace Palace was laid. In the presence of the Dutch Royal Family, financier Andrew Carnegie and an international group of jurists, politicians and pacifists, the Peace Palace was officially opened on 28 August 1913. Nowadays, the Peace Palace houses the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the United Nations International Court of Justice, the Hague Academy of International Law and the Peace Palace Library. The Carnegie Foundation is the owner and manager of the Peace Palace.

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