Word of welcome by Mayor Jan van Zanen at the reception for the corps diplomatique and representatives of international organisations, 9 November 2021
A very warm welcome.
How marvellous it is that we can finally be together again.
Something I have been greatly looking forward to.
You too, I suspect.
Our long wait has been more than amply rewarded:
Amare has now opened its doors.
Making it possible to receive you here in this splendid new building.
A place where we can enjoy art, culture and entertainment.
A place where people can meet.
I very much hope that from now on we can hold this reception here every year.
Because having direct contact with the people living in The Hague – people such as you – is something close to my heart.
Which is why I am so happy to see you, members of the international community, here together today.
Fortunately, I have already had the opportunity of meeting some of you over the past 16 months.
I am referring, of course, to the Embassies and their staff.
Diplomatic representations have long been part of the history of The Hague, for centuries even.
Along with the various Courts and Tribunals, some of which have also been based here for quite some time.
They form the foundations under this city of peace and justice.
Many of my predecessors contributed to that.
And I am honoured to walk in their footsteps.
The Hague has been on the world map for many years now.
Something I would like even more people to know.
And thus promote peace and justice and, at the same time, the prestige and prosperity of the city.
I am most impressed by the highly practical, ‘hands on’ way in which people in The Hague work towards creating a better world:
one which is peaceful, safe and just.
Or, to express it in the words of Nelson Mandela:
“Let there be justice for all.
Let there be peace for all.
Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all”.
Access to justice is a basic human right.
Nelson Mandela, after 27 years in prison, understood that better than anyone.
As international city of peace and justice, The Hague aims to make a vital contribution to achieving universal access to justice.
It is, after all, an essential part of Sustainable Development Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law, for example, uses digital technology to facilitate wider and easier access to justice.
Just as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs uses large volumes of data to enhance humanitarian aid.
It is impressive to see what new technology can do for the benefit of humankind.
But as with everything, there is also a downside to digital development.
Because it raises new legal and ethical issues.
Like big companies that collect more and more data on us.
And what about the use of artificial intelligence?
In drones and robots that can be deployed as lethal weapons, for example?
The Hague is pleased to provide a platform for research on these topics.
Because the rights of the individual, privacy and public values, such as safety and equality, must apply in the digital world, too.
Together with our international partners and knowledge hubs, such as the Asser and Clingendael Institutes, The Hague is hard at work on these issues.
In that respect, I see a direct line from the time of the first Peace Conferences, roughly 120 years ago, to today.
The Hague is, and continues to be, the international city of peace and justice, also in the 21st century.
We do everything we can to maintain and strengthen that unique profile.
But it is only because of your presence and your work that we can do that.
That work will certainly not have been any easier for you during the pandemic.
That is why I want to say to you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
You know you can always count on us.
So, au revoir, until this evening or until we meet some other time in our beautiful city of The Hague.
I look forward to meeting you and talking to you again, wherever it may be.