Welcome by Jan van Zanen at the opening of The Hague Model United Nations, 23 January 2024


Dear all,

A very warm welcome.

Our city is honoured to host The Hague Model United Nations. What once began as a modest event at the American School of The Hague has grown into something big. And a regular date in our city calendar. An event that fits very well with The Hague. The First Peace Conference was held here 1899. And in the 125 years that followed The Hague evolved into the international city of peace and justice. The city that is home to the world. Certainly today, as I look around me.

Many international organisations and NGOs are based in The Hague. There is a huge concentration of knowledge on peace and justice available here. Although working on a peaceful and just – and therefore better world – is not something reserved just for specialists. There is no minimum age attached to it. And that is why I am so delighted to see you all here. Young people from all over the world. Here to learn about the work of the United Nations. To discover what it is like to work together. To create a better future together. The problems and challenges our world is struggling with require a new way of thinking. And it is you, the generation of today and tomorrow, who can take a fresh perspective on things. Get off the beaten track.

The world news that reaches us every day is often hardly cheerful. Take the situation in Israel and Gaza, for example, which many people in The Hague are concerned about, too. Or the war in Ukraine, which has now been going on for almost two years. I understand that you will be addressing that in the coming days. As you probably know, the War Damage Register for Ukraine set up by the Council of Europe, is based in The Hague. But if I look at you, then I am not as concerned as I was. I see in front of me a large group of enthusiastic and dedicated young people. Tomorrow’s world citizens.

The experience you will gain here will be most valuable. You will not only learn how the United Nations works. But also get to see things from a different point of view. Learn how to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. And view the world through different eyes. Of course, we need passionate and idealistic people. People who want to make the world a better place. But it all begins with respect for one another. Being willing to listen to each other, without immediately passing judgment. Only then can we have an effect on the world around us. And build bridges between peoples and nations.

I wish you every success over the coming days. And, of course, lots of fun too. I am sure it will be. And, who knows, perhaps we will meet again. If you should decide to come here to study, for example. Know that you will always be welcome in The Hague.