Speech by Mayor Jan van Zanen at the Peace and Justice meeting, 2 February 2023


Distinguished guests,


Peace and justice.

For almost 125 years our city has been defined by those three words.

Peace and justice.

Principles which seem more topical than ever in 2023.

And for those who can hardly imagine it, I would say:

Ask those who found a safe haven here.

The people fleeing bombs and rockets.

Or those who had to leave hearth and home.

Because they were persecuted for any imaginable reason.

Peace and justice.

Those three words, included in The Hague’s coat of arms, touch upon the life of everyone.

Wherever they may be in the world.

I consider it a great honour to be mayor of this city.

Where, day in and day out, people strive for peace and justice.

I am most impressed by the highly practical, ‘hands on’ way in which people here in The Hague are working to create a better world:

a world which is peaceful, safe and just.

In one of the more than 200 international or non-governmental organisations in this city, for example.

Or here at the Humanity Hub.

Not to mention at the university, in the universities of applied science and in other centres of expertise.

Peace and justice.

These words now encompass so much more than they did in Andrew Carnegie’s time.

The internet, artificial intelligence: things that have brought countless new opportunities.

Along with new legal and ethical dilemmas.

While The Hague is still the place where people make agreements on these matters.

During the forthcoming international meeting on Responsible Artificial Intelligence in the Military Domain, for example.

We just heard that there will be an international investigation center on war crimes in Ukraine.

It will be located in The Hague.

The center will investigate whether war crimes committed in Ukraine can be prosecuted. “It will coordinate the collection of evidence and become part of a joint investigation team, supported by Eurojust.”

International city of peace and justice:

A title which brings great honour, but also responsibility.

The Hague will always be committed to the attainment of these principles.

By accommodating all the international organisations and their staff in the best possible way, of course.

Making you and your families feel at home.

But also by ensuring that The Hague’s residents are informed about the work of all these bodies.

Through the Just Peace Month and other public events, for example.

Moments which bring peace and justice to life.

That is also why I am so pleased that this meeting can take place in person again.

And that we can speak to one another, face to face.

I wish you all a wonderful gathering.