Thursday, 2 August 2012

Week 1: IPSI Hague Symposium

Street Sculptures in Scheveningen

Greetings again from den Haag, in the Netherlands. I'm now a week into the IPSI Hague Symposium on Post-Conflict Transitions and International Justice. I'm also a week into being in Europe, which has been pretty nice. Here are a few highlights:

On the grounds in front of Clingendael
1. Clingendael - The symposium is held at a beautiful old building, which houses the Netherlands Institution for International Relations.

The building itself has a curious history. I can't remember the full details behind it, but the building was taken over by Nazis during the second world war, and occupied by such notables as Heinrich Himmler. One of the 'dignitary's' wives (was it Himmler's?) was (a) dog-crazy, and (b) completely ignorant of what was happening at Clingendael at the time. She made individual gravestones for each individual dog that she had, and buried them under a beautiful tree in the grounds behind the building.

Blind, Deaf, Genius Togo (the dog) , buried behind Clingendael
It's actually fairly strange, perhaps ironic, that these gravestones exist, given that Clingendael, at that time, was basically a interrogation and torture site. It's on this foundation that the Clingendael institute exists, as a learning institution dedicated to peace. That's a nice change.

It is located on a beautiful parks, and there are cows, sheep, and donkeys grazing around the fields. Ducks and swans swim in the ponds, and there is a small cafe that sells fantastic apple pie. An ideal learning centre.

 2. The Hague - The Hague (den Haag in Dutch) is truly the city of international justice. It houses the International Court of Justice, the Permanent International Court of Arbitration, the International Criminal Court, and the Special Tribunals for Sierra Leone, Lebanon, and Yugoslavia. For someone in my position, it's the centre of all things international justice. It's also a sleepy town, full of cute buildings, busy people riding bicycles all over the place, and a beautiful beach (in Scheveningen). I already know that I want to come back here.

3. The Conference - Of course, the reason I'm here is the conference, and it is not disappointing. I've had the pleasure of being lecture by academics, Lt. Generals at the UN, and, Special Representatives to the UN. Very high level discussions, and very insightful issues. This week was focused on the theoretical and conceptual backgrounds for transitioning states from conflict to peace and stability. In particular, we focused on Justice, Development, Security, and Governance issues - the four main pillars of a stable democracy.

Classes run from 8-5, monday to friday, with daily readings. If that is not full-on enough, I've volunteered to be part of a 'working group' on developing a 'Transitional Framework' - a blueprint for guiding states from conflict to peace and stability. A lofty goal - it's one thing that the organizers of the conference are very excited about, and I'm happy to be a part of it.

Otherwise, the group of participants have been wonderful. Coming from diverse backgrounds, it's created a very electric learning environment. I'm caught up in it, and the questions and discussions have been just as informative as the presentations themselves. I'm looking forward to how things are going to progress in the coming weeks!

In other news, I got an Op-Ed published in le Quotidien, a Senegalese newspaper! It was translated into French by an intern (Thanks Nastasia!), and is an update on the current situation on Kenya and the ICC. Check it out here.

That's all for now, check in next week!

The King and Queen of Scheveningen, slightly unimpressed 

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