[Travel and other expenses related to my participation in the "100 Years Peace Palace" program provided by the Government of the Netherlands and Radio Netherlands Worldwide.]
August 28th marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It was also the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Peace Palace at The Hague. Two dreams from two eras. The pursuit of these two related dreams—for racial and economic justice within the U.S. (and other countries) and for the peaceful resolution of disputes between countries—are stories in which citizen activism played an important role in framing the issues and options for political elites.
This idea of the interconnection of Dr. King’s vision with those of the peace activists who played a part in setting the stage for the Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907 and the subsequent construction of the Peace Palace and its institutions was a theme that was noted throughout the commemorations at The Hague. Perhaps nowhere more so than in the celebration of the work of Bertha von Suttner, an influential author and peace activist who was the only woman to attend the 1899 conference.
…that 1899 conference and its results would not have been achieved without the citizens’ movement that made it happen. Grotius had been an advisor to princes, and famously for a time was imprisoned by one of them. They ruled the world of the 17th Century. But by 1899, citizens had the power to affect the decisions of governments, and a citizens’ movement led by Bertha von Suttner, demanded the convening of the Hague conference and motivated its decisions.
Bertha von Suttner went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905. At the centennial festivities at the Peace Palace this August, she also became the first woman to have a bust in the Peace Palace.
Ambassador Rapp had come to the celebrations at The Hague directly from an annual meeting of the chief international prosecutors of the various international tribunals sponsored by the Robert H. Jackson Center and other institutions, that takes place at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York. In doing this, he noted the historical link to von Suttner:
On leaving the sessions this year, I discovered that Bertha von Suttner had come to Chautauqua in the summer of 1912 to speak in the same amphitheatre before a crowd of thousands… It is reported that von Suttner spoke at Chautauqua about the need to resolve disputes between nations in court and not on the battlefield, and about how the Permanent Court of Arbitration would be a forum for such peaceful settlements. Back here in The Hague, a palace to house that court was rising. Now 100 years later we honor von Suttner, and the civic activism that can move nations.
It may seem strange to celebrate the centennial of the Peace Palace when today’s great powers are at odds over what to do in the face of carnage in Syria… [Continue Reading]