The Hague is setting the stage for global justice

A fair and accessible legal system is key to strengthening a country’s stability and development. It helps people resolve existing conflicts peacefully and prevent new ones. During The Hague Justice Week, actors from all over the world come together, interact and try to find answers to global challenges through the scope of justice. 

During the Hague Justice week, the World Justice Forum will take place, creating a collaborative agenda based around the themes of Access to Justice, Anti-Corruption and Open Government, and Equal Rights and Non-Discrimination. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs is co-producing the forum. The program includes dynamic plenary discussions, interactive working sessions, the Justice Expo exhibition hall and off-site visits to explore local initiatives in The Hague. 

Promotion of peace, justice and inclusion

Nearly half of Sub-Saharan Africans does not have a birth certificate. Around one third of all prisoners in the world are held in detention without sentencing. Additionally, children rights’ violations continue to plague many countries.

It is estimated that 1.5 billion people around the world cannot solve their justice problems. This directly affects the social contract and trust between people and their governments. In conflict-affected countries, we see even greater challenges.  

Human rights, the rule of law, and democracy are inextricably connected and our commitment to those fundamental principles is a foundation of our development policy, which is people-centered, based on people’s needs.

The Netherlands strives to achieve inclusive and just societies in all countries, where everyone is protected, respected, and free to speak their mind without having to fear for their safety. We strive to guarantee everyone’s fundamental rights and freedoms to reduce inequalities and build truly inclusive societies.

The Hague – international city of peace and justice

About 180 international organisations in The Hague work to create a more just and peaceful world by resolving conflicts – not with armed force but with reasoned legal judgments. Some of these organisations prosecute and try war criminals. The Hague is a place where knowledge, research and experience in the field of peace and justice come together, and a birthplace of projects that foster peace. 

Organisations like the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court (ICC), and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are all based here. The Hague is the second largest UN city after New York and the city strongly emphasizes conferences that implement the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Justice is a thread that runs through all 17 SDGs, but especially SDG16 is important during this Hague Justice Week: Promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Access to justice: district judges in the Netherlands

The Netherlands itself also still grapples with people-centered access to justice for all its citizens. One of the major obstacles in accessing justice in the Netherlands is the cost of legal advice and representation. To overcome this obstacle, multiple cities in the Netherlands are experimenting with so called district judges. The district judge steps in when both parties are willing to find a solution to a conflict. 

Citizens do not need legal knowledge in order to participate. Should the parties resolve the problem themselves, the judge puts the agreements in legal documents. If no solution is found, the judge makes a decision him or herself. The administration of justice thus becomes more accessible and approachable for citizens.

Evaluation of this project shows that the simple procedure in district courts ensures that the legal procedure is easier to understand and follow for people, without the need for a legal background. This means, for example, that parties do not need the assistance of a lawyer and can conduct the proceedings themselves. 

It appears that the district judge fulfills an important need. After all, a solution is found for seemingly small matters, which at the same time have a considerable impact on the daily lives of all parties involved.