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<xTITLE>The Hague Appeal for Peace Conference</xTITLE>

The Hague Appeal for Peace Conference

by Gouri Sadhwani
September 2000
Civil Society held the largest international peace conference in history on May 11-15, 1999. Over 9,000 activists, government representative and community leaders from over 100 countries attended the Hague Appeal for Peace Conference. During the four day gathering participants discussed and debated in over 400 panels, workshops and round tables mechanisms for abolishing war and creating a culture of peace in the 21st century.

Participants included representatives from 80 governments and international organizations, and hundreds of civil society leaders including: UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, Queen Noor of Jordan, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Arundhati Roy of India, Rigoberta Menchu Tum of Guatemala, and Jody Williams from the Landmines Campaign.

This event marked the centennial of the first International Peace Conference, which began in May 1899 in the Hague. This first conference was the beginning of the Hague process, the process of active interaction of civil society and governments to prevent war and control its excesses, which ultimately brought several conventions on warfare, including the treaties under which Slobodan Milosevic is accused of war crimes, the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the International Court of Justice, both in the Hague, the League of Nations, and the United Nations.

This Hague Appeal Conference was made even more significant because unlike the UN global summits of the past decade, this conference was organized entirely by civil society, not governments. The UN did not receive the governmental support needed to convene a global summit on peace. So, the people organized it ourselves. The Hague conference proved to governments that civil society is serious, desperate, and fed up with war.

The conference launched an action-plan, the Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice for the 21st Century, containing 50 detailed programs which set the international agenda for coming decades on conflict prevention, implementing human rights, peacekeeping, disarmament, and coping with the root causes of war. Hundreds of civil society organizations from many countries collaborated over a year on producing the Hague Agenda.

The conference was a living example of what is known as the new, or democratic diplomacy - the collaboration of civil society, governments and intergovernmental organizations which has already proved its effectiveness in bringing about the treaty to ban landmines, the statute creating the International Criminal Court and the World Court opinion on the illegality of nuclear weapons.

The Hague Appeal for Peace also successfully redefined peace as not only the absence of conflict between and within states, but also the absence of economic and social injustice. From this belief, we brought together environmentalists, human rights advocates, humanitarian aid and development workers and others who have traditionally not thought of themselves as "peace activists" to work together for the development of a sustainable culture of peace.

Some conference highlights:

  • 1500 youth participants showed us the peace movement is alive and kicking, producing a great Youth Agenda for Peace and Justice;
  • Kashmiris, Indians and Pakistanis reached an unprecedented peace agreement on Kashmir;
  • Ethiopians and Eritreans held a dialogue on the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict;
  • Young people from Turkish Cyprus and Greek Cyprus wrote a 4 page "Timetable for Peace in Cyprus" action-plan;
  • Sports was proven to be a powerful medium for promoting peace and friendship in "basketball diplomacy" - a 3 day tournament in which the Californian youth team of Athletes United for Peace played local Dutch youth teams;
  • Five Nobel Peace prize winners participated in the conference, as well as HM Queen Noor of Jordan, heads of UNICEF, UNESCO, UNIFEM and the Secretary-General of the UN, Kofi Annan. Messages of support were sent from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (via video) Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela and Graca Machel;
  • Two prime ministers, a deputy prime minister, two foreign ministers and ambassadors spoke and PM Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh agreed to mail the Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice for the 21st Century to heads of state around the world (she has done this already!);
  • The Hague Agenda has been submitted as a UN document, will be translated into all UN languages, and will be formally presented to the Fall 1999 UN General Assembly.

The Conference also launched seven key initiatives, all of which are looking for individuals and groups to join them. They are:

(1) the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), email: hrwatchnyc@igc.org;

(2) the Global Campaign for Peace Education, email: mailbox@ipb.org;

(3) Global Ratification Campaign for the International Criminal Court, email: cicc@igc.org;

(4) the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, email: icbl@icbl.org;

(5) Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, email: wagingpeace@napf.org;

(6) Global Action to Prevent War, email: info@globalactionpw.org; and

(7) Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, email: beckerj@hrw.org.

Additional campaigns launched at the conference include:

  • A call for a global ban on depleted uranium, email: mtpdu@ime.net
  • A campaign to end genocide, email: gstanton@wfa.org, and
  • An international network on disarmament and globalization email: sstaples@canadians.org

Where do we go from here?

The Hague Appeal for Peace sent a delegation to the Centennial Conference of "Friends of '99" the governmental meeting commemorating the 1899 first Hague Peace conference. Hosted by The Netherlands, this legal expert level meeting reviewed the 3 agendas of 1899: armaments, the pacific settlement of disputes, and international humanitarian law. Another delegation, will attend the second round of the governmental meetings in St. Petersburg on June 22 to discuss implementation of the agenda areas. The Hague Appeal for Peace is one of only three non-UN member states invited to participate in these governmental meetings, the others being the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Hague Appeal's participation in this meeting made history as the first governmental level meeting in which a civil society delegation has sat with government delegates as equal partners with equal rights.

The Hague Agenda will also be presented at the International Conference of NGOs in Seoul, October, at the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, October, at the Millennium NGO Forum in New York, June 2000, and at many other international meetings. Report back meetings are happening around the world as word spreads about the success of the Hague conference and the Hague Agenda is distributed and discussed. New regional coalitions are forming, for instance a South Asian Agenda for Peace and Justice has developed. We are creating a world database of all the organizations which participated in the conference , to facilitate networking. This database will soon be available on our website:

www.haguepeace.org

The purpose of the Hague Appeal for Peace gathering was to unite the diverse elements of the international peace and justice movements in an appeal to our governments and the citizens of the world to find ways to end war. As Peter Weiss put it, we raised, in a serious and realistic way, the question of whether, at the end of the bloodiest century in history, humanity can find a way to solve its problems without resorting to arms; whether, from the next century onward, war is still necessary or legitimate; and whether, given the nature of the weapons currently in arsenals and on drawing boards, civilization can survive another major war.

You too can get involved by joining one of the above mentioned campaigns and the Hague Appeal for Peace network of activists.

Email your complete mailing address and contact information to: hap99@igc.apc.org.

You can also get regular updates on Hague Appeal for Peace activities, the seven campaigns launched, and on new initiatives by joining the HAP news listserv.

To subscribe to this listserv, send an email message to <majordomo@igc.org> with the message "subscribe hapnews-list" in the body of the email.

Join thousands around the world in demanding and working towards a world with peace and justice!

Gouri Sadhwani
Campaign Coordinator
The Hague Appeal for Peace 1999
c/o WFM 777 UN Plaza
New York, NY 10017
USA
Phone: + 1 212.687.2623
Fax: +1 212.599.1332
Email: gourihap99@igc.apc.org Web Site: www.haguepeace.org