On July 24, 1923, ten years after the opening of the Peace Palace, the Hague Academy of International Law was solemnly inaugurated in the Peace Palace ‘to teach subjects which are most important from the point of view of theory, practice, legislation and international jurisprudence, in particular from deliberations of conferences and arbitral awards’ (Art. 3 of its statute adopted in 1914).
The Hague, host-city of the First and Second Hague Peace Conferences, and the Peace Palace, seat of the newly created Permanent Court of Arbitration, seemed the perfect location for the Academy. The official deed establishing it was passed in 1914 in The Hague. However, due to the outbreak of the First World War the beginning of the Academy was postponed till 1923. Financial support came from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a considerable sum was given by the Dutch jurist Tobias M. Asser out of the Nobel Prize he received in 1911.
The Scientific Board of the Academy, the Curatorium, presently under the presidency of H.E. B. Boutros-Ghali (former Secretary-General of the United Nations), selects the topics and lecturers, keeping in mind the goals of the Academy: reflecting international law, its roots, history and development and above all the devotion to the cause of peace. The Academy was awarded the Wateler Peace Prize in 1936 and 1950, and the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize in 1992.
The main activities are:
• Two consecutive three-week sessions with lectures and supplemental seminars in the summer months (summer courses)
• Centre for Studies and Research in International Law and International Relations (since 1957)
• External Programme of courses in international law, each year in a developing country for participants from the host country and neighbouring countries (since 1969)
The summer courses in The Hague started in 1923 with 353 students. In the years 1940-1946 no courses were given. This year, 2013, 614 participants have been registered. All the courses are published in the Collected Courses/Recueil des Courses of the Hague Academy of International Law published at present by Brill in Leiden. This famous row of green volumes can be found in law libraries all over the world. The lectures are also available in electronic form.
The first lecture, Introduction à l’histoire du droit international (Vol. 1, 1923), was given by Baron Serge A. Korff (1876-1924), Professor at the University of Columbia, while the last volume (Vol. 360, 2012) contains the general course of 2012, The Law of Open Societies: Private and Public Regulation of International Relations, by Professor Jürgen Basedow, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law.
The high-level diploma awarded by the Academy after an extremely selective examination is considered an important stepping stone for a successful career in the international legal and diplomatic world. Only one or two people per year receiver this diploma, such as G.M. Abi-Saab (1964), J.A. Carillo Salcedo (1952), J.W.E. Delbrück (1968), L.F.E. Goldie (1957), H.van Houtte (1977), B. Reamcharan (1973), D. Turp (1989) and E. McWhinney (1951).
As mentioned before the Academy’s location in the Peace Palace was important. Since then The Hague has really grown into the ‘Legal Capital of the World’, offering the Academy students the unique opportunity to meet members from the various international courts and tribunals in an informal atmosphere.
Last but not least, the Peace Palace Library with its collection of one million books on international law is closely involved in the Academy’s activities. It offers through DOKEOS, an online study-programme, the students online material for their preparations for the summer courses. The library’s introduction at the beginning of the courses, will help people to find their way in the catalogue for their research and to study material that is not to be found elsewhere in the world.
Ninety years after the first Academy, with eminent teaching of international law to thousands of students, the Academy certainly contributed to international peace and friendship.
A selection of relevant publications from the Peace Palace Library collection
- Recueil des cours, Collected Courses (Hague Academy of International Law)
- Recueil des cours, Collected Courses (Brill)
- Recueil des cours en ligne, The Hague Academy Collected Courses Online (Martinus Nijhoff Online)