As a native of The Hague, I frequently joke to people that I must be the only international lawyer who is constantly trying to escape from The Hague rather than come here. I grew up in this city and eventually chose a career in public international law, at least in part because I wanted to see the world. Whenever I return home now on family visits, my home town also provides me with a professional home: the Peace Palace Library.
I first visited the library during a brief stint conducting research for Bosnia and Herzegovina in a 2002 ICJ case. My father gave me a lift to the Peace Palace one morning, and I still remember him saying, as I left his car at the gate, that he had never imagined dropping me off for work at this place. The library staff were incredibly helpful to me as a young delegation member. I soon learned that they were equally helpful to ‘ordinary’ users when I returned to the library as a student, to conduct research for my graduation thesis at Leiden University.
I have been returning to the Peace Palace library ever since, first again as researcher and counsel for Bosnia and Herzegovina preparing for hearings in 2005 and early 2006, then as a researcher at the Essex Human Rights Centre, a doctoral candidate at the European University Institute in Florence, and currently for my work in the International Law Programme of Chatham House. Sometimes I returned to a transformed library, such as when the historic reading room in the Peace Palace was replaced with the wonderful and comfortable room in the newly erected Hague Academy Building – a change which mirrored the (post-) modernisation and transformation of the discipline of international law in recent decades.
When I come back to The Hague now, the Peace Palace library not only allows me to continue working, but provides me with unique resources I cannot find elsewhere, even if those places have great libraries of their own. Whenever I am unable to find certain materials needed for my research in other libraries, I can almost be certain that the Peace Palace Library has them. And wherever I am, I often turn to the Peace Palace Library online catalogue because it is the only one which meticulously includes each individual contribution to an edited volume.
From September, I will be at the University of Manchester. I am looking forward to coming ‘home’ regularly.