Innovating justice is what HiiL – short for the The Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law – does best. We spoke to Wilfried De Wever, head of HiiL’s Innovating Justice Accelerator, about his work and about what it means to be based in The Hague.
Fighting injustice from The Hague
HiiL is an advisory and research institute that caters to the justice sector and, ultimately, aims to bring the world’s population out of injustice and inequality. For example, it supports an Indian initiative called “LawForMe” that aims to make law simple with design and technology. The project allows people easier access to justice by helping them to understand what their rights are – and, hence, increase their options to claim their rights when they are violated.
HiiL innovates justice by tracing and facilitating this and similar cutting edge initiatives, and then helping to scale them internationally. As a result, HiiL has selected and engaged with over 200 innovative projects across the world in the past 4 years.
“The Hague is a great base for our office. Since we focus on justice internationally, working from the international city of peace and justice validates our case,” Wilfried says. “A diversity of organizations and institutes that work in our field are based in The Hague. Also, progressive research is being done at education and research centers in the city – like Leiden University’s Campus The Hague’s current work on peace informatics.”
A world to win
Nonetheless, there’s a world to win. “Innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity is something that is largely lacking from the work of many of the more traditional organizations that inhabit The Hague,” Wilfried says. “We have to literally go out there and forge altogether new partnerships to encourage creative innovation in our field by introducing entrepreneurship methods to justice.”
The Hague offers many opportunities in this regard, he confirms, but there is currently a lack of real coordinated efforts in the field of international justice. “The Hague is known internationally as the city of peace and justice, but we feel there’s a need to empower justice innovation more, prioritize real and tangible justice initiatives and – not least importantly – to make their impact visible to the public at large.”
Bringing justice closer to the people
“As a result of the September 11 attacks 14 years ago, there has been a lot of emphasis on security and law enforcement – and less so on improving our mechanisms for rulemaking, dispute management, justice and justice innovation,” he explains. “However, there is a real need – worldwide – to bring the justice system closer to the people,” he says. “People are no longer trusting the system.”
“Despite the fact that all sorts of interesting options – technological or otherwise – are available to fill the void and make justice tangible and accessible, a lot of work still needs to be done in this regard,” Wilfried states. “The Hague is in a unique position to aid this effort. It houses an impressive number of organizations and institutes with specialized knowledge and expertise in the field of international justice. If we can unlock this energy and expertise, connect it to the creative industry, and channel it towards justice innovations and justice entrepreneurs around the world, this will generate an enormous added value.”
“The focus of city governments on social and sustainable entrepreneurship is currently fashionable worldwide. Many cities and organizations want to jump on the bandwagon,” Wilfried argues. “If The Hague wants to truly distinguish itself from the crowd, a strong focus on justice entrepreneurship is the best way to go – and now is the time to do it. It’s a very real and tangible asset that the city must capitalize on if it wants to continue to make a difference internationally.”