The Forgotten Peace Conference: The 1915 International Congress of Women
Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Rüdiger Wolfrum, eds., Oxford University Press, 2010
8 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2013
Date Written: 2010
The Hague Peace Conferences (1899 and 1907) are part of the common knowledge of all public international lawyers. The fact that a third ‘unofficial’ peace conference was held in The Hague under the auspices of the International Women’s Movement in 1915 has however been swept in a dusty corner of history. The timing of the International Congress of Women made the ongoing World War I evidently its first and foremost topic of discussion although it was agreed in advance that the Congress would not be used as a forum to attribute responsibility for the war.
The innovative aspect of this conference was that a politically powerless group used this opportunity to draft concrete proposals for a new international legal system; proposals which went far beyond issues directly related to the war. Certain contemporarily accepted foundations of international law (such as the possibility to unilaterally declare war as an option of last resort to settle disputes) were resolutely rejected and in general it was advocated that the scope of international law ought to be expanded so as to include and regulate a far greater number of areas.
Keywords: history of international law, Hague Peace Conferences, international women's movement, international dispute settlement, peace and justice, right to education, women's enfranchisement
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