By Sara Webb
THE HAGUE | Tue Feb 14, 2012 6:36am EST
Feb 14 (Reuters) – In a tiny office on Zeestraat 100, Alice Helbing puts the final touches to a script for an imaginary counter-terrorism exercise in the Netherlands. A few doors down the corridor, staff from a legal aid group are digging into real war crimes in Ivory Coast.
Nearby at Humanity House, a small museum devoted to raising awareness about aid for the victims of disaster, visitors can find out what it’s like to be a refugee – to have to flee your home, leaving dinner on the table, with no money, no mobile phone, no passport, just the clothes you are wearing.
Behind its staid Dutch exterior, The Hague has become a hothouse for human rights ventures and international legal services, invigorating the local economy with new jobs and an influx of mainly foreign professionals.
But it has also become so much of an international hub that sometimes locals feel like strangers in their own town.
“The Hague has become an incubator, a sort of legal Silicon Valley,” said one diplomat who follows the courts.
Many of the rights and legal groups are housed in two utilitarian office buildings near the city centre: At Zeestraat 100, staff from non-government organisation Africa Legal Aid rub shoulders with game designer Alice Helbing and her fellow conflict resolution trainers from the Pax Ludens foundation. Around the corner, Laan van Meerdervoort 70 provides space for groups like the United Network of Young Peacebuilders.
The policy-makers, foreign or defence ministry officials, and students who attend Pax Ludens’s training sessions on negotiating tactics can role play to get a taste of what it is like to be U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, or to head the Israeli and Saudi Arabian delegations and hold secret talks over the Arab-Israeli conflict.