In the context of the movement for the establishment of peace through law, the idea of creating an Academy of International Law was raised at the Hague Conference of 1907. The Dutch lawyer Tobias Michael Carel Asser proposed a plan that envisaged more or less what the Academy was eventually to become, with courses held from July to October.

Asser was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1911 and affected a part of the prize money to the Academy, while the Carnegie Endowment for Peace provided a most valuable contribution to its construction at the Peace Palace in the immediate vicinity of the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The inauguration of the Academy was initially scheduled for October 1914 but due to the war it had to be postponed and the first courses could only take place in 1923.

The Academy is a centre for teaching and research in public and private international law, with the aim of furthering the scientific study of the legal aspects of international relations. The United Nations General Assembly regularly expresses its appreciation “to the Hague Academy of International Law for the valuable contribution it continues to make to the Programme of Assistance, which has enabled candidates under the International Law Fellowship Programme to attend and participate in the Fellowship Programme in conjunction with courses at the Academy” and notes “the contributions of the Hague Academy to the teaching, study, dissemination and wider appreciation of international law, and calls upon Member States and interested organizations to give favourable consideration to the appeal of the Academy for a continuation of support and a possible increase in their financial contributions, to enable the Academy to carry out its activities, particularly those relating to the Summer and Winter Courses, regional courses and programmes of the Centre for Studies and Research in International Law and International relations”
(cfr. A/RES/78/107, paras. 23 and 24 of 11 December 2023).

The Academy therefore is not a university and doesn’t function in the same way. Since it doesn’t have a permanent teaching staff at its disposal, the Curatorium calls upon academics, practitioners, diplomats, and other personalities whom it considers qualified to give courses, in either English or French (with simultaneous interpretation).