Faces of Clingendael: Hans Wurzer
11 Jan 2024 - 09:35
Source: ©Clingendael

Who are our hard-working researchers and trainers and what drives them? You might have seen them in the media, explaining geopolitical topics or putting them on the agenda. We offer you a peek behind the scenes in our new series Faces of Clingendael. Today with Clingendael Academy Fellow Hans Wurzer.


What is your role?

I am a Senior Academy Fellow at the Clingendael Academy. I manage and coordinate trainings, especially for groups from the Middle East and North Africa. Participants range from diplomats to groups in conflict zones such as Syria, Libya, Yemen and the Palestinian territories. I am sometimes called Clingendael’s “(in-) house Arabist”.

Wat motivates you to do this job?

I was studying in the US when 9/11 happened. A question I got from many Americans at the time was: why do they (in the Arab world) hate us so much? That's when I decided to change my major from marine biology to international relations and took up Arabic to find out. Above all, I want to create mutual understanding between the West and the Arabic-speaking world, since that will decrease tension and increase safety for all. Understanding and speaking Arabic, I find helps open up hearts, and build bridges.

Do you have interests outside of work?

Surfing, running, yoga and keeping up with my Arabic and Farsi. If my three small kids allow me of course!

What advice would you give to people aspiring to work in your field?

I always use an Arabic proverb during trainings: patience is the key to happiness. It is also not all about what you know or studied, but also what you can do, what skills and mindset you have that make you unique for employers. So to quote the film Galaxy Quest: never give up and never surrender.

Constantin Gouvy, the previous guest in this series, has left this question for you: "I understand that part of Hans's work involves delivering trainings to both western diplomats and civil society in conflict-afflicted areas. What are the most valuable or the most unexpected insights which he himself might have gained from his interactions with those he trains?"

Oh, that is an easy question. The most valuable lesson I learned is what a luxury position we have here in the West, with the virtual absence of conflict. For some, it might still be a distant memory. It also makes me aware and humble that during trainings,  I am an outsider getting a brief glimpse into various conflicts in the region. Most importantly, when you don’t have the whole picture, don’t judge too quickly. I have realised that commenting from afar or reading about a conflict is easy. But talking to those who are right in the middle of it, who have not lost hope and keep going, is really inspiring to me.