Swearing in the civil servants
On April 1st, on the first day of the training program for Dutch junior diplomats, the new civil servants of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs were sworn in, a special experience for every civil servant. This took place during the opening of what is known officially as ‘Course for Starting Policy Advisors’, but is more commonly referred to as ‘het klasje’ (‘the class’). Twenty-six young, eager civil servants will be offered a 13-week, intense program, aimed at international skills, work processes and foreign affairs.
It is not only people from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs who participate. Colleagues from the Netherlands’ Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, plus a colleague from the Department of Foreign Affairs of Curaçao have also joined in. They bring a lot of new experience and perspectives, which makes the course even more relevant to the novice diplomat. There is a lot of attention for the interdepartmental side of foreign relations, because diplomacy is not the sole domain of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs any more.
Leergang Buitenlandse Betrekkingen
‘Het klasje’ started in 1967 as the Leergang Buitenlandse Betrekkingen or LBB (Course on Foreign Relations), an educational programme that still exists today as a course for professionals who either work in international affairs or want to pursue an international career. In the early 2000s, the Dutch junior diplomats were offered a course that was separate from the LBB. In 2013 the structure of the course changed drastically to fit the ministry’s practices even better: a case-oriented approach now ensures that participants experience for themselves how to do their job. Student participation and practice-oriented cases are integral to every course at the Clingendael Academy.
A unique program
The programme for ‘het klasje’ is unique in the Netherlands, not only because of the length of the course, but also because the participants are introduced to all of the relevant themes in international affairs while being trained in the many international skills that are needed by a modern diplomat: intercultural communication; negotiating in the EU; organizing trade missions; preparing a general meeting in Parliament; and many more. The programme is certainly intensive, but all the hard work is worth it in the end, when after thirteen weeks, tired but happy, the junior diplomats receive their well-earned certificate.