Dutch 'klasje' meets Belgian 'stage'
10 May 2016 - 17:35
Bron: @Clingendael

44 starting policy officials from the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs visited Clingendael for a full-day of training together with the Dutch ‘klasje’. In mixed groups, the more than 70 participants practised their skills by participating in workshops in negotiations and intercultural communication.  

We meet again

It was not the first encounter of the Dutch and Belgian 'klasje' (which in Belgium is referred to as ‘stage'). The visit was part of a two-part exchange programme between the Belgian and Dutch diplomats in training. Both groups had already met in Brussels, in early April, where they together visited the Benelux Secretariat-General and discussed themes like energy, transportation and labour mobility.

The goal of both the Belgian and Dutch part of the programme is to foster mutual understanding and sprout new bilateral networks at an early stage between Belgian and Dutch diplomats. Cooperation between the Belgians and the Dutch, for instance by sharing a seat at the IMF or moving in together in one embassy-building, is catching on, and is expected to continue for years to come.

Similarities / differences

The training goal of the meeting in The Hague was to strengthen diplomatic skills in the field of negotiation and intercultural communication.

After the opening words by Director of the Clingendael Academy, Ron Ton, a brief poll on Dutch-Belgian similarities, differences, mutual goals and opportunities for cooperation was conducted. The results were sometimes as would be expected (‘what binds us?’ yielded answers like language and history).

Sometimes though, the answers were surprising. For instance, to the question ‘what advice do you have for bilateral cooperation?’ one of the suggestions was to strive for a shared Benelux-seat at the next G20 summit.

Negotiation skills

Next on the programme was a negotiation exercise. First, the participants had to come up with their own mandate, based on ranking five moral choices from best to worst. Then, they had to negotiate a joint top-5 with four other participants. This proved to be both challenging and fun.

Finally, each group of five, sent one ‘ambassador’ to negotiate in a second round with the ambassadors of the other groups of five, to come up with a final top-5 list. During the debriefing that followed the results were discussed and linked to the factors that drive a negotiation, including time, process and people.

Practising difficult intercultural conversations

The afternoon’s session was about effective conversation skills and some of the pitfalls of intercultural communication. In short one-on-one conversations, for which each participant received a scenario and a personal mandate, the participants were challenged to struggle with differences in power-distance, time-perception, task- vs people-oriented styles, and more.

The way the exercise was set-up is a good example of the interaction based training method so often used at the Clingendael Academy. By having people experience something for themselves, a better learning effect is achieved.

To be continued

The joint trainings underlined once again the excellent relations between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of both Belgium and The Netherlands. At the end of the day all parties involved expressed their willingness to continue the cooperation between the Belgian ‘stage’ and the Dutch ‘klasje’ in the years to come.

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