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 Research Fellow Constantin Gouvy.
What is your role?
I work within Clingendael’s Conflict Research Unit. There we deliver policy-relevant research on the political economy of conflicts. I am part of the Sahel team. We advise on issues such as local governance, jihadist groups and the role of international players in West Africa. Personally, I am currently focusing on Burkina Faso.
There is a lot of unrest in the Sahel now. Do you notice that in terms of new assignments or media enquiries, for example?
Sure. The interest in understanding what is going on has increased enormously. I have recently spoken to a lot of policymakers and journalists about political developments in the region, the role of major international players, and the impact of the situation on civilians. What happens in Africa is relevant for European and the U.S. foreign policy at large. The Conflict Research Unit is increasingly invited by Washington and Brussels to share our long-standing knowledge and experience with policymakers.
You’ve been a conflict journalist in the past and now you’re a conflict policy advisor. What is your intrinsic motivation to work in this field?
Through my work as a journalist, I wanted to enrich the debate and flow of information around the regions I was reporting on. My primary motivation now is to help policymakers and other stakeholders develop policies and programmes that are more effective and more in tune with the real situation on the ground. This serves an ultimate purpose: moderating conflict and preventing human suffering.
What are your main interests outside of work?
I really like substantive and visually well-made documentaries like Joshua Oppenheimer's The Look of Silence and The Act of Killing. In these, political relevance and attention to photography come together perfectly. I also enjoy reading an Agatha Christie novel when I need a ‘brain holiday’.
What advice would you give to people aspiring to work in your field?
Proficiency in relevant languages, initial experience in the field, and knowledge of pertinent research served as my foot in the door at the beginning of my career.
Izzy van Unen, the previous guest in this series, has left this question for you: How did you become interested in the Sahel and what keeps you interested in the region as a researcher?
I have to credit one of my teachers during my bachelor's degree. She laid the groundwork for my interest in the politics of the Sahel and the Sub-Saharan region. She shared her passion and made it clear what a rich field of study it is. Unfortunately, we have been witnessing a lot of unrest in recent times. That makes our work all the more important.
The next guest in this series is Clingendael Academy Fellow Hans Wurzer. What question would you like to ask him?
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?