Strategic Foresight

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Clingendael Monitor 2012: ‘Continuity, Uncertainty in a Changing World’

12 Mar 2012 - 09:16
The world is becoming more uncertain. Cooperation between states is increasingly strained. Traditional state actors are losing ground to non-state actors. The West is becoming less dominant. The governance of the world remains unresolved. These are a few of the conclusions of the Clingendael Monitor which was published Monday 12 March 2012. Predicting trajectories and outcomes is difficult, if not impossible. In the words of British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan, the answer to why even the most well prepared governments can be wrong-footed is simply: ‘events, my dear boy, events’.

Even the recording – or monitoring at it is often referred to – and interpreting of events is in itself a precarious exercise. Regardless of the relevance of the events, the degree of coincidence involved, and the root causes, the course of events can take even the best prepared politicians by surprise, and professional expertise is often required to provide constructive analysis. In 2008, the Dutch cabinet Balkenende-4 ordered a long term study into the future of the Netherlands armed forces. Once again, unpredictable ‘events’ immediately arose to challenge the Future Policy Survey project team, as the outbreak of the economic crisis dramatically changed the global outlook. The final report, which depicts a world in 2030 dominated by uncertainty, was published in Spring 2010. The logical conclusion was that the armed forces need to be prepared for a broad range of missions and tasks, adopting a versatile, ‘Swiss army knife’ approach. In the meantime, the cabinet had fallen, an event which, although national in scope and not entirely unexpected, also affected the outlook.

With an eye on the sustainability of the final Future Policy Survey report, Clingendael, along with other organisations, was requested to provide input on an annual basis to the government’s strategic monitor. Driving forces, important actors, winners and losers, trends, probabilities and uncertainties, and events were considered. In the meantime, events continued to unfold; the euro crisis, the Arab Spring, the further development of the BRIC’s, the London Riots, the lone wolf terrorist Anders Breivik, the earthquake in Japan and the ensuing nuclear disaster in Fukushima, the increasing tensions with regard to the nuclear programme of Iran and the death of Kim Jong-Il: what do such events mean for the security and stability of the world and – ultimately – for the Netherlands and the Dutch armed forces?

In the report entitled ‘Continuity and Uncertainty in a Changing World’ the Clingendael Institute concludes that while the security of the Netherlands is not directly threatened, a growing number of indirect risks should be taken into account. These risks include the threat of an attack on NATO territory; the possibility of cyber threats; the uncertain supply of energy; and the fragility of logistical lines to our society are among the concerns of the future. Terrorism and migration, often considered as the more conventional concerns of Dutch society are not a direct security threat. The ultimate security guarantee of the US is perhaps also no longer assured, now that America’s attention is shifting to China and the Pacific. How can the Netherlands circumvent risks and prepare for unforeseen events? The Clingendael Monitor 2012 highlights certain key developments which merit profound analysis.

In a world that is moving towards a multipolar model, insecurity may not necessarily increase, but uncertainty and risks will. Under such a scenario, regular alliances such as NATO or EU cooperation fulfil a less straightforward role, although a European pole would function as a logical actor to counter security hazards in its fragile backyard (Middle East and North Africa), or to carry bargaining power on global matters (eg. energy security, climate change, financial matters and peacekeeping operations). In a context marked by the emergence of the BRIC countries and waning attention of the US for the world as a whole and Europe in particular, politicians do not automatically follow this logic. In addition, faced with more immediate concerns, Dutch public interest in external affairs is waning and the willingness to use the armed forces for interventions is decreasing. The Monitor indicates that the Dutch government currently finds itself maintaining a difficult balance between the need to integrate further internationally and decreasing support for integration among the population’.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2399","link_text":null,"attributes":{"height":300,"width":450,"class":"media-image media-element file-media-large"}}]]The Clingendael  Monitor is not a crystal ball, but incorporates a broad range of expertise, predominantly from the Clingendael Institute, to define the degree of probability regarding various outcomes across a range of areas This has been done according to the scenario approach used in the Defence Future Policy Survey, to guarantee a monitoring system. However, events continue on regardless.

Early 2013 will see the publication of a new Clingendael Monitor report. In the meantime, drivers and actors will be continuously monitored, additional in-depth analyses will be published and discussion meetings will be organised around a variety of relevant themes.

Contents Clingendael Monitor 2012


Driving forces


Globalisation Great Powers
Economy Fragile States
Natural Resources High-risk Countries
Climate Change Non-state Actors and Individuals
Science and Technology International and Regional Organisations
Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction Dutch Society
Polarisation and Radicalisation Caribbean parts of the Kingdom
Conflict Spectrum  
Conclusion Reflection on the Methodological Approach


The conclusions of the report can be found below.

The summary and conclusions of the report are also available in hard copy. The Dutch version of the report is on sale or can be downloaded for free from the website. Please contact our secretariat.