Clingendael Research


Clingendael Research constitutes the analysis pillar of the Institute. The focus of the Research department activities cuts across a wide range of topics, countries, and regions and is geared towards analysing the complex and dynamic challenges of international politics and security. The objective is to assist national, multilateral, and non-governmental organisations in identifying options for addressing these challenges. Given its key position in the Dutch think-tank landscape, Clingendael pays special attention to Dutch responses to these challenges in the international context. To achieve its objectives, Clingendael Research works with a team of more than 40 in-house analysts and a broad international network of experts (associates and non-resident visiting fellows).

The product portfolio of the research department includes an independent research agenda and contracted (consultancy) work that consists of policy research, risk analysis, evaluations, policy advice, convening, and outreach in terms of media commentaries and appearances. In 2015, the department started to focus on developing new products for the business community, such as macro-risk analysis and analysing the impact of China’s ‘New Silk Road.’ Based on positive feedback on these initiatives, 2016 will be used to enhance these activities and to broaden and deepen the relationship with the business community.

Whilst the work of Clingendael Research can best be described as interdisciplinary, the department is organised on the basis of four thematic profiles: European Affairs, Security, Conflict and Fragility, and Global Issues. All thematic profiles are covered by separate teams, such as the Conflict Research Unit. Terrorism is covered by the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague (ICCT). This is a collaboration of the Clingendael Institute with the T.M.C. Asser Institute and Leiden University’s Centre for Terrorism and Counter Terrorism (The Institute of Global Affairs). In addition, the Institute also hosts the Processes of International Negotiations (PIN) Programme.

In 2015, Clingendael took several steps to enhance its position as the leading Dutch think tank on international affairs. In its advisory capacity, it executed some fifty projects varying from evaluations to analyses of developments in an increasingly complex world. Thanks to its growing online presence, the Institute again reached a vast audience with some 250 publications, more than 200 media appearances, and more than 350 quotes from Clingendael analysts published in articles. These figures demonstrate the extent to which Clingendael research contributes to the wider public discourse on international affairs.

European Integration

At the beginning of 2015, all tough political discussions in the EU took place under the headings of ‘euro crisis’ and included a possible ‘Grexit.’ Gradually, new crises appeared such as ‘Brexit’ and the refugee crisis. At the end of 2015, when the Dutch presidency took over, the EU was stumbling over difficulties related to its institutional setup, political support, and seemingly insurmountable policy challenges. Clingendael, as the Dutch EU think tank, has been closely involved in the related developments in the Netherlands, Brussels, and elsewhere in the EU.

In relation to the EU’s institutional developments, policy papers have been written on a ‘third way’ to deepen European integration. The euro and the refugee crises suggest that there is no alternative (TINA); centralization appears inevitable. Others fear or preach the opposite; the demise of the EU. Our policy papers and other publications have shown that the EU’s crises are mostly caused by weak member states. It is, to a large extent, these nations’ weaknesses that the EU tries to solve at EU level via steps towards federalization; ‘Integration by Default.’ Hence, deeper integration now seems to be more about the addressing of symptoms rather than causes. Presentations on how to diagnose and strengthen member states instead of the EU have been given in the bilateral strategy discussions between France and the Netherlands and at several EU-think-tank meetings. In addition, institutional (academic) publications have appeared on the growing role of the European Parliament in the eurozone, and the (limited) value of yellow, orange, and possibly red cards in a system that would allow for national parliaments to potentially block unwanted EU laws.

Regarding policies, projects and papers have been organised and written concerning the EU budget, social policy, and the quality of rule of law in member states. In the lead-up to the evaluation of the current EU financial framework, Clingendael wrote a background paper on ‘financial flexibility’ for the presidency in view of persistent unemployment and new financial obligations, for example, those stemming from the refugee crisis. With respect to ‘social policy,’ Clingendael produced publications on the viability of the Dutch plans to address ‘unfair’ competition on the labour markets (the ‘Asscher-agenda’). Rule of law became an increasingly important theme with statements made, for example, by the Hungarian premier Órban and the actions of the newly elected PiS (Law and Justice) government in Poland. The Clingendael paper on the quality of rule of law, which is in preparation, makes the distinction between the tip of the iceberg (political appointees, e.g. in the Constitutional Court in Poland) and the large number of less-visible, but equally relevant, rule-of-law institutions that make up a member state and for which there is very little attention from the EU. Our conclusion is that the EU pays far too little attention to the weaknesses of the member states. The weaknesses of national institutions is still a taboo in the EU.

In the run-up to the Dutch presidency, the EU project organised a two-day conference at the end of the year, gathering approximately forty think tanks from all over the EU. Apart from fostering pan-EU discussions on the current challenges facing the region, this conference allowed for in-depth discussions of the Dutch EU priorities. The programme included discussions on lessons from the euro crisis, ways out of the refugee crisis, the EU’s external challenges, and the EU after the Bataclan terrorist attack. Our activities have attracted considerable attention with publications on the Greek crisis and possible ‘Brexit’ resulting in a discussion in Dutch political interview programme, Buitenhof, among others. A lunch with the political apex of the Commission also took place to discuss the draft of Jean-Claude Juncker’s first State of the Union address in September 2015.

The Clingendael conference of European Think Tanks

© Nicole Romijn Fotografie

Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders welcomed by Clingendael Europe expert Adriaan Schout during the conference of European Think Tanks.

Europe in the World

The research and activities of the ‘EU in the World’ team focused on the EU’s neighbourhood and global issues agenda, its cooperation with strategic partners, the EU’s external representation in multilateral fora and trends in the organisation of EU diplomacy.

In the context of the increased level of tensions between the EU and Russia, activities were undertaken on the prospects of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Against the backdrop of the review of the European Neighbourhood Programme, a seminar was convened on Eastern Partnership countries between the EU and Eurasia. Later in the year saw the publication of the high-profile Clingendael report From Competition to Compatibility: Striking a Eurasian balance in EU-Russia relations. This study analyses strategic options for the EU to deal with the EEU. It was presented in a seminar co-organised with the European Policy Centre in Brussels in early 2016.

Furthermore, the team continued research on the issue of how the EU could position itself in a changing world order, especially with regard to China. It organised with a number of partners the Asia-Europe Think Tank Dialogue, dedicated to analysing emerging trends and patterns in 21st-century world politics. How China’s increasing role as an influential actor in the field of global economic governance affects European interests, and the ability of European capitals to defend their interests. This was analysed in yet another high-impact report Europe’s Response to China’s Activism. The team also convened, in association with several partners, the 4th International Conference on Public Diplomacy in China-Europe Relations in October. In 2015, the team also published the report Towards Greater EU–Taiwan Economic Cooperation? This report assessed whether the EU should open talks on trade and investment with Taiwan, thereby paying special attention to China-Taiwan and EU-Taiwan relations.

Major contributions to the ongoing debate on the relevance and future of global public goods were made in the project Achieving green growth: the political economy of energy security. A video featuring several experts in the field of green growth and energy security outlined the project’s expectations, while at the same time stressing the urge to forge energy security objectives with a credible green-growth strategy. Research in 2015 particularly focused on Colombia, bringing forth a policy brief, EU and Colombia: Climate partnership beyond aid and trade, as well as a seminar addressing Winning coalitions for energy security and green growth in Colombia. In 2016, research carried out for the Climate and Development Knowledge Network will continue in Kenya and Indonesia. The report, Implications for Dutch foreign policy of international climate change, analysed whether Dutch foreign policies in the fields of development cooperation, foreign economic relations, and security are climate-proof.

Another core theme in the 2015 agenda was the impact of the digital revolution on diplomacy. The report Diplomacy in the Digital Age amplified the importance of the digital age for ministries of foreign affairs and how these ministries can better deal with the effects of the digital age. The work resulted in numerous invitations to present key findings, for instance, at the Finnish Ministry of foreign affairs. Aside from digital diplomacy, the EU in the world team focused on cultural and EU public diplomacy, among other things, in the context of a workshop on European Diplomacy Outside Europe’s Borders.

The team also continued its work on the geopolitical dimension of EU trade policy. Together with the London-based Centre for European Reform (CER), an expert seminar was convened on The Strategic Impact of TTIP, and next year will see further activities in this field.


The year 2015 was marked by a further deteriorating security environment in and around Europe, with the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13 representing a particularly low point. For Clingendael this meant that many of our researchers were featuring often and prominently in the national and international media. Within days of the Paris events, a Clingendael-ICCT Policy Brief saw the light of day, in which the difficult task of providing security services to prevent terrorist acts from home-grown and returned ISIS recruits was analysed. This swift response by the Clingendael-ICCT team meant that the Dutch Parliament had the benefit of a draft version at its disposal to inform its emergency debate.

Just prior to the Paris events, the Clingendael Security Unit (in cooperation with ICCT and the Egyptian Al-Ahram Institute) organised an Advanced Research Workshop for NATO, titled(Counter-)terrorism in the post-Arab Spring Context. This highly successful event linked expertise from North Africa and Europe regarding counter-terrorism policies. The threat by ISIS and the mass refugee flows to the European Union’s borders is matched by the threat of an increasingly assertive Russia to its eastern borders. Clingendael devoted much attention to this issue, culminating in policy briefs and extensive reports: Containment 2.0. Living with the new East-West Discord and EU, Russia and the Quest for a New Security Bargain. The former Clingendael report was written by Chatham House’s James Sherr who also presented the study to a packed room at the The Hague Press Club.

The consequences for the EU and NATO of the multitude of hybrid, terrorist, mass migration, and conventional security threats were analysed in a well-received report called New Threats, New EU and NATO Responses. Preceding publication, a meeting on the topic was held in The Hague for around 150 participants. The report highlighted lessons for the Netherlands and was commissioned by the Ministry of Finances as a contribution to the Interdepartmental Policy Study on International Materiel Cooperation. In addition, there was considerable interest in investigating what could be learned from the Danish and Swedish practice of Multi-Year Defence Agreements. The Security Unit’s authors appeared in Parliament to present their study and a follow-on project was awarded by the Dutch Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence. The Security Unit also hosted a brainstorm session to prepare policy-makers for the June 2015 European Council on defence. This was followed up by a report, Defence Matters: More Urgent than Ever.

The breadth of the security issues that the Security Unit is able to take on is illustrated by the variety of our work in 2015. Researchers published on issues as varied as cyber security, the EU as a security actor in Africa, economic vulnerability, deterrence against non-traditional security threats, the geopolitics of China’s silk road strategy and non-proliferation and disarmament. Much of this work is done as part of the Clingendael Monitor, as in-depth contributions to the Monitor or as a contribution to scenarios for the Ministry of Security & Justice and the National Coordinator on Terrorism and Security (NCTV).

James Sherr and Tony van der Togt

© Clingendael

Clingendael director Ko Colijn presents the Clingendael Monitor to Dutch minister of Defence Jeanine Hennis.

Whether it is about the consequences of climate change, international conflicts, the threat of terrorism or cyber crime; the impact of global developments on our national security is increasing. The clarification of these developments in the Clingendael Monitor is of great importance to the analyses of such threats in the National Security Profile.

Marcel Mennen, Senior advisor Analyst Network National Security, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) / Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport.

The broadness of our security approach is also reflected in the amount of partners we have cooperated with in 2015: The Centre for European Reform (on Brexit), the Egmont Institute (Luxembourg EU Presidency seminar), HCSS (International Materiel Cooperation), and TNO (Cyber).

Processes of International Negotiations (PIN) Programme

In 2015, the PIN Program – a subsection of Clingendael Research with an international Steering Committee – published Arab Spring, Negotiating in the Shadow of the Intifadat, and Preventing Deadly Conflict, a PIN-related publication. The Steering Committee published two issues of PINpoints Magazine (#41 and #42) and two PIN Policy Briefs. PIN started the preparation of new negotiation books on ‘closure’ and ‘Eurasia.’ It continued its work on ‘reconciliation’ and ‘focal points’ in negotiation processes. ‘Roadshows’ were held in Madrid, Centinje, and Koblenz, and a ‘Policy Lab’ at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands in The Hague.

International Centre for Counter Terrorism – The Hague (ICCT)

2015 was an important year for ICCT. A new five-year subsidy agreement with the Netherlands government was signed in April. Throughout the year, ICCT’s activity portfolio expanded significantly, covering policy-relevant analysis, advice, and implementation. A beginning was made to develop an evaluation capability, together with an eminent UK-based firm. Finally, preparations began for the transition of the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s Administrative Unit to ICCT.

With the adoption of the new five-year strategy, ICCT’s business model shifted from a fully subsidized project to a self-financing institution. In 2015, with counter-terrorism fast becoming a global political priority, ICCT succeeded in positioning itself as an internationally reputed ‘think and do tank,’ attracting new contracts from governments and multilateral agencies (UN, EU, NATO), and participating in various high-level conferences in Europe, Asia, and the U.S. on counter-terrorism. Memorandums of understanding were signed with the Global Center for Cooperative Security, Hedayah, the Australian National University, and the Institut Tunisien pour les Etudes Stratégiques.

In terms of staffing, the ICCT (core) staff grew from four FTE to 5.6 FTE by adding a senior portfolio manager and a part-time finance officer, plus two interns. Extra resources were obtained to expand the staff contribution from Clingendael, the Asser Instituut, and the University of Leiden, including the part-time role of Research Coordinator. In addition, seven full-time staff members were recruited for the GCTF AU, and one non-resident visiting fellow for a research project on the financing of terrorism.

Conflict and Fragility (Conflict Research Unit)

Clingendael’s Conflict Research Unit (CRU) conducts applied, policy-oriented research on the nexus between violent conflict, political transition, and inclusive development processes. By translating complex research questions into policy and programming advice, CRU aims to assist national and multilateral, governmental and non-governmental organisations in their efforts to develop and implement more effective policies and programming on stability, development, and rule of law in fragile and conflict-affected countries. Taking an integrated analysis of conflict dynamics and the broader political economy as the starting point for its work, research activities cover the full programme cycle; from conflict and context analysis, to programme design, to programme monitoring and adjustment, to programme evaluation, and finally the measuring of results. The CRU team consists of 16 researchers combining operational and policy experience with strong analytical skills, needed to cover the entire spectrum of investigative research, policy work, and programming support.

The year 2015 marked a dramatic and definite breach of the post-Cold War trend towards global stability. As a consequence, CRU’s services to increase the understanding of the dynamics of contemporary crisis and conflict are in high demand, not only for identifying ways to address instability and mitigate its risks, but also to assess the merits of the existing arsenal of (post-)conflict instruments, and the conditions for those instruments to be effectively implemented.

An important pillar in CRU’s project portfolio is the continued working relationship with the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Through the Stability, Development, and Rule of Law Research Programme (2013–2016), CRU supports and further strengthens the work of the Ministry in the fields of peace, security, and development. Through the management of the Secretariat for the Knowledge Platform Security and Rule of Law – on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in collaboration with the Hague Institute for Global Justice – CRU contributes to the enhancement of an exchange of knowledge between policy makers, practitioners, and researchers working on the strengthening of security and rule of law in fragile settings.

Ko Colijn

© Clingendael

Cover Sahel Magazine.

The partnership with the Dutch National Postcode Lottery (NPL) was strengthened as CRU received funding to conduct a research project on how to effectively contribute to the ending of sexual violence in conflict areas, in collaboration with UNICEF and Stichting Vluchteling. Furthermore, CRU finalised the Sahel Research programme that was started in 2014 with support from the NPL. Centring on Mali and its direct neighbourhood, this programme aimed to complement and strengthen the work done by other beneficiaries of the NPL active in the region. It has done so by providing them with analytical input and by sharing and discussing new insights into the formal and informal political and economic arrangements that underlie the region’s instability.

Other clients and partners that CRU provided services to in 2015 include: the European Commission; the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation; the International Development Law Organization; the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF); the UN Development Programme and the UN Peacebuilding Support Office; the OECD International Network on Conflict and Fragility (INCAF); other think tanks like the Overseas Development Institute and the Folke Bernadotte Academy; and non-governmental organisations like Cordaid and International IDEA.

A central component in all of CRU’s work is the conduct of country-specific political economy analysis to help guide the formulation and implementation of policies and programming of international actors – be they donor governments or aid organisations – in fragile and conflict-affected settings. In 2015, analyses focused on the ongoing crises in the Middle East and North-Africa region (including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Libya) and the uprising of the Islamic State, as well as on the Sahel region (including Mali and an analysis of the stability challenges to the wider Sahel region). CRU also continued to work on the wider Horn of Africa (including the Central African Republic and South Sudan).

Other projects are organised along thematic lines, looking into various contemporary and emerging policy challenges. Under its Security & Justice line of work, for instance, for which CRU presented a five-year outline in 2015, the team conducted an examination of the drivers of security progress across a range of post-conflict contexts, as well as an analysis of divergent approaches to improving security and justice in South Sudan. CRU also continued to work on questions related to the effectiveness and efficiency of peacekeeping operations by contributing to the international debate on using greater force in UN peace operations, and by conducting a critical assessment of the peacekeeping and stabilization efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo. CRU further strengthened its knowledge base on criminal justice issues by conducting an analysis of the organisation and performance of the penal process in Mali.

As part of its work on Politics & Crime, CRU continued to work on the exploration of new criminal powers and how to respond to changes in criminal patterns in a way that would emphasize the protection of democracy, good governance, and human welfare. CRU also finalised a project that explored the new wave of violent groups that defy the models of traditional armed conflict, which was started in 2014 in collaboration with the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF). Based upon the findings of a series of papers, the synthesis report points to the importance of understanding and addressing non-conventional armed violence through more flexible forms of mediation and reintegration for non-conventional armed groups, the redesign of humanitarian responses, and the implementation of novel controls over illicit flows connected to violent groups.

Finally, as part of its work on Private Sector Development & Peacebuilding, CRU continued to strengthen its partnership with the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC). In order to inform decisions about programmatic entry points and conflict risk mitigation strategies, CRU supports IFC in developing a private sector focused fragility and conflict assessment that can generate the real map of power and conflict dynamics in relation to the private sector. Furthermore, CRU presented innovative approaches to employment promotion in contexts of conflict, fragility and violence, and started to explore the issue of informal economies in fragile settings. Acknowledging that conventional responses may not be suitable for fragile situations due to the particular challenges posed by the dynamics of fragility and conflict, CRU aims to support international development actors in the process of recalibrating their intervention strategies geared toward addressing economic informality in fragile contexts. Both issues will be further explored in 2016.