Ko Colijn

© Studio Oostrum, The Hague

Ko Colijn
General Director

As in previous years, the Clingendael Institute’s activities in 2015 moved in time with developments in world politics. In tune with the Institute’s main organisational structure, the Research department and Clingendael Academy managed well with the real world’s driving events.

First, our Research department covered a good deal of the demands rising from a more turbulent world: The crisis in the European Union and the deteriorating stability of its border regions, the trend towards a multipolar world order with its unsettling consequences for vested mechanisms of diplomacy, arms control, and the provision of global public goods were covered by the knowledge clusters of Europe, Security, and Global Governance respectively.

Our subunit CRU (Conflict Research Unit) continued to conduct widely acknowledged research in the field of deep conflict sources and state fragility, as did the joint ICCT-unit in the field of counter terrorism (especially rule of law and preventive oriented strategies).

Second, Clingendael Academy successfully covered this turbulence caused by global affairs in the training and educational field. An increasing number of countries are making firm plans to play an independent role in a competitive international environment by either sending legions of aspirant diplomats abroad for training and acquiring political skills, or setting up their own diplomatic academies. In both regards, Clingendael Academy offers courses and capacity-building, leading to record numbers (>1000) from record countries and organisations (>130 nationalities) in 2015 receiving a Clingendael certificate.

Third, Clingendael’s public outreach is an important intrinsic activity, feeding the public and expert debate in international affairs. It is also an important marketing tool for Clingendael in a world where visibility and authoritative presence are taken into consideration in the awarding of contracts.

While Clingendael is always planning ahead with detailed budget plans, it is always a challenge for Clingendael to be prepared for the unknowns. Though the ‘labels’ Europe, security and terrorism are broad categories, and in that sense ‘predictable’ terms, throughout Europe real events occur which cannot be foreseen, yet do require a flexible response from our staff. In such cases, a wider ring of Clingendael fellows and associates may step in, and eventually the network of consultants and fellow think tanks can be tapped to fill blanks. As an example: 2015 was a year in which mass migration burst in upon Europe and made great demands that Clingendael was not readily attuned to, but the Institute’s response was good under the circumstances. As always, this duality of known and unknown demands forms a considerable challenge for Clingendael, which at the end of 2014 had grown to some 100 employees, but for which it is impossible to address all international events. As a third function, Clingendael provides information and facilitates public debate on international affairs, and is widely consulted by the media (radio, TV, journals, online, and various public and private events) - hundreds of times each year.

Looking at international rankings of research institutes, Clingendael managed in keeping up with world politics. The University of Pennsylvania’s McGann list of ‘Top Think Tanks Worldwide’ ranked Clingendael 17th within West Europa (46th worldwide) and 45th in terms of its public outreach. Clingendael acknowledges a slight decline here, especially in the subcategories of Western European think tanks, foreign policy, and use of media. The Institute still observes a slight increase in recognition as a defence think tank, but overall concludes that ‘international visibility’ has to be worked on. As an explanation, some core research reports had explicitly been ordered in Dutch by main customers, to the detriment of the visibility factor internationally – a precondition Clingendael is not likely to afford any longer. As a think tank, we appreciate assessments based on external benchmarks. However, we also try to consolidate and strengthen our position and work as a think tank on the basis of selfcriticism and a constant search for ways to improve the services we provide.

Nearing 2017, when Clingendael will transform into a near-market oriented organization, and its think-tank base funding will be reduced, quality of the products and services we provide will be an essential if not decisive factor in retaining existing clients and attracting new ones. Changes in the landscape of clients and the conditions for work urge for steady if not improved ratings, honest self-assessments, and greater efficiency and innovation.

Clingendael output continues to shift towards more modern, policy-relevant products. In 2015, the post-2016 dialogue with the MFA resulted in a broad, but not yet complete, outline of the future of the Institute: The ministry is willing to finance a think tank on a much smaller basis and clearly operating outside the realm of market-based contracts. In the think-tank mode, Clingendael is expected to maintain a targeted public outreach function, and act as a periscope for over-the-horizon developments. For the main part, however, Clingendael products will be delivered in a competitive market to a wide range of customers.

Likewise, in the field of education and training, what is in demand is more customization, shorter delivery times for rapidly emerging needs, and more emphasis on the skills the modern diplomat is expected to master. Recalling the annual report of 2014, apart from standard products, this implies a capacity of delivering (on short notice) negotiation training for future diplomats from fragile states and/or states in civil war, as well as further training for diplomats in new fields like mediation techniques or cyber diplomacy.

As to the outreach function of Clingendael, statistics also illustrate our standing as a thriving institution: in 2015, over 140 courses were organised for some 2,400 participants. In addition, over thirty events were organised, both in the Netherlands and abroad, with Clingendael staff in the role of organizer, co-host or contributor to the programme. The number of visits to Clingendael’s website has grown significantly by 73.822 visits. In 2015, there were 335.659 visits counted, with 892.000 number of pages visited. The number of ‘consults’ by Clingendael staff varied between two to more than 15 on a daily basis. Clingendael staff output resulted in 284 registered publications online and in print in 2015. The weekly Clingendael Newsletter counted more than 4,400 subscribers by the end of the year. 2015 was the first year of the digital edition of Clingendael’s magazine, Internationale Spectator, and it successfully reached more than 2,550 subscribers.

2015 was not only a favourable year for research and training performance, but in financial terms as well: Clingendael ended the year with a significantly better balance than what was budgeted. On the one hand, this is welcome news because it allows Clingendael to increase its reserves - something the Institute has always pursued with a view to possible future obligations related to (statutory) payments in less prosperous times. The positive result is due to a combination of factors: The budget is calculated with prudence, while the final net results in 2015 were higher than estimated and actual costs of staff lagged behind portfolio income growth due to a ‘recruitment gap.’

Clingendael is determined to defend its status as ‘the leading Dutch foreign-policy think tank’ (The Economist, summer 2014) in 2016. Our manifold activities can of course not be spelled out here, not even in the more elaborate sections following, but can be constantly followed on our website, and/or on a weekly basis via our free Clingendael Newsletter.