Monika Sie Dhian Ho
General Director

2016 was a year in which people became aware, even more so than in previous years, of the instability and conflicts around Europe, and the major influence of foreign developments on their own country. The Eurobarometer, the periodic survey commissioned by the European Commission, demonstrated in both its spring and autumn measurement of 2016 that EU citizens see immigration as the greatest challenge, followed by terrorism.‍[1] A survey by I&O Research also indicated that the Dutch have rediscovered foreign countries. The support for a Dutch contribution to international peace operations has increased, and a majority considers that development cooperation should no longer be economised on.‍[2] This increased relevance of foreign countries is also expressed in the work of the Clingendael Institute for International Relations, one sign being the Institute’s growth from 85 to 97 staff members. Internationally too, the institute has strengthened its position, this being expressed for example by the Institute being referred to as a ‘Think tank to watch’ in the Global Go To Think Tank Index 2016.

With research, training courses and public meetings, we have contributed to an evidence-based public debate on these issues, and have equipped and advised policy-makers, diplomats, politicians, aid workers and businesses about them. For example, Clingendael Research supplied input to the UN Summit about refugees and migrants, and to discussions about a deal between the European Union and Libya. The Conflict Research Unit published a study about irregular migration and people smuggling in the Sahel and Libya, which gained much attention from relevant actors in The Hague and Brussels. Tasked by the National Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism and Security, the Security department contributed to a study by the International Centre for Counter Terrorism about ‘foreign fighters’ in the EU. Also in the field of European integration and cooperation, our research staff contributed in the heat of the conflict, by launching specific ideas on how the EU Community Security and Defence policy can be reinforced, and by organising a series of seminars on the matter during the Dutch presidency of the EU. Further, Research published a series of studies about Brexit’s consequences, including one about expectations concerning cooperation and coalition patterns in the EU.

Clingendael Academy held negotiation training courses for groups who were involved in conflicts and their mediators, including to Syrian women’s groups and the High Negotiations Committee. Minister Ploumen of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation responded to the increasing need among aid workers for training in their negotiation capacities, and launched a new facility to train humanitarian aid workers to gain access to conflict areas. The Academy also reinforced its position in the international market, both via tailor-made courses for the UNDP for example and by winning major European tenders, such as for the training of Bulgarian officials for the European presidency. Besides this, the Academy remained powerful on the Dutch tender market, by once again attracting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ prestigious ‘klasje’ (class) for training diplomats to Clingendael. Further, the public’s increased attention to foreign issues could be observed from an increase in the number of participants for our open subscription classes.

Clingendael’s public platform role also responded to the widely-felt relevance of the dynamics abroad, with strong growth in the media appearances of our experts in 2016. With support from funds such as Adessium, the Institute was able, in questions like the European association treaty with Ukraine, to bring together the standpoints of different member states and Dutch points of view in an online forum, and to contribute in this way to an informed public debate about passionate questions in Dutch and European foreign policy. The now fully online-published magazine Clingendael Spectator also saw growth in its number of readers.

In 2016, in its way of working, Clingendael invested further in interdisciplinary cooperation and social projects from our various sections. Exactly the combination of in-depth research and training based on research results and skills training, and the integration of knowledge from different departments into for example insight into all the links of the migration chain and their mutual interconnections, makes the Institute unique. For example, the Conflict Research Unit and Clingendael Academy gained an award from the National Postcode Lottery for research into training the capacities of aid organisations to improve the living conditions of refugees and guest communities in Lebanon and Jordan. Central to this is the question of how aid can be supplied in a way that is conflict-sensitive, given the increase in conflict potential with the arrival and long-term relief of large numbers of refugees in this region where unemployment is always high and where significant refugee populations from earlier conflicts are already living.

As well as investing in interdisciplinary work in 2016, the Institute made further efforts to internationalise its work, both as regards the consortia that are formed by Clingendael and as regards its clients. With the termination of the basic subsidy from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence in view as of 1 January 2017, we reinforced our position on the national and international tender market, via consortia with leading think tanks and research institutes such as Chatham House, the European Council on Foreign Relations, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. With – and sometimes without – international partners, Clingendael succeeded in broadening its portfolio of clients to for example the European Union, the World Bank and the United Nations and thus reducing its dependence on the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence. Indeed, The Institute consolidated its relationship with the ministries mentioned, also under the new market conditions from 1 January 2017, by winning all five parts of the PROGRESS tender with its consortia.

Finally, Clingendael invested heavily in its digital strategy, with institute-wide preparations for a new website that will go online in 2017, and the development of new, interactive online forms of publication. For example, the flagship project the Clingendael Strategic Monitor appeared as a web publication, and experiments were conducted with interactive infographics, animations and longreads.

We cherish our long-term partnerships, given that these highly increase the opportunities to work with true policy relevance. Proper articulation of the issues by these clients and research uptake of research results substantiate a strong relationship. In this regard, the Conflict Research Unit maintains intensive relationships with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the context of the Stability, Development and Rule of Law Research Programme, as well as the knowledge platform for Security and the Rule of Law. The same applies to the Clingendael International Sustainability Centre – that was set up in 2016 – in the context of the Planetary Security Initiative.

The Institute is delighted with the improvement in its position among the international think tanks, as evidenced by its score in the Top Think Tanks Worldwide (Non-US), where we climbed from 24th to 22nd place, and among the West-European think tanks, where Clingendael maintained its place at number 17. At national level, Clingendael remains by far the highest-scoring think tank in these influential indices of Top Think Tanks Worldwide that the University of Pennsylvania compiles annually.

We are striving to further increase our relevance to equip actors to rise to the major challenges in international politics, and for an informed public debate. Given the radical changes in the international environment in general and in Clingendael’s markets in particular, and given the Institute’s statutory uncoupling from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence, the first rounds of discussions have been conducted in preparation for a new multi-year vision for the period 2017-2020, which is to give direction to Clingendael’s content, organisation, partnerships and funding. This will appear in mid-2017.

Photo credits

Studio Oostrum, The Hague

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