Monika Sie Dhian Ho
General Director

2017 was a year in which major international institutions in the West came under pressure. Multilateral cooperation between allies was tested by the policy of the new US President Donald Trump. Since he came to office in early 2017, the United States has withdrawn from the UN climate treaty, cancelled the nuclear deal with Iran, unleashed an international trade war and cast doubt on solidarity within NATO. European cooperation was also tested when Prime Minister May gave formal notice at the end of March 2017 of the UK’s intention to leave the European Union after the country voted for Brexit by a narrow majority in the referendum on EU membership.

The testing of these key institutions coincided with developments calling precisely for effective international and European cooperation. How can the post-2011 conflicts and crises in the Middle East and North Africa be de-escalated and what can be done to help build a more durable basis for peaceful coexistence? Is it possible to forge a common European response to the global refugee crisis and irregular migration resulting from the lack of prospects in countries of origin? Can democratic societies and welfare states be better protected against the negative impacts of globalisation and digitisation? How can the energy transition be accelerated to curb the dangers of climate change? What is the right response to the assertive and authoritarian governments of the EU’s neighbours such as Russia and Turkey? And what is the best way to interpret and respond to China’s growing strategic influence in the world?

Clingendael provided research and training for policymakers, diplomats, politicians, aid workers and businesses to equip them to tackle these issues and sought to contribute to an evidence-based public debate through media commentaries and public meetings. Clingendael Research analysed key trends in international relations and international security in the Clingendael Strategic Monitor 2017. The Monitor highlighted the increasing levels of threat across all individual areas, but at the same time pointed to continuing cooperation efforts, with countries opposed to each other in some areas often working closely together in others. The Monitor’s authors contend that rather than ‘world disorder’, with political leaders sowing fear among the population, there is in fact ‘multi-order’, a term subsequently adopted in the policy debate, as evidenced by the Dutch government’s Integrated Foreign and Security Strategy 2018-2022[1]. The Monitor was presented to the Minister of Foreign Affairs at a public event and on request to a number of large companies and received widespread media attention.

In 2017 Clingendael Academy expanded its training portfolio of diplomatic training courses in the Netherlands and abroad (reaching around 130 countries) to include training on conflict and humanitarian negotiations. In the European training courses Clingendael helped organisations and countries to get more out of their lobbying activities in Brussels. Clingendael also became one of the major providers of EU presidency training, the high point in 2017 being the training of over 700 officials in Sofia to prepare Bulgaria for its European Presidency in 2018. Further investments were made in 2017 in specialised themes such as innovative diplomacy, cyber, blue economy and  promotion of the rule of law, in addition to the various skills programmes such as mediation, scenario planning, network analysis and lobbying. As well as individual training, Clingendael provided capacity-building support for the establishment and development of foreign diplomatic and defence academies. A unique feature of Clingendael Academy is that it has in-house capacity to develop interactive learning formats, developing a large number of new practical exercises, simulations and cases. In 2017 Clingendael Academy was admitted to the prestigious Mediation Support Network (MSN) and other new strategic cooperations were established, for instance with the Centre of Competence in Humanitarian Negotiations (CCHN) in Geneva.

Clingendael’s public platform function was further strengthened in 2017. The Institute introduced a new, primarily English-language website, of which the ‘Clingendael Spectator’ magazine forms an integral part. Online publications and contemporary tools such as infographics, storyboards and a series of podcasts enabled Clingendael to reach a wider audience. With support from the Adessium Foundation, Clingendael was able to contribute to an informed public debate on the hot European issues in the important elections in Europe in 2017, providing accessible ‘mattermaps’ on these issues and contributions from various EU member states in an online forum and debates in various cities in the Netherlands. Experts gave commentaries on international developments and events in Dutch and foreign media. The number of media appearances and opinion articles was further increased and internationalised, with Clingendael appearing in leading media on average twice a day. Clingendael held a series of meetings for the general public, various expert groups and young professionals. The newly formed Clingendael Corporate Membership Programme is worthy of special mention in this regard. It is a community of around 30 large international companies based in the Netherlands for and with which Clingendael analyses the opportunities and political risks of doing business in unstable and fragile environments.

The breadth (research, training, commentary and debate) and the multidisciplinary nature of Clingendael’s work allows comprehensive analysis of complex issues involving a long chain of factors. This distinctive quality of Clingendael’s work, combined with investments in local networks and in the security and language skills of staff destined to work in unstable regions, helped build a strong position for Clingendael in primary research and training in the MENA region. The original research into the effects and effectiveness of EU migration policy in the Sahel region, for example, was well received internationally. It was also precisely the combination of research and training that led the National Postcode Lottery to finance Clingendael’s support for aid organisations in the Levant to improve the living conditions of refugees and host communities in Lebanon. Clingendael’s public platform function ensures that the lessons from this work are also shared and discussed with a large number of experts and the wider public. This was the case, for example, during the international ‘Crossing Borders’ conference in The Hague in June 2017, with its focus on the various pillars of an integrated migration policy that also featured in the Dutch government’s Integrated Migration agenda.[2]

Breath and multidisciplinary nature of Clingendael’s work also allowed us to launch Clingendael International Sustainability Centre (CISC) in 2017. Through CISC, the Clingendael Institute aims to integrate sustainability with expertise on European and international (policy) processes and discussions. This enables Clingendael to showcase its work on pressing sustainability themes, such as climate change and the circular economy with regard to: the role of the EU, international security, the politics of development cooperation and geopolitics. In this field there are moreover ample opportunities to cooperate with the well-established Clingendael International Energy Programme, that focuses its research, training, events and contributions to the public debate on international political and economic developments in the energy sector (oil, gas and electricity). 

Clingendael continued the internationalisation of its work in 2017. By investing in its internationally well-established website and issuing publications in French it was able to internationalise its audience. Both the Academy and Research frequently form consortiums with foreign partners to take part in international tenders. The number of clients outside the Netherlands increased, as did the number of invitations to participate in expert meetings abroad. More generally, Clingendael sought to diversify its order book to encompass not only the European Union, international organisations and foreign governments, but also domestic security actors such as the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV) and local actors.

The expansion of Clingendael’s client base meets the growing demand for interpretation and training in international relations among various actors, and is important for Clingendael in view of the termination of its institutional funding from the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence. The relationships between Clingendael Research and the two ministries nevertheless remain close, with Clingendael playing a role in all components of the PROGRESS research tender organised by the ministries. A multi-annual partnership also generates high added value for demand-driven research and training, which is why Clingendael is nurturing the relationships between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Academy, the Conflict Research Unit, the Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law (KPSRL), Clingendael’s public platform, the Planetary Security Initiative and the International Centre for Counter Terrorism (ICCT, the collaboration programme of Clingendael, the Asser Institute and Leiden University). The aim of developing such multi-annual partnerships with other clients is being pursued with bodies such as NCTV and other domestic security actors through long-term research and secondments.

Some of the above developments require a restatement of our public mission, a vision of how we can fulfil our mission in a changing environment and a demanding business transition. Key developments include expanding the client portfolio (to include domestic security actors, local and regional actors, businesses, foreign governments, the European Union, international organisations and others), a shift in Clingendael’s funding towards market-based contracts and increasing cooperation in international consortiums, an aspiration to conduct long-term primary research and provide training even in unsafe regions, the termination of Clingendael’s institutional subsidy and preparation for Clingendael’s formal decoupling from the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence. Against this backdrop a Multi-Annual Vision was compiled in 2017, a new job structure was drawn up for the organisation and preparations were made for a reorganisation to implement the Multi-Annual Vision, as well as the transition to a Supervisory Board model. The decision-making on the reorganisation, its implementation, the continuation of the business transition and an investment in the quality of Clingendael’s financial, HR and marketing functions will remain a priority for 2018.

The Institute’s substantive output continued apace during the 2017 business transition and the rising trend in its international ratings since 2016 even accelerated. In the 2017 rankings of the TTCSP Global Think Tank Index the Institute rose from 17th to 10th place in the ‘Best Think Tanks in Western Europe’ category and from 48th to 30th place in the ‘Best Think Tanks Worldwide’ category. At national level Clingendael remains by far the highest-scoring think tank in these influential rankings of Top Think Tanks Worldwide produced annually by the University of Pennsylvania.

Photo credits

Marjolein Vinkenoog

See link, p. 13.