Conflict and Fragility

Clingendael’s Conflict Research Unit (CRU) conducts research on the causes and consequences of conflict and fragility. As the world faces a surge in violent conflicts,[3] resulting in grave human suffering and an unprecedented flow of internally displaced persons and refugees, it has become clear that existing international conflict mitigation mechanisms have reached their limits. Taking the broader political economy of conflict as a starting point, CRU’s research aims to identify new ways of addressing conflict and fragility, and to make policymakers and practitioners feel urged and enabled to take informed action against the human suffering caused by modern-day violent conflict.

Working with a wide variety of clients and partners – such as the European External Action Service, the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation, the UN Development Programme, the German development agency GIZ and the OECD – we have organised our work in three regional research programmes: our Sahel research programme looks into the nature of local governance in situations of conflict, organised crime and migration in the wider Sahel region; our Levant research programme analyses the impact of hybrid security actors on state performance and development in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon; and our Horn of Africa research programme focuses on how informality – and specifically informal economies – can be harnessed to strengthen stabilisation strategies in the region. In addition, CRU has continued to develop its work on the linkages between migration and conflict (see Migration section in this report).

In our programmes, we combine expertise in the fields of security and justice; politics and crime; and business and fragility. In 2017, for instance, we explored how customary justice systems in Northern Mali work and perform in order to provide national and international stakeholders with action points on how to engage with these systems as part of their efforts to bring peace to Mali in the wake of the 2012 crisis. We also conducted a study on how well donors understand political relations, power and interests in fragile societies from the perspectives of inclusiveness and legitimacy, offering an evidence-based call for the international community to increase its ability to understand and act upon the politics of development in its aid and diplomatic efforts. And in collaboration with Wageningen University we conducted an analysis of donor policies aimed at supporting socioeconomic development in fragile settings, to help forge more effective donor interventions focused on livelihoods (instead of job creation) and inclusive institutions (instead of elite pacts).

In terms of partnerships, the continued working relationship with the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs is an important pillar in CRU’s project portfolio. In 2017, CRU entered into a new four-year partnership with the Ministry under the Conflict & Fragility Research Partnership, aiming to produce relevant and timely input that will contribute to the development and implementation of more effective policies and programming in response to 21st century conflict dynamics. In addition, CRU won the tender to manage the Secretariat for the Knowledge Platform Security and Rule of Law on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for another four years (2017-2020), this time in collaboration with the UK-based NGO Saferworld and the International Development Law Organization. As such, CRU will continue to contribute to the enhancement of an exchange of knowledge between policymakers, practitioners and researchers working on the strengthening of security and rule of law in fragile settings.

For all publications on Conflict & Fragility please see our website.

Security and Defence

In 2017 the Security Unit contributed to the new initiatives and developments with regard to European security and defence with a wide range of events, publications and comments in the media. Particular attention was devoted to the launch of Permanent Structured Cooperation and the European Commission’s European Defence Fund, providing analysis and recommendations focused particularly on governance matters. Another report was devoted to the consequences of Brexit in the area of European defence, listing several options for how best to engage the United Kingdom in the Common Security and Defence Policy after it leaves the EU. The report received wide attention, including through a contribution by one of the authors to hearings in the British House of Commons. The Security Unit furthermore organised a high-level conference in Washington D.C. on the state of transatlantic security cooperation, commissioned by the Dutch and Finnish Ministries of Defence.

Commissioned by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Unit produced a report identifying the challenges for this multilateral organisation in the near future after its disarmament work has come to an end. The report proposes potential steps that policymakers could take to prepare the OPCW for the future. Together with PwC a project on interdepartmental cyber security policies was conducted for the Dutch Ministries of Economic Affairs, Foreign Affairs and Security & Justice. A study was also published providing ideas on how to manage the proliferation of missiles as well as drones.

During the year the Security Unit undertook a range of activities in relation to the geopolitical and security impact of China’s rise with several contributions to public events, such as in Beijing and in the European Parliament. A study commissioned by Dutch regional governments was conducted on the geopolitical relevance of the Chinese Belt and Road initiative. The Unit also provided input to the ‘Chinese Futures: Horizon 2020’ project of the EU Institute of Security Studies.

For all publications on Security and Defence please see our website.

Think Tank session at the Clingendael Institute with a.o. the Dutch Minister and State Secretary of Defence, December 2017

Strategic Foresight

Throughout 2017 the Clingendael Strategic Foresight Programme has had many assignments for a wide spectrum of clients; including ministries and government agencies, NGO’s, the National Police and businesses.

The highlight of the year was the publication of the Clingendael Strategic Monitor 2017: Multi-Order, the flagship study of our Institute. Based upon a completely new and improved evidence-based methodology, it identifies major trends in international relations and international security. It sets out the increasing levels of threat and, at the same time, continuing collaborative efforts in the world. It is based upon ten trend studies, written by in-house Clingendael experts: territorial integrity, terrorism, CBRN weapons, fragile states, energy, free trade, the crisis of confidence in the EU, cross-border criminality, climate change and cyber security. In each area Clingendael experts assessed the threats posed and the climate of international collaboration - based on indicators from a newly set up Clingendael Trend Database -as well as anticipated trends for the next five years. In addition to the ten individual trend studies, the authors added an overview in the synthesis report. A separate epilogue devoted attention to the issue of what Donald Trump's election means for the world order. The most significant conclusion, is that the strategic focus on Dutch security policy must be reviewed.

In February 2017, this Monitor was presented to the former Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bert Koenders, jointly with the HCSS Monitor in a well-visited public event in the “Glazen Zaal” in The Hague. The Monitor received a lot of attention in both the media and in policy circles. The term “Multi-Order” has even been coined in the new Integrated Foreign and Security Strategy of the Netherlands.

Presentation of the Clingendael Strategic Monitor with Bert Koenders (former Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs – l.) and Monika Sie Dhian Ho (General Director of the Clingendael Institute)

Other eye-catching publications of our Strategic Foresight Programme were trend studies on political violence, a report on biases in conflict data, and a scenario study on the Future of Syria. The Programme also released the Clingendael Radar Series; a horizon scan that aims to detect new and novel developments in five selected fields: terrorism, migration, free trade, climate change and CBRN. Results from the scan have been validated and prioritised by our annual Clingendael Expert Survey, in which we approached around 2,000 experts for the views on tomorrow’s key security problems.

For all publications on Strategic Foresight please see our website.


With respect to the issues of (counter-) terrorism and countering and preventing violent extremism several high-level activities were organised and publications were issued. Together with our partners in the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) as well as with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), a report was prepared for the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament evaluating the relevance, coherence and effectiveness of EU policies on counter-terrorism. In cooperation with the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate a side event was organised during the United Nations General Assembly week in New York on the role the military can play in collecting evidence in terrorist cases for the purpose of prosecuting individuals before ordinary national criminal courts.

Throughout the year our security experts contributed to public debates and commented in the media – nationally and internationally - on a range of current security matters.

International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT)-The Hague

ICCT is supported by a unique partnership comprising three renowned institutions based in The Hague: the T.M.C Asser Instituut, the Clingendael Institute and the Institute of Security and Global Affairs, Leiden University.

In 2017, ICCT’s output was reorganised to fulfil three thematic programmes compromising of (1) Current Trends and Threats, (2) Prevention of Violent Extremism, and (3) Responses to Terrorism. ICCT has continued to produce relevant research on counter-terrorism; strategic communications; young IS returnees and the challenge of reintegration; the types of media terrorists collect as well as research on suicide attacks, lone-actor terrorism and radicalisation. Throughout 2017, ICCT successfully implemented workshops, expert meetings and trainings around the world on projects funded by the US State Department, the Government of Switzerland and the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (UN CTED).

In 2017 ICCT staff and fellows continued to promote ICCT’s research and implementation capacities in numerous international conferences. With regard to staffing, three Visiting Fellows from Italy, the United States and the United Kingdom conducted research at ICCT and one new Associate Fellow published multiple articles in affiliation with the Centre.

Europe in the World

Most of our work on the European neighbourhood in 2017 consisted of confidential (and hence unpublished) outputs. These were often written in cooperation with partners, including the European Council for Foreign Relations and Chatham House, as part of the ‘Progress Lot 2’ framework contract with the Netherlands Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence. These outputs revolved around EU relations with Eastern Europe, Northern Africa, Turkey and the Western Balkans, as well as Syria, Iraq, Iran and the Gulf. In addition, closed seminars were held on EU migration policies and EU-Russia relations.

Our published work included publications on the US-Russia relationship and its consequences for NATO, competition in Eurasia and Belarus, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and Dutch narratives concerning Russian-Western relations.

In the academic sphere, Clingendael continued its cooperation with Leiden University. Several researchers taught courses in the Master in International Relations and Diplomacy (MIRD) and at the University’s Institute for Security and Global Affairs. We also co-taught a course on EU external representation at the College of Europe in Bruges.

For all publications on Europe in the world please see our website.

Europe and the EU

After the hectic years of crises related to the euro and migration, 2017 was a year of reflections on many areas ranging from labour mobility after Brexit, strengthening the Eurozone, to public support. A large share of the unit’s work was devoted to analysing aggregate trends in Europe’s fault lines. This resulted in an expert meeting and policy brief on labour mobility, an expert meeting and policy brief analysing Public support for European integration, and a policy brief titled ´The missing dimension in rule of law policy - From EU policies to multilevel capacity building´. Moreover, 2017 was also the year of the celebrations of 60 years of the Treaty of Rome in Rome. Clingendael was invited by the Italian government for a high level group to produce a collection of discussions papers on the future of European integration.

For all publications on Europe and the EU please see our website.

European Monetary Union

Regarding the European Monetary Union, the unit produced a policy paper on Economic Councils and Productivity Boards, as well as a policy brief titled ‘Economic convergence as the cornerstone of EMU resilience? Competitiveness, indicators and institutions’. A critique of the European Commission’s EMU Reflection Paper was offered in the form of a policy brief titled The EMU does not have any flaws - A Critique of the European Commission’s Reflection Paper on the Deepening of the EMU. This paper was also the basis of an expert meeting on Essential EMU Reform Measures in August, bring together experts from across the EU and Dutch senior civil servants. 2017 was also the year of important elections which has had major implications for the EU and European policies. Through EUforum, we could organise, in close cooperation and with financial support of the Adessium Foundation, a public platform on the themes of Social Europe, Support for the EU, Migration, EU Integration, and Security. The platform published over 50 articles by international and Dutch authors. As part of the same project, an event cycle on European elections (French, British, German, and reflecting on the election year) was organised at Humanity House The Hague.

Given the major developments in the EU, a State of the EU conference was initiated which finally took place in January 2018 as well as a Clingendael State of the Union report.


Researchers at the Clingendael Institute played an active role in helping make sense of the ongoing Brexit negotiations. Clingendael experts, including Margriet Drent and Rem Korteweg, published op-eds, offered media commentary, contributed to panel discussions and drafted analyses on various dimensions of Britain’s departure from the EU. Publications included a report on Brexit and defence by Margriet Drent, Anne Bakker and Dick Zandee. Rem Korteweg co-authored a chapter on responses of the Benelux countries to Britain’s EU referendum, which will be published in an edited volume. Besides regular interaction with policymakers, Clingendael experts contributed to the Brexit event series organised by the Netherlands-British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC). In particular, Clingendael hosted the 2017 NBCC Brexit Forum, which brought Dutch and British businesses together to discuss the implications of Brexit.

On the basis of the varied themes and reports, Clingendael´s EU unit was present in major national and international media.

Trade and Globalisation

In the field of trade and globalisation, Clingendael continued its work on EU-Asia relations, including under the ‘Progress Lot 1’ framework contract for the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defence. Apart from several confidential papers on the consequences of China’s rise as a global trading power and the economic nationalism of US president Donald Trump, the project resulted in a policy brief arguing for greater EU-Japan leadership on global economic governance. Together with Chatham House and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Clingendael continued its research for the EU’s external action service (EEAS) as part of the Asia-Pacific Research and Advice Network (APRAN), focussing on key added value in Connectivity. This resulted in a number of confidential papers and events. In 2017, Clingendael continued its Silk Road forum, a platform to discuss ongoing developments related to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Moreover, we published an article on the EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement.

In addition, a Clingendael Radar (horizon scan) focused on upcoming threats to free trade pertaining to the EU’s security.

Clingendael also worked on various dimensions of Dutch and European diplomacy. For example, we published an article on the EU’s Partnership instrument in the European Foreign Affairs Review and wrote an op-ed in Euractiv. In a Clingendael policy brief, we addressed the way in which digitisation is changing the nature of governmental consular and diplomatic services. Broader trends in diplomacy were addressed in two articles on digital diplomacy and an article on country power rankings.

For all publications on Trade and Globalisation please see our website.

Processes of International Negotiation (PIN)

2017 was the last year in which Clingendael functioned as the secretariat of the Processes of International Negotiation (PIN). We were the secretariat since 2011. During the tenure of PIN at Clingendael we conducted many different projects, some of which reached completion in 2017. We published two books: Negotiating Reconciliation in Peacemaking (Valerie Rosoux and Mark Anstey, eds) and Tug of War: Negotiating Security in Eurasia (Fen Hampson and Mikhail Troitskyi, eds). We also published another edition of our network magazine. We had a roadshow in Hamburg with GIGA in September followed by the launch of new project on negotiations and concepts of justice in Uppsala, convened by Cecilia Albin. PIN will be hosted from 2018 by GIGA.



In the course of 2017, the social, political and economic impact of mixed-migration flows and forced displacement continued to affect all regions of the world. Be it mass displacement from Myanmar or in the Middle East, migrant flows in the Americas, Sub-Saharan and North Africa, or political dynamics inside the European Union, migration continued to be acutely present in the contemporary political discourse – and, as importantly, in policy-making.

The policies put in place to respond to the increasing human mobility have thus far been aimed at minimising the – real or perceived – negative impact of migration and displacement on host countries and countries of destination. They were designed to ensure containment of migration flows or temporary stability of refugee-hosting countries, addressing only the immediate and most urgent fall-outs. Attempts to address the root causes of migration have either been politically paralysed – as in the case of Syria – or have been designed and implemented in a way that doesn’t take into account the conflict dynamics in regions of origin and transit.

The Clingendael Institute’s research on migration focuses on understanding the drivers of migration, and the effect that contemporary migration policies (with a specific focus on EU policies) have on the stability of countries where migration originates and through which it transits (with a specific focus on the Sahel, Horn of Africa and Levant – in line with the Conflict Research Unit (CRU) research programmes). It looks into how migration forms a response to – but also is a driver of – conflict and stability dynamics, and how migration policies can be designed in a humane and conflict-sensitive manner.

In 2017, our CRU received funding from NWO-WOTRO to conduct field research into the implications of the EU policies on the conflict dynamics in Agadez (Niger), allowing the Unit to further extend its research portfolio on migration routes in the Sahel – an issue on which Clingendael was invited to share findings and insights with Dutch and European policy makers on numerous occasions. Furthermore, in 2017 CRU’s migration research was expanded to include issues of forced displacement in the Levant, with support from the National Postcode Lottery (NPL) and the German GIZ. On the basis of fieldwork in Lebanon and Armenia, CRU strengthened its evidence base on the political economy of the refugee response in the region. Specifically, research has focused on issues of social capital in protracted displacement and refugee economic integration. On the basis of both these research lines, CRU has been able to produce a series of well-read comments on the challenges of refugee response in conflict-affected regions.

In addition to this, the Clingendael International Sustainability Centre (CISC) started to explore the linkages between climate change, migration and security by producing a policy brief on this in 2017. And the Europe researchers of the Institute have looked into the issue of European border control in relation to migration streams – work that will be published in 2018. Finally, Clingendael Academy organised a large-scale training in The Hague and a series of workshops in Lebanon for NGO representatives active in the refugee response in Lebanon – with support from the NPL.

Clingendael migration experts have organised and participated in numerous events on migration and gave over 20 presentations for donor governments and NGOs (like GIZ, MSF and Amnesty International), to public platforms (like De Balie, Amsterdam and Humanity House, The Hague), to other think tanks (like EU ISS, ECFR, and the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies). One of the most high-profile events organised in 2017 was the book presentation “Across the Borders”, chaired by Clingendael Director and the book’s contributor Monika Sie Dhian Ho. The event was attended by high-level participants that included Carnegie Europe’s Visiting Scholar and the former Director General at the Austrian MFA Stefan Lehne, and the former Netherlands MFA special envoy on migration, Bram van Ojik.

For all publications on Migration please see our website.



The 21st of February (2017) marked the official launch of the Clingendael International Sustainability Centre (CISC). 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, European integration, international security, the politics of development cooperation and geopolitics.

In support of this aim, the CISC published a briefing note, outlining how Clingendaels’ track record and ambitions with regard to think tank activities in the field of planetary security, multilateral commitments, international competitiveness, and governance innovations towards the circular and climate-friendly economy transition. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the potential they offer for public-private partnership were subject of a project for the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They clearly are a test for such partnerships, which are promoted by the EU, but still face a lot of resistance by new powers, such as Brazil, China and India.

The Clingendael sustainability team organised roundtables on global health. In a report with partners the Netherlands was called for to be more po-active in this field. This agenda clearly is supportive for Dutch economic, health and life sciences interests. Another report, for the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure & Water, analysed the EU’s research and innovation policy with regard to the issue of water and climate adaptation. As European funds are shifting towards global challenges and moonshot missions, where water is often part of a larger agenda, the sector-based approach deserves reconsideration.

2017 saw the advancement of the Planetary Security Initiative, a think tank consortium which operates at the international level and is spearheaded by Clingendael. In 2015, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched this initiative to promote good practice guidance, create a platform for the community of practice to meet and deepen knowledge and awareness.

The third annual Planetary Security Conference aimed to move from Analysis to Action. The conference, held on 12 and 13 December, brought together of over 300 members of the community of practice working on the climate-security policy interface. The call for action was resonated through the signing of the Hague Declaration on Planetary Security. The declaration set into momentum an Agenda for Action, consisting of: creating an institutional home for climate security, coordinating migration and climate change responses, promoting urban resilience, supporting joint risk assessment in Lake Chad, strengthening climate and conflict sensitive development in Mali, and supporting sustainable water strategies in Iraq.

The Planetary Security Initiative was involved in a set of related activities, among which a Youth Challenge on climate change and migration, a side event at the Stockholm World Water Week, a side event at the UNFCCC COP In Bonn, regional consultation meetings in the Lebanon, Jordan and Mali. With several publications per month, the consortium was highly active in discussing the latest developments in the realm of climate and security. The brief on the time-sensitive contested relationship between climate, migration, and security was widely used at the 2017 Planetary Security Conference. It fostered awareness of the urgency on the issue and acknowledgement to move beyond the academic debate. At the Conference, it was an underpinning document for a high level side-meeting on climate, land, migration and peace, organised jointly with the European Climate Foundation.

For all publications on Sustainability please see our website.


Press conference at the start of the Planetary Security Conference on 12 December 2017 with Hassan Janabi, Iraqi Minister of Water Resources (c.), Clingendael general director Monika Sie Dhian Ho (2 nd r.) and Clingendael’s head of Sustainability Louise van Schaik (r.)

As stated in the recent UN/World Bank study on Pathways for Peace, in 2016 more countries experienced violent conflict than at any time in nearly 30 years. See: link