And then came Covid-19, the pandemic with unprecedented consequences for our health, economy, society and safety. Covid-19 and the measures to contain it are having a major impact on Clingendael's work. The Covid-19 pandemic and the economic and political aftershocks are accelerating international trends that were already under way in the 2019 reporting year: the world is becoming more digital, more unequal, less Western, more unstable, less free. Rivalry between the United States and China, the erosion of multilateral cooperation and difficult strategy formation in a divided European Union were already shaping the backdrop to Clingendael's work in 2019.

Amid these powerful international dynamics, Clingendael's work is becoming relevant to an ever wider range of actors as they assess the state of international relations and globalisation, and the role and functioning of the European Union. Clingendael also has a role in ensuring that key international issues that were highlighted and studied in 2019 do not disappear from the agenda due to an exclusive focus on the Covid-19 crisis. Against this background, our analyses, training and public discussions are aimed at inspiring and equipping governments, businesses, NGOs and societies to promote a safe, sustainable, prosperous and just world. Through media appearances and public meetings we seek to foster a fact-based public debate on international relations. We are able to fulfil this mission on the basis of lasting partnerships and long-term financing, with a growing number of new clients and with gratitude to our corporate members.

Clingendael internationalised and diversified its portfolio in 2019, a strategy we plan to intensify in the years ahead. The Conflict Research Unit grew as the political and economic analyses of the Sahel, Levant and Horn of Africa research programmes were not only conducted for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but were increasingly sought after by international and local clients. The Research Department’s Security Unit – in cooperation with HCSS – once again produced the Strategic Monitor for the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence, but also augmented the integrated threat analyses on behalf of the Ministry of Justice and Security. The European Union and Global Affairs Unit conducted research into the rise of China and its impact on the Port of Rotterdam and educational establishments in the Netherlands, as well as developing relationships with the European External Action Service in the field of digital connectivity. As is traditional, the Clingendael Academy trained young Dutch diplomats (the ‘Klasje’) in Huys Clingendael, but also saw greatly increased demand in the international field, for example in negotiation skills training for humanitarian aid workers and investment in the development of training institutes abroad.

We responded in a tangible way to the growing influence of China with the creation of the Clingendael China Centre. This brings together all of Clingendael’s China-related knowledge and also serves as a national and international knowledge hub, for example through its links with the European Thinktank Network on China and businesses through the China Platform for European Institutional Investors. Just as the Netherlands has to seek out new coalitions in the EU, Clingendael hosted socially distanced dialogues at ministerial and department level with Spain and Italy, together with fellow think tanks from the countries concerned. The Clingendael Academy strengthened developments with ‘Training as an intervention for peace’ in Nigeria, and with capacity-building in Vietnam for the implementation of the UN Convention Against Torture. The field research conducted as part of Clingendael’s ‘The Netherlands in the World’ survey just before the Covid-19 crisis broke at the end of 2019 and periodic updates of this foreign affairs barometer give us an understanding of Dutch people’s views on foreign policy and related opinion statements. The results of this survey will form the basis for public discussions on foreign affairs in various regions of the country, with Algemeen Dagblad and its regional titles acting as the media partner.

Clingendael responded to advances in digitisation with increased professionalisation in terms of online outreach and the development of new e-learning modules by the Clingendael Academy. Preparations were made at the end of 2019 for a complete overhaul of the basic ICT infrastructure. As a result, from March 2020, all employees are able to access all company information at any time and from any place.

Clingendael maintained a stable position in the TTCSP Global Think Tank Index in 2019. Among more than 8,160 think tanks worldwide, Clingendael ranks 25th (+1). In the ‘Best Think Tank in Western Europe’ category it remained in 10th place.

The Covid crisis and its aftershocks are grounds for further increasing the relevance of Clingendael’s work, by assessing the unprecedented developments and sharing relevant knowledge, as well as maintaining and expanding the research, training and public programme by deploying technology but in particular an experienced and energetic team. Following a reorganisation in 2019 the theme of the 2020 annual plan was ‘Resilience’. That is more urgently required now than at any time in our history. The engagement and commitment of all Clingendael employees, combined with the trust and flexibility of our clients, gives us confidence in a future which, although not as we expected a few months ago, offers new perspectives.

Monika Sie Dhian Ho, general director

Peter Haasbroek, financial director