Looking back at 2021 requires focus due to the impact of the events since 24 February 2022 and the urgency of today. Russia's war against Ukraine is having brutal consequences there, causing severe aftershocks for security and stability in Europe and neighbouring countries, and is undermining the international order. In these turbulent times, Clingendael is at its strongest, due to the team's great commitment to our mission, and because relevant knowledge has been built up.

Clingendael experts have argued structurally for a Europe that becomes more of a player in geopolitics in order not to end up as a plaything. The Rutte IV cabinet that took office in December 2021 has made that geopolitical turn, and Clingendael supports ministries and other stakeholders with research, training and advice in developing this new strategy.

With our training courses, we equip professionals to operate effectively in this rapidly changing international environment. The trainers of the Clingendael Academy traditionally focus on diplomats, but also increasingly on aid and peacebuilding organisations in conflict countries, as well as strengthening young democracies and supporting the development of diplomatic academies around the world through capacity building.

The extra efforts of our researchers in the context of the Clingendael Russia and Eastern Europe Centre and the Clingendael China Centre were rewarded in May 2021 with winning the secretariat of the knowledge networks China and Russia/Eastern Europe of the Dutch government, in a consortium with Raam op Rusland and the Leiden Asia Centre.

This prioritisation in recent years and investments in the knowledge infrastructure of the Netherlands help Clingendael to add value with solid information for different audiences and the media. As the war in Ukraine affects inflation, energy security, budgets and currency in Europe, and leads to a food crisis in countries around Europe, building knowledge and capacity for the next crisis and drawing attention to forgotten crises remain important tasks for Clingendael.

Early capacity building and rapid response to a crisis has also helped Clingendael through the lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic. Investment in teleworking for the staff and innovations of the Clingendael Academy in recent years have laid a foundation for the full digitalisation of our training courses, conferences and seminars. This digitalisation enables us to continue to work in a hybrid and online way in addition to live training and events, with economies of scale, and profit in view of sustainability, inclusiveness and corporate communication.

Looking back at 2021, it is also worthwhile to remember that the threat of Russian assertiveness scored relatively low in the surveys among the Dutch public conducted as part of the Clingendael Foreign Affairs Barometer. Significant irregular migration pressure on Europe's external borders, the rise of China and climate change were among the top three concerns about international developments of the Dutch population. Closer examination of the remarkably low score of the Russian threat showed that it was caused by the polarisation of perceptions along cultural lines: twenty per cent of the Dutch appreciated the Russian government's commitment to patriotism and conservative values and saw Russia less as threat.

Although the polarisation in the specific case of Russia has been somewhat reduced by the war, the polarisation of international relations and the 'world in the neighbourhood' in general is an important factor for Clingendael's work. The hardening of politics can lead to tensions with and between (potential) clients. And experts are increasingly being asked to also take a political stand in the media. In this context, Clingendael as a whole and each colleague individually has a great responsibility to be transparent and safeguard our independence. With a combination of thematic, regional and methodological expertise, close cooperation with in-country researchers, and strong partnerships with clients and an understanding of their needs, we deliver added value.

We are proud to present the results of our team in this Clingendael Annual 2021. These were made possible by the support of our clients. We are very grateful for their involvement and for the quality they insert in the articulation of their demands and critical reflection on our services and products. This interaction is indispensable for the quality of our products.

We are also deeply grateful to the Clingendael advisory council CAROO and the Clingendael Supervisory Board. Maria Henneman, Hugo Siblesz and Dick Scherjon left the Supervisory Board after two intensive terms in which they guided Clingendael from being a Dutch institute with a basic subsidy from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense to an independent foundation with a public mission that operates on the international market with good financial results.

We would have liked to enjoy the excellent chairmanship of the Supervisory Board by Tom de Bruijn for years to come, but he was called upon to become a minister in the caretaker cabinet Rutte III. In the years in which Tom de Bruijn chaired the Supervisory Board, Clingendael has flourished and the Board has benefited from his great wisdom. We would like to thank Yvonne Zonderop, who has been acting chairman since Tom de Bruijn left, and with her extensive social and journalistic experience is a great support in times of polarisation. We will warmly welcome the new chairman of the Supervisory Board, who will take office in September 2022.

Monika Sie Dhian Ho, general director, and Peter Haasbroek, financial director