On 26 May 2021, Monika Sie Dhian Ho, Clingendael’s General Director, and Gerrie Willems, Deputy Director Asia and Oceania Department at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, signed the agreement to establish the China Knowledge Network (CKN) and Russia and Eastern Europe Knowledge Alliance (REKA).
Clingendael Research conducts independent, original, interdisciplinary research with a view to providing policy-relevant advice on strategic international issues of particular relevance to the Netherlands and Europe. To this end, Clingendael analyses both quantitatively and qualitatively, evaluates international policy, conducts survey research into views on and support for international policies among the wider public, develops new ideas and approaches to interpret international developments, advises on how to approach international issues, and feeds multi-year government programs with analytical and operational input.
Where possible, the insights gained are shared interactively through strategic discussions, simulations and scenario workshops. In recent years, Clingendael Research has specialised in coordinating knowledge platforms for programming and interpreting international developments, research and knowledge sharing between stakeholders and with the general public.
Clingendael is one of the leading think tanks in Europe. Clingendael Research distinguishes itself through a combination of thematic, regional and methodological expertise and through strong partnerships with clients and insight into their needs. The research units have different specialisations and know how to find each other for interdisciplinarity and triangulation of methods. The thematic breadth and regional scope also make the Institute uniquely positioned for the integral study of current issues and advice to Dutch and European actors and international organisations. Clingendael is internationally acclaimed for its original field research, qualitative research, and recently also representative survey research and early warning and early action research (with a triangulation of quantitative and qualitative techniques).
The combination of research, convening power and offering an independent platform for dialogue between stakeholders and the wider public gives the Institute a unique position when it comes to interdisciplinary knowledge platforms, valorisation and implementation of research findings, outreach and interaction with society. The results per unit, respectively the Conflict Research Unit (CRU), the Security Unit (SU), the European Union and Global Affairs (EUGA) Unit, and the Strategic Initiatives and Outreach (SIO) unit are discussed below.
Clingendael’s Conflict Research Unit (CRU) conducts fieldwork and research on the political economy of 21st century conflict and fragility dynamics. By offering insights and innovative approaches as to how to reduce the occurrence, intensity and impact of violence, we aim to accelerate the urgency for policymakers and practitioners to take informed action against the human suffering caused by violent conflict today.
In 2021, Clingendael’s Conflict Research Unit strengthened its position as a trusted partner for policymakers and aid organisations. We worked with them to enhance the relevance and effectiveness of their engagements in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and the wider Sahel region, including spillover to West and North Africa.
In part, we have done so by conducting advisory type of work. For instance, CRU carried out portfolio analyses for Dutch embassies in conflict countries, supporting them with the development of their new multi-annual strategies for Dutch engagement in these countries. We have also conducted specific thematic analyses to feed into the development of these strategies. For example, we partnered with the Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment to assess the current Dutch policy for Somalia, answering the question how future programming can reduce social consequences of climate change. Our Business & Peace experts furthermore evaluated investment instruments of development banks to help them strengthen their approaches within conflict-sensitive private sector development in fragile settings like Somalia, Ethiopia but also countries like Myanmar. Our clients and partners directly translate the analyses and advice into institutional policies, strategies and instruments.
We organised a series of virtual meetings entitled ‘Guns, seats and protest in the Middle East’, to discuss the prospects for political reform in the region with a wider international audience, including representatives from the EU and donor governments.
And in part, we have strengthened our position as a trusted partner by feeding research insights into policy and programming debates and decision-making processes. In 2021, our experts conducted an in-depth analysis of major developments and the state of play in the Middle East in preparation of a likely policy (re)orientation of a new Dutch government. We discussed the outcomes in a roundtable conversation with relevant directors and ambassadors of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Simultaneously, we organised a series of virtual meetings entitled ‘Guns, seats and protest in the Middle East’, to discuss the prospects for political reform in the region with a wider international audience, including representatives from the EU and donor governments. Based on these meetings in 2021, Clingendael also produced a podcast, which was launched in February 2022.
Clingendael expert Nancy Ezzeddine during a multi-stakeholder dialogue between the public sector, religious authorities and CSOs in Baghdad, Iraq on 11 September 2021.
Similarly, our analysis of the implications of the expanding economic, political and military footprint of the UAE and China in the Horn of Africa has contributed to the development of the EU strategy in the Indo-Pacific. Likewise, our report on the effectiveness of EU information campaigns aimed to halt irregular migration from the Sahel region has fed into on-going discussions amongst the EU and its member states on adjusting its migration toolbox.
In 2021, CRU managed to secure a new multi-annual partnership (2022-2026) with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this time in collaboration with the African Institute for Security Studies (ISS). This partnership unites two ambitions: to be a trusted partner to policymakers and aid organisations, and to provide analytical input that is grounded in expert knowledge of the regions we focus on.
For the latter, we have invested time and effort in strengthening our partnerships with in-country researchers – acknowledging that they bring much needed knowledge of the local context and nuanced sensitivities to our analyses. For our work in the Middle East region for instance, we have worked with partners like the Iraq-based Institute of Regional and International Studies and the Al-Bayan Center for Planning and Studies, whereas for our work in the Sahel region we have worked with partners like Promediation and the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP).
Our partnership with ISS provides a solid basis for further expansion of our network in the African regions we focus on, as well as enabling CRU researchers to work in the region for a longer period of time. In addition, we have invested in strengthening our partnership with more quantitatively oriented research outfits like the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data (ACLED) project, for instance to unpack perceived evidence of the ‘spillover’ of jihadist violence into West African coastal states.
We primarily study conflict, and responses to conflict, from the perspective of power and interests – using our Political Economy Analysis (PEA) research approach. While our work has traditionally focussed more on understanding the local power dynamics and how these interact with international aid engagement in conflict settings, we are increasingly encouraged to focus part of our analyses on how Dutch and European domestic interests act as drivers of conflict in the regions we study. In line with the work we have done over the last couple of years on the impact of European anti-migration efforts on stability in the Sahel region and North Africa, we intend to enhance our analyses of the impact of Dutch and European criminal networks, most specifically in relation to drugs and human trafficking, on stability of West African and the Middle Eastern governments, infrastructure and communities.
We are increasingly encouraged to focus part of our analyses on how Dutch and European domestic interests act as drivers of conflict in the regions we study.
Similarly, we see a need to feed into the thinking on how the shifting geopolitical power balance (with the US, China and Russia as the main players, but also economically powerful players like the Arab Gulf States) – and the European positioning in this regard – affects stability in the regions we focus on. The intention of this is to broaden the potential audience for CRU analyses, and to strengthen the synergy between CRU and the other units of the Clingendael Institute.
Clingendael expert Kars de Bruijne explains the global drug trade in the new Dutch documentary-series ‘Over Grenzen’ (‘Beyond borders’). Now on Amazon Prime Video UK.
Clingendael’s Security Unit focuses on the nature of security challenges for the world, Europe and the Netherlands and the ability to deal with them. Security is increasingly understood as a broad concept; our research themes range from traditional territorial defence to cyber threats, from nuclear weapons to the instrumentalisation of migration and from terrorism to transnational organised crime.
In 2021, Clingendael’s Security Unit’s activities focused on European security and defence cooperation, which developed into an issue of great strategic importance, receiving wide political attention.
Our research on the European Union’s Strategic Compass for security and defence provided important inputs for the Dutch government’s contributions to the development of the Strategic Compass of the EU.
This year, our research on the European Union’s Strategic Compass for security and defence provided important inputs for the Dutch government’s contributions to the development of the Strategic Compass of the EU, especially regarding the level of military ambition in the near term. Both our report and the corresponding explainer video were praised by many other governmental and think tank experts, including stakeholders from the European External Action Service, as influential contributions.
Adája Stoetman explains what long-term defence capablities the EU needs in Clingendael's explainer video about the EU's Strategic Compass (July 2021).
Furthermore, in answering parliamentary questions on the topic of specialisation on 5 November 2021, Dutch Minister of Defence Henk Kamp referred to our policy brief on specialisation by capability groups. “Your House [of Representatives, ed.] will in time receive a letter in which the rationale for specialisation, possible forms and the opportunities and risks will be discussed. The Clingendael Institute’s policy brief will be taken into account.” According to the minister, Clingendael’s policy brief will be considered in the note to Parliament on specialisation, to be released in 2022.
Another significant publication was the Strategic Monitor 2021-2022. In this yearly report, produced at the request of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence, we monitor and evaluate the implications of current developments for Dutch and European security and provide foresight guidance for up to ten years into the future. This year’s Strategic Monitor, entitled ‘Hanging Together’, focuses on identifying policies and partners for the Netherlands and the EU that will further the goal of fostering strategic autonomy in an international system characterised by accelerating great power competition and the normative erosion of multilateral institutions. Progress has been made in some critical areas that contribute to European strategic autonomy, but the EU still faces two big hurdles: it is hampered by significant shortcomings in material and synergistical capabilities, especially in the realm of defence, and it is struggling with the problem of insufficient collective political will.
Throughout 2021, the Security Unit has been in close contact with experts and high-level officials of the Dutch ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Justice and Security – particularly the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism – through meetings, consultations and other sessions; both for projects as well as for providing advice on current issues. The same applies to EU institutions such as the European External Action Service, the European Commission and the European Defence Agency.
Clingendael also established contacts with the newly founded Strategic Knowledge Centre for organised subversive criminality, an organisation that was established by a collective of Dutch law enforcement agencies to develop a strategic vision in the fight against organised crime. We started to organise a series of in-person ‘scrums’, focusing on themes of external security threats having an impact on Dutch society and the activities of Dutch law enforcement, such as drugs-trafficking routes. These scrum sessions continue in 2022.
Amidst the unfolding events in Afghanistan, our Security Unit and Conflict Research Unit experts offered their insights on the dramatically changing situation through several publications and frequent national and international media appearances
Clingendael has invested substantially in its quantitative foresight capacity in the context of its work for the abovementioned stakeholders, with an emphasis on methodology development, field research and build-up of quantitative databases for early warning and early action (EWEA) country analyses and horizon scans.
In 2021, Clingendael closely observed and analysed the dramatic happenings in Afghanistan, such as the US withdrawal and the Taliban takeover. Amidst the unfolding events in Afghanistan, our Security Unit and Conflict Research Unit experts offered their insights on the dramatically changing situation through several publications and frequent national and international media appearances. To help the general public navigate through the latest news and position these developments within a wider context, we created a compilation of the articles and expert comments.
Dick Zandee about the captured American arsenal by the Taliban in Nieuwsuur on 1 September 2021.
The Security Unit will continue to build on the strengthening connections with the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment regarding research on diaspora-communities, particularly the Dutch-Turkish, Dutch-Russian and Dutch-Ukrainian communities, and unwarranted foreign interference. Moreover, the Clingendael Security Unit will continue to analyse and explain to an international audience the shifting power balances in a geopolitical context and the subsequent security issues they bring. Our foresight capacity will be further strengthened and used for EWEA-analyses of 54 African countries, and for horizon scans of undermining Transatlantic and African drug corridors.
With regard to European security and defence, the activities of the Security Unit will shift towards important questions related to the implementation of the EU Strategic Compass, such as the realisation of the EU’s Rapid Deployment Capacity for crisis management operations, the elaboration of the EU Hybrid Toolbox, and how to proceed with defence specialisation. Transatlantic defence cooperation, in particular through NATO, will get more attention in view of the June 2022 NATO Summit in Madrid.
Clingendael’s EU and Global Affairs (EUGA) Unit offers policy analysis and advice on how Europe and the Netherlands can pursue their interests in today’s volatile geopolitical landscape, with big issues such as climate change, global health and the energy transition increasingly shaping our future. How should Europe’s foreign, security, trade and energy policies be adapted?
The EU and Global Affairs Unit was highly productive in 2021. In the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we actively pushed the agenda further for poignant international topics like global health, the continuing rise of China, relations with Russia and Eastern Europe, EU enlargement with the Western Balkans, Turkey's foreign policy, the European Green Deal, migration, and digital connectivity and the global gateway, all as key channels for EU leadership within international relations.
In the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we actively pushed the agenda further for poignant international topics like global health, the continuing rise of China, relations with Russia and Eastern Europe, EU enlargement with the Western Balkans, Turkey's foreign policy, the European Green Deal, migration, and digital connectivity and the global gateway, all as key channels for EU leadership within international relations.
The growing competition among the great powers and the EU’s desire to enhance its open strategic autonomy in fields such as microchips, technological innovation, raw materials, online data and vaccine production were all topics covered by our analysis. We developed innovative thinking and policy-relevant analyses for the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence in the field of European integration, EU enlargement and neighbourhood policy, and the EU’s power positioning relative to other global powers. Based on such analysis, these Ministries can better crystallise their own thinking on the available policy options for the Netherlands and the EU. We also carried out research projects for various European Union institutions, international foundations and others.
Louise van Schaik in The Washington Post on 30 December 2021.
Furthermore, 2021 was the first year of the EU-ASEAN civil society dialogue that Clingendael implements for the EU. Our team intensified its work on the European Green Deal, notably in the field of energy transition and inter alia regarding the Western Balkans, Africa and Central Asia. Clingendael publications and closed brainstorm sessions helped to shape thinking in Brussels on the new International Energy Strategy and RePowerEU.
Clingendael publications and closed brainstorm sessions helped to shape thinking in Brussels on the new International Energy Strategy and RePowerEU.
Researchers spoke at several prestigious international conferences and high-level closed door meetings and were frequently quoted in the press, for example in The Washington Post, and regularly appeared on Dutch television, for instance in Nieuwsuur.
What is Europe's position militarily now that Australia, Britain and the US form an alliance known as AUKUS? Rem Korteweg shared his analysis in Nieuwsuur on 24 September 2021.
Clingendael’s annual State of the Union Conference on European narratives generated high interest. Composed of 9 well-visited online sessions, with more than 13,000 views via Zoom and YouTube, experts shed light on which narrative the EU uses or could use and how these are confronted by other narratives, emanating from both home and abroad. Interventions by Minister Tom de Bruijn and French Minister for Europe Clément Beaune were complemented by in-depth contributions by international thought leaders, including Zhang Weiwei, Barbara Lippert, Antonio Villafranca, Piotr Arak and Maria Demertzis.
The EU and Global Affairs unit conducted extensive research on many topical issues in 2021. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, global health policy has re-emerged on the international political agenda. Our experts carried out research on the Dutch and EU’s role on this issue; we call for a more structured response and increased coherence when examining the outlook on global health in this policy brief and webinar. The pandemic has also boosted the EU’s desire for greater autonomy within the domains of trade and industry. We examined the implications of the EU’s open strategic autonomy agenda for its industrial and trade policy from a Dutch perspective, which resulted in this report with explainer video.
This year’s political analysis focused on the German elections and the new coalition’s stance towards the EU through an alert, various articles and op-eds, and two events on the future scenarios for Germany’s European, defence and foreign policies and the consequences and expectations for Dutch-German relations. Moreover, in the run-up to the Dutch general elections on 17 March, we provided an analysis of the foreign policy position of Dutch political parties.
In 2021, Clingendael further deepened its knowledge and outreach on the geopolitics of (high-value key and future) technologies. We organised a webinar miniseries on how to deal with China in the area of high-tech. In the context of the Allied Economic Forum, Clingendael joined other renowned experts in track 1.5 dialogues on transatlantic regulatory challenges on the intersection of high-tech and geopolitics. Furthermore, our expert Maaike Okano-Heijmans gave a presentation at the prestigious Tech Policy Primer 2021, hosted by Considerati, and in other public webinars hosted by foreign think tanks from amongst others India, Japan and the United States. Her work on digital connectivity, digital development cooperation and fintech is well noted in EU and international policy circles and in the media, including the Financial Times.
Maaike Okano-Heijmans (left on stage) at the prestigious Tech Policy Primer 2021, hosted by Considerati
The EUGA unit also continued its work on countries within the European neighbourhood. Our experts conducted an extensive study on the EU as a promoter of democracy or ‘stabilitocracy’ in the Western Balkans, in cooperation with the Think for Europe Network (TEN). Another project resulted in three case studies on the EU’s facilitation of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, EU defence specialisation and EU policies towards China. Our focus on Turkey was extended through a project on the country’s role in Syria, Libya and the South Caucasus and the consequences for the EU.
On the external dimension of the European Green Deal, we managed to make a substantial contribution to the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans with a webinar and policy briefs on the potential of the policy at large, the energy transition and the combatting pollution-related aspects respectively. Moreover, ahead of the EU international energy strategy, Clingendael experts provided analyses on green energy diplomacy options towards Kazakhstan and Kenya, as well as a study on which instruments the EU can deploy for a revamped international effort on energy transition. This work was supplemented by a policy brief on the EU’s new Climate Change and Defence Roadmap, a policy brief on climate risks as topic for the EU’s policy agenda with India (part of the 2021 IPCS-Clingendael collaboration on climate security in Southern Asia), and an analysis of the UN climate summit COP26.
2021 also saw the finalisation of the series ‘Western Balkans in Focus’ in the Clingendael Spectator, our online magazine. This series included articles from local partners on good governance reforms in North Macedonia (IDSCS), the geopolitics of Serbia’s accession process (BCSP) and infrastructure development in Montenegro (IA), and was complemented by a paper on the limits of EU transformative power in the Western Balkans by Clingendael experts.
In addition to all research activities, our experts contributed to the work of partner think tanks and various national and international media, including a training for the NOS editorial team on Russia, Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans. Together with the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia in the Netherlands, we also organised a high-level webinar on Serbia’s EU accession, with European Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi and Serbian Minister for European Integration Jadranka Joksimović. Finally, researchers took part in several relevant conferences such as the Belgrade Security Forum, where our insights were elaborated on and discussed by key stakeholders on all sides of the accession process.
On 31 March 2021, together with the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia in The Netherlands, Clingendael organised the high-level webinar on Serbia’s EU accession: ‘Digital Dialogue: Serbia on a wobbly road to EU Membership’.
Looking ahead, 2022 will see further analysis on the issue of strategic autonomy, for instance with regard to EU industrial policy and digital sovereignty. We will also continue our project on the issue of fair energy for all, which looks into the effects of EU and national climate policies for vulnerable groups, something very topical during these times of high energy prices and a desire to lower fossil energy dependencies from Russia.
Beyond the EU’s borders, the EU and Global Affairs unit will see a continued focus on Eastern Europe with projects on Moldova and the South-Caucasus, as well as the EU’s southern neighbours through a project on Libya. Cooperation with partner thinktanks as part of the Balkan Hub will also continue, focusing amongst others on Kosovo’s EU visa liberalisation process and on Dutch public attitudes towards EU enlargement.
Work on the EU’s role in global decarbonisation efforts will commence with increased attention for contributions by the security sector and the link between going green and digital. Innovative scenario analysis is expected to commence, focusing on India to begin with. A continuation on Turkey's increased foreign policy aspirations will take place with a focus on the Sahel, where European actors are increasingly less welcome. Finally, the topic of (digital) technology and geopolitics will be upgraded to full programme status. This will cover issues such as digital connectivity, EU industrial policy in the field of microchips, high-tech and cyber security.
The establishment of China as a global power is an important driver of geopolitical change in the international system. Through state-of-the-art analyses and policy research, Clingendael’s China Centre (CCC) aims to provide strategic advice and tailor-made solutions for government ministries, companies, business associations and non-profit organisations on the growing role and influence of China in the world.
The year 2021 saw the successful launch of the Dutch China Knowledge Network (CKN), a network established by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to involve China experts and disseminate relevant knowledge to the government of the Netherlands and beyond. The network’s secretariat has been assigned to Clingendael and LeidenAsiaCentre, who will function primarily as knowledge brokers – matching the supply and demand of knowledge. Through CKN, we connect various angles of research and events to better understand China’s motives, policies and vision to develop more effective policies and better advise social partners.
Homepage of the China Knowledge Network (CKN), launched in May 2021.
In 2021, the Clingendael China Centre continued its participation in the European Think-tank Network on China (ETNC). A project we are proud of was coordinating the annual ETNC publication. In cooperation with European partners, we established a report on China’s soft power in Europe, which we launched in a webinar.
We also produced several other publications. For example, we wrote an extensive research report on technological cooperation between the Netherlands and China at the request of the Dutch Ministries of Economic Affairs, Education, and Foreign Affairs. The Dutch parliament requested the government to provide a response to the report, which Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra submitted in May 2022.
“The report is a thorough reference work. Clingendael has mapped out what the examined sectors look like in terms of players, interests and partnerships. At the same time, Clingendael paints a clear picture of the factors that must be taken into account in the cooperation with China. This gives the cabinet even better insight into the basic principles and, in particular, the central management of Chinese policy.”
Additionally, we published an essay on European narrative strategies, a book chapter on China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Indonesia and a white paper on the maritime strategy on China. The latter was presented at a meeting of the branch association for the Dutch maritime sector (NML).
One of 2021’s highlights was the participation of our experts Frans-Paul van der Putten and Xiaoxue Martin in the European Silk Road Summit 2021. As keynote speakers, they discussed the impact of geopolitics on China-Europe transportation routes.
Clingendael China Centre experts Frans-Paul van der Putten and Xiaoxue Martin as keynote speakers at the European Silk Road Summit 2021
Another highlight was the launching of a new map of the Belt and Road Initiative, that we developed in collaboration with the LeidenAsiaCentre. The map was published in the latest edition of the Bosatlas, which appeared in February 2022.
Moreover, on behalf of the China Platform for European Institutional Investors (CPEII), we continued to publish the biweekly newsletter ‘China Finance Focus’ in 2021, that focuses on international politics and finance, the stock market and investment, and developments relating to green finance. The same applies to ‘Silk Road Headlines’, our weekly newsletter on China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Established in June of 2015, Silk Road Headlines is the world’s longest running English-language newsletter on the Belt and Road Initiative.
Finally, the China Centre’s experts were often called upon this year by Dutch and international media outlets to analyse and comment on China-related developments. Ties Dams, for example, commented on various issues such as the position of China as a great power in Buitenhof and China’s and Russia’s vaccine diplomacy in Nieuwsuur. Frans-Paul van der Putten was also a frequent commentator and regularly quoted in the media, such as the South China Morning Post, Foreign Policy, Chinese Al Jazeera and Nikkei Asia.
“For Europe, the emergence of China as a new world power raises two questions of major importance. The first is whether China and the US are able to address their mutual problems and avoid a complete severance of their mutual relations, or even a war. The second is whether a powerful China is a threat to Europe.”
Frans-Paul van der Putten in his book De Wederopstanding van China: Van prooi tot wereldmacht ('The Resurrection of China: A geopolitical history').
The Dutch China Knowledge Network will remain a major focus area for the China Centre. In close cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our partner LeidenAsiaCentre, we will work on the network’s national and international visibility, and on further improving the secretariat’s role as a matchmaker between the Dutch government and knowledge centres on China. Jointly with the Clingendael Russia and Eastern Europe Centre (CREEC), the China Centre will strengthen the capability and profile of Clingendael as a think tank that is specialised in both Russia and China.
On 4 December 2021, Bob Deen talked in EenVandaag about the possibility of a Russian attack on Ukraine.
In today’s shifting geopolitical landscape, there is a need for deeper understanding of the Russian Federation and of regional developments in Eastern Europe as a whole. Through the Clingendael Russia & Eastern Europe Centre (CREEC), we aim to increase knowledge of this vast and complex region through analysis, strategic policy advice, in-depth conversations and public appearances, as well as public and private events, to facilitate greater cross-fertilisation of insights amidst escalating regional and global tensions.
One of CREEC’s most noteworthy achievements in 2021 was the launch of the Russia and Eastern Europe Knowledge Alliance (REKA). This network, established by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, connects experts on Russia and Eastern Europe – within the Netherlands and beyond – with policymakers and each other.
Homepage of Clingendael’s Russia & Eastern Europe Knowledge Alliance (REKA), launched in September 2021.
Together with Raam op Rusland, Clingendael won the tender for this project and holds the secretariat of the REKA network. The Institute fulfils the role of ‘knowledge broker’, connecting the demand for knowledge by Dutch authorities with the supply of expertise from a network of partners, as well as linking the public to platform insights. We are proud of this recognition given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be one of the leading knowledge institutions in the Netherlands on the region.
In 2021, the Clingendael Russia and Eastern Europe Centre provided analyses and insights directly to policymakers through a substantial number of (closed) briefings and meetings – as well as other clients both inside and outside of the Dutch government. A good example was our briefing to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the conflict between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Additionally, the media have also increasingly sought after our expert insights in 2021, as CREEC has grown last year in terms of size and output. By more proactively providing information and views to a variety of journalists, ranging from current affairs television programmes to newspapers and podcasts, Clingendael has further enhanced its expertise and strengthened its profile on the region.
Our research on the ramifications of further integration between Belarus and Russia was one of the highlights of 2021. The report is based on a scenario exercise and includes contributions from Artyom Shraibman (Sense Analytics), Kateryna Bornukova (BEROC) and Michael Kofman (CNA Corporation). It was very well received by experts and policymakers. We were invited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to give a presentation on this matter to the NATO Partnerships and Cooperative Security Committee (PCSC), where we gave recommendations to all NATO partners. The explainer video we created about the different scenarios for the future of Belarus is now among the five most viewed YouTube videos of Clingendael.
2021 was a crucial year for Belarus. In order to shed light on the situation, Clingendael organised a webinar with the Polish and Lithuanian Embassies in The Hague about Belarus’ uncertain path ahead – a recognition from the embassies of our relevant expertise. We brought together a representative from the political opposition in Belarus, as well as experts and diplomats from Poland and Lithuania, the two countries who have been the most active supporters of the democratic opposition.
Our report on the Eastern Partnership, with contributions from Elżbieta Kaca (PISM), Cristina Gherasimov (DGAP) and Gustav Gressel (ECFR), was also well received – among others by the Embassy of Georgia in the Netherlands. This led to follow-up research on the role of the EU as a security actor in the South Caucasus.
Monika Sie during her opening speech at the launch of the Russia and Eastern Europe Knowledge Alliance (REKA) in September 2021.
Since the establishment of the Clingendael Russia and Eastern Europe Centre in 2019, and especially since the successful acquisition of the secretariat of the Russia and Eastern Europe Knowledge Alliance, Clingendael has significantly strengthened its research capacity on Russia and Eastern Europe, with a unique team of Russian-speaking experts with professional experience in the region and good connections in the international think tank and Dutch academic community in this domain. With rising tensions in Eastern Europe at the end of 2021, this investment and knowledge build-up turned out to be very timely. Our experts were stand-by when the Belarus instrumentalised migration crisis at the European external borders started, and when the massive build-up of Russian troops around Ukraine was not boding well for 2022.
On 16 November 2021, Monika Sie was interviewed by EenVandaag about the Belarus crisis and the worrisome trend of instrumentalisation of migration to achieve geopolitical goals.
Although we have been able to host and attend insightful webinars during the pandemic years, we are very much looking forward to organising more in-person events and meetings again, as these typically lead to more lively discussions and meaningful encounters. By doing so, we would like to increasingly share the knowledge about our region, particularly within the REKA network.
In addition, we also want to strengthen our partnerships with other think tanks specialised in the region and, of course, conduct more field research. Now we are once again able to visit conferences, we are excited about strengthening the (inter)national network of CREEC. And finally, we intend to broaden our circle of clients – both within the Dutch government and outside of it.
Our world faces increasingly complex threats and risks – climate change forms a part of many of them. Through the Planetary Security Initiative (PSI), Clingendael sets out best practices, strategic entry points and new approaches to reducing climate-related risks to conflict and stability, helping to promote sustainable peace amidst a rapidly changing climate.
In 2021, the Planetary Security Initiative published several publications on the relationship between climate impacts and security. Our efforts as a knowledge hub for the community of practice working on this relationship kept growing. The PSI flagship report ‘Towards a better understanding of climate security practices’ provided a comprehensive overview of climate security practices worldwide, supplemented with an overview of these practices on the website and interviews with climate security practitioners. This is a source of inspiration for new activities in this field for development, diplomacy and defence policymakers.
PSI managed to expand its presence and visibility via virtual and physical events. In 2021, our online community increased again, which resulted in more than 2,500 social media followers, nearly 100,000 unique website visitors and over 2,500 subscriptions for our monthly newsletter. With our outreach activities we raised awareness, enabled constructive discussions on the climate security nexus and brought regional and international expertise around one table. Examples included the Directors of Eco Peace Middle East, the UN climate security officer in the Horn of Africa and a security policymaker from Colombia.
Besides our sound policy research contributions in 2021, PSI organised a first of its kind workshop in Basra in the South of Iraq, aimed at fostering climate security dialogue among different stakeholders. The event was held in Arabic and is a step forward towards turning our climate security policy research into action on the ground, especially through the tailoring of events to local audiences and sensitivities.
Planetary Security Initiative holds the first-ever climate security dialogue in South Iraq in June 2021
We also attracted considerable attention with well-visited online public events. With the British Embassy in The Hague, we organised the webinar ‘Adapt to Defend’ with Generals Richard Nugee and Tom Middendorp contributing, as well as NATO high-level participation. An invitation-only roundtable on climate security practices was organised as part of the Berlin Climate Security Conference, and another one on climate security in Southern Asia was jointly hosted with the Delhi-based think tank IPCS, as well as renowned experts from across the region. Another prominent event was the webinar on climate action as entry point for peace in the Middle East, with speakers from Palestine, Israel, Jordan and the European External Action Service.
Our position as an established initiative on climate security is now well-recognised by international media. PSI researchers were interviewed several times by renowned media platforms such as The Washington Post and The Economist.
Maha Yassin in The Washington Post in October 2021.
In 2022 we will organise a second workshop in Basra and firmly establish the environmental peacebuilding network of local stakeholders. Moreover, we intend to step up our analysis of climate security in Southern Asia. We will continue to feature climate security practices and the practitioners active in this field.
Clingendael aims to strengthen the effectiveness and relevance of peace and security policies and programming. The Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law is an initiative of our Conflict Research Unit, in collaboration with Saferworld and IDLO, and works closely with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In 2021, we have managed to make an impact on our broader KPSRL community, including partners from policy, research and practice. For example, 10 out of 12 projects funded by our Knowledge Management Fund (KMF) have influenced policymakers’ and practitioners’ policies and/or practices. Among the partners involved in these change trajectories were universities in Kenya, PAX for Peace and their donors (including the US State Department), NGOs responding to the humanitarian crisis in Greece, the UNHCR, the Gambian Ministry of Justice and the Justice and Security sector in Uganda.
KPSRL’s annual thematic headline for 2021 was ‘Asymmetric Power & Partnerships’. Supporting the work on this theme through small grants of the KMF, various events and our annual conference, we amplified the focus of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the implementing organisations on the localisation and power dynamics they are part of. Examples of continuing initiatives include the ‘Unboxing Localisation’ learning trajectory (in collaboration with the MFA and CSPPS) as well as research on and adaptations of funding streams for local peacebuilding.
Finally, an important institutional change we contributed to as a knowledge broker, a convener and an expert on learning was the development of a new policy-level Theory of Change (TOC) for the MFA’s Department for Stabilisation and Humanitarian Aid (DSH). This policy-level TOC, a methodology for defining how an organisation contributes to a social change, will aim to guide the agenda setting, planning, subsidy programming, as well as diplomacy and policy influencing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the area of security and rule of law.
One of this year’s highlights was our flagship Annual Conference 2021. We organised the conference in a hybrid format (with in-person sessions in The Hague and numerous online sessions) involving in total over 460 participants, including policymakers, researchers and practitioners from 62 different countries.
Head of Secretariat Megan Price during KPSRL’s Annual Conference 2021; its first ever ‘hybrid’ annual conference
Moreover, in line with advocating for learning and adaptive programming towards other stakeholders, we have put more effort into the adaptation of our interventions by organising monthly learning reflection sessions and improved measurement of change. Simultaneously, we have partnered up with the Somalia Desk of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Nairobi to support their adaptive programming efforts.
Consistent with our ambition to engage more actors that are based in fragile and conflict-affected situations (FCAS) and amplify voices of affected communities, we will continue our work towards making KMF more accessible for local actors. Our new flagship initiative, ‘Programmatic Learning Instrument’ will also shape up during 2022, aiming to increase the quality of programming by supporting (cross-)programmatic learning and diversifying the community of learners, with an emphasis on local actors.