Consortium Leader: The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)
Consortium Member: Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’
Subcontractor: Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)

Costing Conflict

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 12/01/2021 - 14:38

An early warning method to assess the impact of political violence on vital security interests

Early Warning and Early Action (EWEA) processes seek to identify the risk of conflict, instability and violence. A large number of foresight models can predict which countries and areas may experience what type and what levels of violence. From this, they produce lists of countries and regions at risk which then qualify for policy measures to help improve stability.

However, in order to prioritise countries and regions it is equally important to assess the implications (or the cost) of conflict. For example, Early Warning by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) seeks to “prevent tensions from escalating into conflict” and focus on all forms of tension accordingly. UNDP Early Warning seeks to understand how conflict impacts development initiatives and will prioritise countries with those problems. Mandates and interests thus determine priorities.

Assessing security interests of governments

What interests are at stake is however often assumed rather than explicitly considered. This report addresses this by building a methodology to assess interests, specifically the security interests of governments. The goal is to understand how the outbreak and intensification of conflict affect (security) interests. The method is built upon the notion that effectively designed EWEA processes need these impact assessments as much as conflict risk assessment.

Developing an impact assessment method is complicated for two reasons. First, methods need to be tailor-made for specific (country) interest. After all, instability in Libya will have different effects for France, Italy or Egypt. This requires explicit definitions of vital interests and a detailed specification of how potential instability might affect them. Second, impact assessment methods are often unavailable or are so specialised (e.g. only within the intelligence community) that there is very little fruitful exchange on how best to devise impact methods.

This report aims to tackle both problems. It provides a methodology for the Netherlands and proposes a quantitative approach that focusses on so-called ‘transmission belts’: patterns through which instability abroad manifest themselves in the Netherlands.

Fortunately, there is a tradition to build on as the government of the Netherlands has some open-source impact assessments. Yet, existing methods which assess impact need improvement. For example, how can one account for the interests of one’s allies? Do we distinguish between the effects of intra-state and inter-state conflict on Dutch security interests? Which transmission belts actually exist? What kind of method can be used?

A methodology for impact assessment

This report tackles these questions and proposes a methodology for impact assessment. The proposal is deliberately open source and relies heavily on methodology as it seeks to justify choices and sponsor dialogue. The hope is that an explicit and open discussion of choices will allow the Dutch government and the ecosystems of actors working on EWEA in the Netherlands to criticise and improve impact assessments. This report therefore aims to inform further discussions on the effectiveness of various impact assessment methods.

Reading guide
The report has the following composition. The first chapter reviews the existing Dutch impact assessment frameworks (ANV, Clingendael and HCSS) and arrives at a set of conditions with which EWEA impact assessments should comply. The second chapter develops an impact assessment method which is specifically tailored to Dutch EWEA efforts by tackling various limitations of the three previously analysed assessment frameworks (e.g. being too nationally focused). The third chapter presents and discusses specific indicators to measure impacts. The final section concludes and provides a guideline on how to interpret the results.


Kars de Bruijne, Senior Research Fellow at the Conflict Research Unit of the Clingendael Institute


From indices to insight

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 12/01/2021 - 14:32

A proposal to enhance the risk assessment of the Dutch Early Warning/Early Action process

Over the course of the last three decades, countless scholars, diplomats and experts have sought to develop reliable ways to predict and prevent violent conflict and instability. These efforts have yielded a vast array of analytical instruments, ranging from indices that measure various proximate and structural causes of instability to forecasting models that estimate the probability of an outbreak of violent conflict.

Predicting and preventing violent conflict and instability

Presently, there is a great deal of data available ranging from better measures of political violence and better predictors of violence. Moreover, as data sciences advance, social scientists have been able to develop new models and refine their predictions. However, as such tools proliferate, so do the challenges for policymakers.

First, more data does not always mean ‘better’ data. Key indicators such as on political inclusivity, local grievances and competition are often still not readily available. 

Second, more data and better methodologies have not always meant a better insight into conflict risks. While we have generally become better in predicting the continuation and intensity of ongoing conflict, it remains a major challenge to predict which countries will become unstable and when. 

Third, perhaps the biggest problem is that even when having a clear insight into conflict risks, converting these insights into actionable policies remains difficult. In these instances, it is often not a lack of information or insufficient early warning signals per se that pose the key obstacles, but rather the ability to convert these data points into policy-relevant analysis and to identify relevant entry points for preventive efforts.

The Government of the Netherlands

These challenges are particularly relevant for the Government of the Netherlands. In 2018 the Government of the Netherlands prioritised conflict prevention as the first goal of its Integrated International Security Strategy, emphasising the importance of ‘a solid information position, with up-to-date and detailed information, based in part on innovative big data solutions for peace and security’. 

Since the adoption of this strategy, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Defence (MOD) have made significant investments in enhancing their ability to provide early warning and early action (EWEA). As part of its focus on ‘Data for Peace and Security’ (D4PS) the MFA has developed a number of data-driven tools that rely on an array of indices and forecasting models in order to compile long lists, short lists and watch lists of countries that are at increased risk of experiencing violent conflict or instability. The process builds on a methodology proposed by the Clingendael Institute in 2020.

Within the framework of the multi-annual PROGRESS research programme, the Dutch MFA has commissioned the Clingendael Institute to provide recommendations on how to build upon these existing data tools and strengthen the capacity of the authorities to assess the risk of violent conflict and instability. The specific objective was to make better use of the available quantitative indicators and data and to design a process that did not require in-depth individual country assessments. As such, the method was meant to inform the decision to go from a long list to a short list of countries with likely higher risks. After that, more targeted in-depth studies could be commissioned.

The report

This report, hence, devises a method for a general scan of countries in order to identify those countries that should be monitored and studied in more detail. The focus of the report will be on the first, exploratory phases of the process, where open-source quantitative indices are used to make a selection of countries that should be further examined. In doing so, the report addresses the three challenges mentioned above (missing data, conflict theories and how to act) by providing a detailed methodology to enhance early warning processes.

To this end, this report will a) discern different types of indices (i.e. those that observe and predict violence and instability, and those that seek to explain it); b) categorise the vast array of indices on drivers of conflict and instability through a concrete proposal on how to cluster and interpret them; c) operationalise these quantitative insights within the context of the Dutch EWEA process; and d) integrate the quantitative data into a qualitative analysis process through an expert workshop and the use of several rounds of Delphi surveys.

Reading guide
In order to meet these objectives, this report is structured as follows. Chapter 2 will set out the overall methodology of the proposed process. Chapter 3 critically examines the advantages and disadvantages of many indices. Chapter 4 then puts forward a proposal on how to cluster these indices into those that observe conflict and violence and those that measure the underlying drivers of conflict and violence. Moreover, it proposes a disaggregation of the latter group of indices into four clusters of the main drivers of conflict and instability. Finally, chapter 5 puts forward recommendations on how this data can be interpreted, visualised and subsequently used in a qualitative expert workshop.


Bob Deen, coordinator of the Clingendael Russia and Eastern Europe Centre (CREEC) and Senior Research Fellow at the Security Unit of the Clingendael Institute
Adája Stoetman, Junior Researcher at the Security Unit of the Clingendael Institute
Kars de Bruijne, Senior Research Fellow at the Conflict Research Unit of the Clingendael Institute


Strategic Alert on Quantum Technology and Biotechnology

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 11/24/2021 - 10:45

Quantum technology and biotechnology are key emerging technologies that are having a growing impact on security and defense. How can the Netherlands and the EU leverage these emerging technologies in efforts to strengthen (inter)national security? What potential challenges do these crucial technologies pose to the Netherlands?

The strategic alert addresses these questions and concludes with the following key takeaways:

  • Quantum computing technology will be able to break current (asymmetric) encryption standards and facilitate cyber-attacks.
  • The Netherlands should invest in cooperation at the European level on quantum technology development to strengthen the entire European quantum value chain.
  • The Netherlands should prepare for the next pandemic by making clear and early arrangements (preferable at the EU level) on the development of vaccines and therapeutics.
  • Centrally coordinating biotechnology research would allow the Netherlands to play a more prominent role in the field.
  • The Netherlands should factor the possible negative consequences of genetic modification on fragile ecosystems into its planning processes.
  • The Netherlands should invest in research into possible applications of biotechnology for creating and improving renewable energy sources.
  • The Netherlands should monitor potential dependencies vis-à-vis other nations for both technologies and should prioritize maintaining control over those elements that are vital with regards to developing strategic autonomy.


Carolina van Weerd, Research Consultant at TNO
Deborah Lassche, Researcher and Consultant Defence, Safety and Security at TNO

About this Strategic Alert:
Every year, at the request of the Dutch Ministry of Defence and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Clingendael and the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS) publish the Strategic Monitor. Part of this Strategic Monitor are several Strategic Alerts. This year’s alert, written by Carolina van Weerd and Deborah Lassche of TNO, highlights Quantum Technology and biotechnology, explaining their developments and assessing their possible impact on national security.

The research for and production of this report has been conducted within the PROGRESS research framework agreement. Responsibility for the contents and for the opinions expressed rests solely with the authors and does not constitute, nor should it be construed as, an endorsement by the Netherlands Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense.


Red Lines & Baselines

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 10/13/2021 - 10:02

Towards a European Multistakeholder Approach to Counter Disinformation

Disinformation continues to exacerbate existing political polarizations with effects ranging from discrediting measures against the COVID-19 pandemic to inciting mass violence against the very institutions of democracy itself.

Governments, industry and civil society are struggling to find effective ways to respond to this challenge. Disinformation is a field that lacks consensus for a common unilateral solution due to its enormously complex nature, the wide range of actors involved, and the dilemmas it presents across many issues, such as security and human rights.

Nonetheless, ‘rules of the road’ are needed. Given the relative success that cyber norms have had in establishing a common standard of acceptable behavior, this report asks what kind of international norms can be developed to counter disinformation. And finally, how can these norms be advanced?

This report addresses these questions by proposing:

  • a government-to-government “big N Norm” proposal based on noninterference and covert election interference
  • a European industry charter of “small n norms” or standards for social media platforms
  • a European coregulation model to guide the development of these standards from formulation to implementation
  • a Disinformation Sharing and Analysis Center (DISINFO-ISAC) at the European level to operationalize the coregulation model and facilitate threat information sharing and capacity building among social media platforms, and with governments and civil society.

These proposals come at a time when the European self-regulatory approach towards social media companies’ responsibility is shifting towards coregulation. They would therefore inform and strengthen the European Democracy Action Plan and contribute towards a much-needed community of trust in countering disinformation.

The research for and production of this report has been conducted within the PROGRESS research framework agreement. Responsibility for the contents and for the opinions expressed, rests solely with the authors and does not constitute, nor should it be construed as, an endorsement by the Netherlands Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense.

Cover image adapted from 7CO’s “Kundgebung (3) Protest against corona measures” and licensed under CS BY 2.0. Some rights reserved.


  • Louk Faesen, Strategic Analyst at the Cyber Policy and Resilience Program of The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)
  • Alexander Klimburg, Director of the Cyber Policy and Resilience Program at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS) and director of the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace Initiative and Secretariat
  • Simon van Hoeve, Assistant Analyst at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)
  • Tim Sweijs, Director of Research at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)

Taming Techno-Nationalism: A Policy Agenda

Submitted by Inge on Thu, 10/07/2021 - 11:41

As recognition of the economic, military, and strategic relevance of access to and control over the distribution of modern technologies has grown, so, too, has the prevalence of the sentiment that a nation’s technological innovation and capabilities are directly linked to its national security, economic prosperity, and social stability.

This is creating incentives for states to treat access to sensitive technologies as a zero-sum game and to pursue policies to expand national control over and international influence through sensitive technologies. The “geopoliticization” of sensitive technologies – even those which, on first sight, appear banal and/or consumer-focused in nature – are on clear display in debates surrounding European telecom providers’ use of Huawei technologies within their 5G networks, fresh discussions regarding Johnson & Johnson’s purchase of Crucell, and the United Kingdom’s (UK’s) response to NVIDIA’s proposed acquisition of ARM.

Sensitive technologies are, in other words, growing to be more and more closely associated with “European strategic autonomy,” the notion that European Member States should be able to make consequential decisions without being constrained by their relationships with countries like the US or China.

But how do techno-nationalists operate, what can the Netherlands do to protect its sizeable R&D infrastructure from their advances, and to what degree should The Hague look to Brussels for guidance and support?

In collaboration with the Egmont Institute’s Tobias Gehrke, Hugo van Manen, Jack Thompson, and Tim Sweijs outline a policy agenda for countering techno-nationalism in HCSS’ most recent publication; Taming Techno-Nationalism: A Policy Agenda, commissioned by the Dutch Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense. The high-level recommendations are as follows:

  • Strengthen critical infrastructure protections.
  • Make strategic use of public spending.
  • Incentivize increased private spending.
  • Develop a more comprehensive deterrence posture.
  • Recognize the relevance of EU-level cooperation.


Hugo van Manen, Strategic Analyst at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)
Tobias Gehrke, Research Fellow in the Europe in the World Programme at the Egmont Institute
Jack Thompson, Senior Strategic Analyst at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)
Tim Sweijs, Director of Research at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)


Rob de Wijk, Founder of The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)
Benedetta Girardi, Assistant Analyst at The Hague Center for Strategic Studies (HCSS)
Sneha Mahapatra, Assistant Analyst at The Hague Center for Strategic Studies (HCSS)


The future of European intelligence cooperation

Submitted by Inge on Thu, 09/23/2021 - 14:33

Sharing the burden, sharing the secrets

This report discusses the opportunities for enhanced European intelligence cooperation in light of the key challenges facing Europe over the next ten years, as were identified in the Strategic Monitor 2020-2021, Geopolitical Genesis: Dutch Foreign and Security Policy in a Post-COVID World. In light of these challenges and the need to realise European strategic autonomy and deliver on the goals of the EU Strategic Compass for security and defence, closer intelligence and security cooperation by Europe is required.

However, intelligence activities lie at the very heart of national sovereignty, and can perhaps be considered to be the hardest hurdle to cross. Nevertheless, over the years the EU has developed several institutions to facilitate intelligence sharing between its member states and several agencies have been established that collect, analyse and operationalise intelligence in view of the key security challenges.

Within this institutional context, this report assesses the opportunities for enhanced European intelligence cooperation. It argues that there is ample opportunity to increase both the scope and depth of European intelligence cooperation in the years to come. Moreover, the Netherlands can and indeed should play an active role in the development of enhanced intelligence cooperation in and of Europe by making effective use of the presence of three important factors that can help drive European cooperation further: internal demand, external pressure and cooperative momentum.


Danny Pronk, Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute
Claire Korteweg, former research intern at the Clingendael Institute


Towards a Space Security Strategy

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 03/31/2021 - 13:59

The world is entering a new and highly consequential phase of the Space Age.

This brings with it many threats and opportunities. The Netherlands boasts a productive and innovative space industry. Globally, launch costs have been reduced dramatically. Yet this democratization of space access also brings with it many challenges. Increased access means increased congestion, risk of collisions, space debris and a growing dependence by the Netherlands on space-based infrastructure.

The extra-terrestrial realm contains vast quantities of raw materials which bring the prospect of enormous economic gains. The increasing number of actors operating in space raises the scope for geopolitical competition. This in turn has led major powers to begin militarizing and weaponizing space in support of terrestrial warfighting capabilities on Earth, while moving towards the establishment of extra-terrestrial footholds.

Our new Strategic Alert delves into the challenges and opportunities of the Space Age and how the Netherlands, and the world, should deal with them.

Authors: Hugo van Manen, Tim Sweijs, Patrick Bolder, with contributions from Jens Emmers and Benedetta Girardi.


Strategic Monitor 2020-2021

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 03/03/2021 - 14:53

Geopolitical Genesis 

Dutch Foreign and Security Policy in a Post-COVID World

Onderzoekers Danny Pronk en Jack Thompson van Instituut Clingendael en het Den Haag Centrum voor Strategische Studies (HCSS) overhandigden vandaag de Strategische Monitor “Geopolitical Genesis: Dutch Foreign and Security Policy in a Post-COVID World” aan de minister van Defensie, Ank Bijleveld.

Met hun jaarlijkse rapport geven de beide denktanks inzicht in de trends en ontwikkelingen in de wereldpolitiek. Het belangrijkste thema van dit rapport is dat dit hét moment is voor de Europese Unie om zijn status als ontluikende wereldmacht te verstevigen en dat Nederland hierbij een actieve rol moet vervullen.

Er komt geen “return to normal” van de trans-Atlantische betrekkingen, ook niet onder President Biden, zo stellen de onderzoekers. Europa zal meer verantwoordelijkheid moeten nemen voor haar eigen defensie en een onafhankelijk buitenlands beleid moeten voeren. Nederland kan hier een overbruggende rol spelen, maar dat vraagt om meer Europese samenwerking. Dit is nodig om de invloed van een relatief klein land als Nederland te kunnen vergroten, maar ook om één vuist te kunnen vormen tegen de verdeel- en heerstactieken van China. Terwijl China een belangrijke economische partner blijft, is het nodig om met een verenigd Europees antwoord te komen op de steeds agressievere houding van zowel China als Rusland.

De Strategische Monitor geeft aanbevelingen voor het Nederlandse buitenland- en veiligheidsbeleid om deze gevarieerde uitdagingen het hoofd te bieden.

  1. Een meer assertieve geopolitieke opstelling om de Nederlandse én Europese belangen en waarden te beschermen.
  2. Een meer assertieve en vooral uniforme houding ten opzichte van China.
  3. Een meer uitgekiende en ook in dit geval een uniforme benadering voor de omgang met Rusland.
  4. Nederland moet vanwege de historisch nauwe banden met de VS ernaar streven een trans-Atlantische brugfunctie te vervullen op specifieke beleidsterreinen. Ook moet het binnen de NAVO streven naar een gelijkwaardiger lastenverdeling met de VS en meer doen om de vrede en veiligheid in de eigen regio te bevorderen.
  5. Nederland moet strategisch samenwerken met andere belangrijke middenmachten, zowel op het gebied van handel als veiligheid.
  6. De ontwikkeling van een aanpak is nodig voor de omgang met niet-statelijke actoren. Daarin wordt een effectief engagement gekoppeld aan ontmoediging van de onvermijdelijke keerzijden van samenwerking met niet-statelijke actoren die uit eigenbelang handelen. Als laatste, en misschien wel belangrijkste, moet Nederland voortvarend de samenwerking aangaan met andere actoren om de gevolgen van de wereldwijde klimaatverandering aan te pakken.

Deze aanbevelingen zijn niet uitputtend maar bieden een globale blauwdruk voor het toekomstige Nederlandse buitenland- en veiligheidsbeleid, zowel om de status van de EU als ontluikende wereldmacht te helpen verstevigen als om de complexe uitdagingen van nu en de komende tien jaar doeltreffend te kunnen aanpakken. Vanuit het gezichtspunt van dit rapport is dat onontbeerlijk in de geopolitieke genesis van Nederland, aldus de onderzoekers.

Download de Monitor 2020-2021.



Danny Pronk (Research Fellow, Instituut Clingendael)

Jack Thompson  (Den Haag Centrum voor Strategische Studies (HCSS))


Flow security in the information age

Submitted by Inge on Tue, 12/08/2020 - 13:04

In a hyper-connected world, the ability to influence or control flows is key to new coercive strategies. This HCSS report aims to contribute to a better and more detailed understanding of the notion of flow security and of the policy options for both the Netherlands and Europe to effectively contribute to flow security to protect vital interests and values. 

This report considers three cases – each from a different perspective:

  1. 5G Networks and Standards from an economic angle.
  2. The continuous development of the F35 fighter plane from a military perspective.
  3. Entanglements in the financial system through an institutional lens.

Read report


Frank Bekkers (Security Program Director, The Hague Center for Strategic Studies) 

Paul Verhagen (Data Scientist, The Hague Center for Strategic Studies)

Flow Security Report

Sino-Russian relations in Central Asia: Multi-dimensional chess

Submitted by Inge on Tue, 12/01/2020 - 14:07

Are Sino-Russian relations as robust as they are claimed to be? Is it really a stable ‘strategic partnership’ or might there also be critical underlying tensions at play that could potentially spell “trouble in paradise”?

Globally, there are currently three prominent regions – East Asia, the Arctic and Central Asia, – where Chinese and Russian geopolitical interests intersect, leading to cooperation and the establishment of ‘strategic partnerships’ but also creating the potential for competition and conflict. Of those prominent regions, both actors consider Central Asia to be their strategic backyard. It is relevant to assess the different dimensions of their relationship in the region. Looking at Central Asia could potentially tell us something about the trajectory of the Sino-Russian relationship at a global level. This strategic alert includes key takeaways with suggestions for optimizing future EU involvement.

Read Strategic Alert


Goos Hofstee (Research Fellow, the Clingendael Institute)

Noor Broeders (Intern, the Clingendael Institute)