The Hague Academy employs talented practitioners from diverse geographical and disciplinary backgrounds and who are committed to developing innovative approaches to contemporary local governance challenges.

Executive Board

Peter Knip

Peter’s career has been dedicated to strengthening local governance worldwide, be it in local peacebuilding programmes in Eastern Europe or the Middle East, international cooperation between municipalities or international programmes for capacity building of local authorities. Since 1989 Peter has been leading VNG International, the international cooperation agency of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities. In this capacity and as chair of the Capacity and Institution Building Platform of UCLG (United Cities and Local Governments), he initiated many new programmes and initiatives to support local governments, such as the foundation of The Hague Academy for Local Governance.


Frank Burgers

Frank has a background in economics and public administration (Rotterdam, Syracuse and Harvard). He worked a.o. for the World Bank in Washington and since 2000 has shifted his focus to local government. He was employed as a programme manager for VNG International in The Hague and later became a councillor for the Old South District in Amsterdam. Since 2004 Frank Burgers has been responsible for establishing and developing CMRA, an organisation which offers training and consultancy services to South African Municipalities.


Janny Vlietstra

Janny Vlietstra has a strong reputation in local government, both in The Netherlands and internationally. She was a council member in the city of Leeuwarden, mayor of various municipalities and governor of the province of Drenthe. In 2011, Janny became a member of the Senate of The Netherlands. Janny has always been actively involved in international cooperation. As Vice-President of the Platform for Municipal Peace, she was instrumental in establishing contacts with Eastern European cities in the early 1990s and in developing a close relationship with the city of Srebrenica after the conflict in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Ms. Vlietstra has also been a member of the International Advisory Committee on international affairs of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities and deputy member of the European Committee of the Regions. She currently is a member of the jury of the UCLG City of Bogota Peace Prize.


Our Team

Cecile Meijs

As an international expert in communication management and training, Cecile, together with Peter Knip started The Hague Academy in November 2006. Before that, she was active as trainer and consultant in the Sudan, Albania, Ukraine and Serbia in programmes to strengthen local services, communication and citizen participation. Cecile served as an advisor of the Municipal Executive, head of the press information department and spokesmen for the vice-mayor of urban planning and housing at the City of The Hague and head of the communication department for the Dutch municipality of Den Helder. Cecile holds an MSc in Communication and Public Administration from the University of Amsterdam, published several articles on government communication and was as active as a radio journalist and editor of a magazine on women and development.


Team Manager
Emmely Benschop

Emmely designs and facilitates various courses dealing with topics such as (fiscal) decentralisation, leadership, peacebuilding and local governance, the post-2015 development goals and gender responsive governance. She trained groups of civil servants, youth and NGOs in a.o. Bangladesh, Palestine and South Sudan. Before she joined The Hague Academy, Emmely worked for the Dutch Ministry of Interior (Department for Public Order and Safety), The Netherlands Embassy in Jakarta, dealing with issues ranging from post-tsunami reconstruction to regional development, and a consultancy agency for local social services. Emmely holds an MSc in Organisational Psychology from Utrecht University and has studied International Relations at Lund University, Sweden.


Lars klein

Team Manager
Lars Burema

Lars is specialised in the South-East Europe region and has extensive knowledge of decentralisation, local economic development and diversity management. He has developed and conducted training programmes and workshops for civil servants and NGOs in a.o. Croatia, Serbia, Turkey, Greece and Lesotho. In addition to coordinating The Hague Academy’s training activities in (Eastern) Europe, including the Matra Rule of Law Training Programme, Lars is responsible for the Academy’s e-learning programme. With a background in human rights and minorities, Lars is an experienced project manager and trainer focused on promoting inclusive governance and citizen participation. Prior to joining The Hague Academy, Lars worked for the European Centre for Minority Issues in Kosovo where he managed projects on decentralisation, anti-discrimination and the monitoring of minority rights. He has conducted research on issues of reconciliation, language rights and inter-ethnic relations. Lars holds an MSc in Conflict, Security and Development from King’s College in London.


Programme Manager
Freddy Sahinguvu

Freddy has broad experience in developing and facilitating training courses in the field of decentralisation and local governance. He works on various projects and contributes to the design and delivery of many open and tailor-made training courses, a.o. in youth leadership, participation, advocacy and lobby and local economic development. Freddy has an MSc in Public Policy and Human Development from Maastricht Graduate School of Governance, with a specialisation in decentralisation and local governance in Africa and a thesis on local decision making in Rwanda. After his study, he was a freelance lecturer on Global Marketing, International Trade and WTO Policies. In Burundi, Freddy worked as a journalist, theatre play writer and was an officer for the educational programmes of UNAIDS.


Marianna Tsirelson

Programme Manager
Marianna Tsirelson

Marianna has a broad expertise in the field of democratization, local politics, human rights, EU enlargement, gender issues and capacity-building. She has experience in countries in the MENA region and Eastern Europe. At The Hague Academy, Marianna focuses on local democracy, anti-corruption and integrity, gender and the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Before joining The Academy, she worked for the Foundation Max van der Stoel as a Senior Project Manager. In this capacity, Marianna was responsible for trainings and projects focusing on democratization in the MENA region. She has designed and facilitated different training courses focusing on, among others, capacity building and political skills. Marianna holds an MA degree in International Relations from the University of Auvergne in France and has completed a post-academic course on International Relations and Diplomacy at the Clingendael Institute.


Samir 2 kleinProgramme Manager
Samir Marmouri

Samir has experience with projects in the Maghreb region and his main focus is human rights and security-related themes. At The Hague Academy, he supports the management and facilitation of various training courses in the field of inclusive governance, youth & women leadership and economic development. Samir studied International & European law, International Relations & Diplomacy and Criminology at the University of Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent. Before joining The Hague Academy, Samir worked as a policy officer at the Netherlands Embassy in Tunis, where he was in charge of projects supporting the democratic transition process with a focus on human rights, capacity-building of civil society, security sector reform and social economic development.


nicolas kleinProgramme Manager
Nicolas Haezebrouck

Nicolas has a broad professional experience in programme design, management and delivery, including developing and facilitating trainings and conferences in the field of decentralisation, inclusive local governance, security governance, local economic development, lobby & advocacy and municipal benchmarking. The design, delivery and evaluation of capacity building modalities for local authorities and local government associations have always stood at the forefront of his work. Nicolas is specialised in working in fragile contexts and has gained experience in Turkey and throughout sub-Saharan Africa especially in eastern DRC, Burundi and Rwanda. At The Hague Academy, Nicolas develops and facilitates training programmes and courses in Central, Eastern and Southern Africa in the field of decentralisation, inclusive local governance, local service delivery, citizen participation, social accountability and integrity. Prior to joining The Hague Academy, Nicolas worked as a programme manager for VNG International, the International Agency of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities. Nicolas holds an MA degree in Political and Social Science with specialisation in International Politics from the University of Ghent.


Programme Officer
Dayana Al Alam

Dayana supports the management of training courses focusing on Local Governance, Citizens Participation, Climate Change and the MENA region. She is specialised in urban governance and development and has wide knowledge on self-organization and local initiatives. In addition to her previous work in urban planning and architecture, Dayana has conducted various research projects in Lebanon. She studied citizens initiatives dealing with the garbage crisis and the impacts of self-organization on the historical centre of Tripoli. Moreover, she evaluated a mobile approach to gender-based violence response and mitigation service delivery for Syrian refugees.  Dayana holds an MSC in Urban Management and Development from IHS, Erasmus University Rotterdam, an MSC in Architecture from the Lebanese University and a Masters in Research in the Science of territories from the Doctoral School of the Lebanese University.


Programme Officer
Koen Rozemeijer

Koen is a programme officer and coordinator for the Talent for Governance scholarship programme at The Hague Academy. He is involved in the development and delivery of training programmes on a variety of topics such as Local Service Delivery, Water Governance, and Migration. Since his start at the Academy, Koen has also contributed to the implementation of Matra programmes in Eastern European countries. Koen studied History and Political Science in Amsterdam, Leiden, and San Francisco. He holds an MSc. in Comparative Politics and wrote his thesis on democratic consolidation in post-authoritarian countries. He gained experience both as an intern at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and while working for a humanitarian organization in New Delhi, India. Prior to joining The Hague Academy, Koen served as a strategy advisor and regional liaison for the Municipality of Haarlem.


Programme Officer
Melissandre Naud

Mélissandre Coudray-Naud works as a programme officer at The Hague Academy. She rejoined the Academy in September 2018 after an internship from Autumn to January 2017. Prior to rejoining the Academy, Mélissandre interned at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs where she was a member of the National Coordinator International Positions (NCIP) team. She has experience supporting programmes focused on local economic development and citizen participation. Mélissandre received her BA in International Studies at Leiden University where she is currently finishing her master’s degree in International Relations. She is a youth ambassador for ONE Campaign, an international organization dedicated to increasing public awareness on issues of poverty and disease.


Programme Officer
Windy Massabni

Windy Massabni supports The Hague Academy in the design and management of the trainings. Prior to joining the Academy, she worked as an economic researcher for a bank and was a project officer and researcher for human rights organisations in the MENA region. Windy finished her master’s degree in Development Studies at the ISS (International Institute of Social Studies – Erasmus Rotterdam University) where she focused on local economic development, migration and conflict resolution. She also recently acquired knowledge on gender and development while working on related course content for the Bukavu Higher Institute of Development in Congo (DRC). Windy is fluent in Arabic, English and French.


Portet Elma JoosteOffice Manager
Elma Jooste

As an office manager, Elma is in charge of administration, logistics and quality assurance. Elma was born in South Africa where she studied Geography, Physical Education and Higher Education in Stellenbosch and worked as a high school teacher for eight years before moving to The Netherlands. Here, she was employed for 18 years by the Netherlands Standardisation Institute where she was responsible for planning and coordination of the course administration and quality management of the training department. As a member of the quality team, Elma initiated and realised the ISO quality certification.


ValentinaFinance Administrator
Valentina Duarte

Valentina is responsible for processing and controlling the financial administration of The Hague Academy. She supports the project managers and officers financially and provides financial information to the general manager and the board. Valentina was born in Portugal (Algarve) where she studied Physical Education at the University –‘Instituto Dom Afonso III’. In 2002 she emigrated to the Netherlands where she studied Modern Business Administration and Financial Cost and Accounting. Before joining our team in 2014 she has worked for seven years as an auditor’s assistant at an accounting organisation.


Office Administration
Erika Visker

Erika joined The Hague Academy in May 2017. She has experience in administration, human resources and hospitality. Before joining the Academy, Erika worked at SES, the largest satellite company in the world. In addition to her duties at The Hague Academy, Erika works part-time at Stims Media, a television program featuring branded content. In her free time, she enjoys painting and sport.


Communications Officer
Hasan Aloul

Hasan is specialised in digital engagement, strategic communications and project management. As communications officer, he is responsible for managing The Hague Academy’s online properties including the website, email outreach and social media. Prior to joining the Academy in March 2017, Hasan served as the digital communications specialist at The Hague Institute for Global Justice. He completed his B.A. in Communications with concentrations in Public Relations and Political & Persuasive Communication from George Mason University. His interests include intercultural communication, geopolitics, and history.