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
- Our Team
- Director Cecile Meijs
- Team Manager Emmely Benschop
- Team Manager Lars Burema
- Senior Programme Manager/Trainer Nicolas Haezebrouck
- Programme Manager/Trainer Marianna Tsirelson
- Programme Manager/Trainer Dayana Al Alam
- Programme Manager/trainer Gerald Kweri
- Programme Manager/Trainer Gaya Blom
- Programme Manager/Trainer Koen Rozemeijer
- Programme Manager/Trainer Job van der Poel
- Programme Manager/Trainer Oscar Alvarado
- Programme Manager/Trainer Kelly Buis
- Programme Manager/Trainer Melissa van de Bank
- Programme Officer Windy Massabni
- Programme Officer Axelle Schrama
- Programme Officer Yasmin Hegazy
- Programme Officer Rajaa Bennaoui
- Programme Officer Willeke van Leeuwen
- Scholarship and Quality coordinator Elma Jooste
- Financial Administrator/Controller Valentina Duarte
- Financial Officer Elaine Leung
- Administrative and Logistics Officer Gabriela Vales
- Communication Officer Laura Rincón
- Intern Astrid van Egmond
- Intern Juan Pablo Aguirre
- Intern Oscar Laviolette
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.
Pieter has a passion for Local Governance. After having worked in management positions at the municipalities of Leiden, Rotterdam and Alphen aan den Rijn, where he was the municipal secretary, he has been Deputy Managing Director of the Dutch Association of Municipalities (VNG) since 2017. Pieter studied Dutch (Utrecht University), Public Administration (Erasmus University Rotterdam) and Journalism (Utrecht University of Applied Science). He also has international experience from starting his professional career at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Janny 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, she became a member of the Senate of The Netherlands. As Vice-President of the Platform for Municipal Peace, she established contacts with Eastern European cities in the early 1990s and developed a close relationship with the city of Srebrenica, after the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina. She has 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.
As an international expert in communication management and training, Cecile, together with Peter Knip started The Hague Academy in 2006. Before that, she was trainer and consultant in Sudan, Albania, Ukraine and Serbia, in programmes to strengthen local services, communication and citizen participation. Cecile was advisor of the Municipal Executive, head of the press department and spokesman for the vice-mayor of urban planning and housing at The Hague, and head of the communication department for the Dutch municipality of Den Helder. She holds an MSc in Communication and Public Administration from the University of Amsterdam, published several articles on government communication and was a radio journalist and editor of a magazine on women and development.
Emmely designs and facilitates various courses dealing with topics such as (fiscal) decentralisation, leadership, peacebuilding and local governance, the sustainable development goals and gender-responsive governance. She trained groups of civil servants, youth and NGOs in a.o. Bangladesh, Palestine and South Sudan. Emmely previously 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 studied International Relations at Lund University, Sweden.
Lars is an experienced trainer with over 10 years of professional experience in promoting inclusive governance and extensive knowledge of decentralization and local economic development. He regularly delivers Training of Trainers and e-learning programmes. He primarily focuses on Eastern Europe but has also worked in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to joining The Hague Academy, Lars worked for the European Centre for Minority Issues in Kosovo where he managed projects on decentralization and anti-discrimination and conducted research on issues of language rights and inter-ethnic relations. Lars holds an MSc in Conflict, Security and Development from King’s College in London.
Senior Programme Manager/Trainer
Nicolas is a governance specialist and trainer with wide field experience in conflict-affected and fragile countries. He has ten years of experience in programme development, management and implementation on different areas related to local inclusive governance. He has worked as a trainer and advisor in several countries in Asia (Pakistan, the Philippines, Turkey) and sub-Saharan Africa (Burundi, DRC, Mali, Rwanda, Somalia & Sudan). He is responsible for the design and implementation of multiannual training programmes and short trainings on gender, conflict, human security, inclusive governance, citizen participation, social accountability and decentralisation. He holds an MA degree in political and social sciences with a specialisation in international politics from the University of Ghent.
Marianna has broad expertise in democratization, local politics, human rights, gender issues and capacity-building. She has worked in the MENA region and Eastern Europe. At The Academy, she focuses on local democracy, anti-corruption, integrity and gender. She previously worked for the Foundation Max van der Stoel as a Project Manager, where she was responsible for projects around democratization in the MENA region. She has designed and facilitated trainings on, a.o. capacity building and political skills. She 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.
Dayana Al Alam
Dayana designs and manages trainings on Urban and Environmental Governance. She is interested in local self-organization and adaptation processes and has conducted research in this field. Furthermore, she has working experience in urban planning and architecture. Dayana graduated from the Lebanese University with a Masters in Architecture and from the Lebanese Doctoral School of Science and Technology with a research Masters in Architecture and Landscape Science. She continued her studies at Erasmus University Rotterdam in The Netherlands where she pursued professional Masters in Urban Management & Development. She is fluent in Arabic, English and French, and has a good understanding of Dutch.
Gerald is an experienced urban political anthropologist with over 20 years of inter-disciplinary experience in citizens engagement, social inclusion & integration, inclusive governance, smart cities, urban poverty and the localisation of SDGs. He has worked with different international agencies in over 25 countries in Africa to promote inclusive service delivery and local economic and social development together with local and national governments. Gerald also works with civil society organisations and knowledge institutes to design and implement curriculums on inclusive approaches and solutions for service delivery. As an urban development professional, Gerald works at the interface between practice, policy and research, going from university lecture halls or policy boardrooms to the “embryonic thinking” of community project start-ups. His research has focused on the politics of urban poverty, popular cultures, negotiated urban planning and everyday survival strategies in precarious urban environments.
Gaya has broad experience in capacity development and project management in the field of peacebuilding and migration. She facilitated trainings on various topics like conflict resolution and communication. Before joining the Hague Academy she worked for several Dutch refugee NGO’s enhancing the integration of refugees. Besides working in the Netherlands, she worked for GIZ and the UNHCR in Rwanda where she was implementing community-based protection & peacebuilding programs to enhance social cohesion among refugees and host communities. Gaya holds an MSc in Clinical Psychology from the University of Utrecht and an MSc in International Relations from the University of Amsterdam.
Koen is involved in trainings on a.o. Migration, Inclusive Governance and Service Delivery. Since joining us, Koen has also contributed to programmes on Integrity and Local Safety in Ukraine and the Balkans. Currently, he is responsible for the Inclusive Governance programme in Afghanistan and the Rule of Law Training programme in eleven (South-)Eastern European countries. Koen studied History and Political Science in Amsterdam, Leiden, and San Francisco. He gained experience as an intern at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and at a humanitarian organization in New Delhi, India. Prior to joining The Hague Academy, Koen served as a strategy advisor and regional liaison for Haarlem Municipality.
Job van der Poel
Job van der Poel is involved in the design and management of training courses, primarily focused in North Africa. He has extensive experience working in volatile contexts, including local capacity building and program management. Prior to joining the Academy, he worked as emergency preparedness and response coordinator for a Humanitarian INGO. Job completed a master’s degree in International Public Management at Sciences Po Paris (Institut d’études Politiques Paris), with a focus on Project Management and International Development. He holds a bachelor’s focused on Political Sciences of the Middle East and is fluent in Dutch, English and French.
Oscar is responsible for designing, delivering and managing trainings in the fields of multilevel water governance, climate adaptation & local resilience, and sustainable development. His interdisciplinary background includes developing and coordinating national community-based ecotourism strategies, as well as implementing sustainable best practices and innovative technologies in the natural resources sector. Before joining The Hague Academy, Oscar worked as a trainer in the Netherlands, Canada, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Brazil and Costa Rica. He holds an MSc in Water Science and Management from Utrecht University and an MA in Environmental Security from UPEACE.
Kelly Buis is responsible for the design, management and delivery of trainings. After completing her bachelors in International Relations with a focus on the MENA region, she earned a master’s degree in Conflict Studies and Human Rights from Utrecht University. For her thesis, she conducted field research in Lebanon to understand the effects of post-conflict reconciliation initiatives on youth. Prior to joining The Hague Academy, she served as a programme coordinator for a Dutch organisation focused on community development. Kelly has academic and work experience in the Netherlands, Lebanon, Tunisia and Turkey. In addition to her work, Kelly sits on the board of Just Peace and is a member of Worldconnectors.
Melissa van de Bank
Melissa is passionate about working with local governments on issues of land rights and enhancing the local business environment in an inclusive and environmentally sustainable manner. She currently works on supporting entrepreneurship in different countries in the MENA region, with a focus on youth and women. Melissa completed her Bachelor and Master’s Degree in Political Sciences (International Relations) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and is fluent in English, French and Dutch. Before joining The Hague Academy, Melissa worked in Burundi, where she supported local governments in the province of Makamba in setting up the local cadastral map, while protecting women’s land rights and mediating land conflicts. She also assisted in the development of local green growth plans in Liberia through customary land formalization and participatory land-use planning, therewith improving the enabling environment for private investments in the region while securing forest protection and sustainable agricultural production.
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.
Axelle supports The Hague Academy with training logistics and administration. She completed a Bachelor in History with a major in Geography at the University of Bordeaux (France) and Chester (England). She pursued a Master in International Relations at the University of Leiden (Netherlands) with a specialization in Global Conflict and Latin American history. Recently, she acquired knowledge on climate change and land management via two certified courses and developed her own research project on gender responsive governance in landscapes, as a step into achieving the SDGs in the rural South. Axelle is fluent in French and English and has good notions of Spanish and Dutch.
Yasmin contributes to the design and management of trainings. She completed her Master’s in Development Studies at SOAS, University of London. During her Masters, she wrote her thesis on water governance in Jordan; and started an initiative to lobby for agricultural and land reform in Zimbabwe. Before joining the Academy, she specialized in Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention at the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC). At GPPAC she worked on Youth, Peace, and Security, network building, monitoring and evaluation and fundraising. Yasmin has also worked with European networks focusing on the rights of Roma communities and homelessness.
Rajaa supports the preparation and implementation of multiple training programmes focusing on multilevel water governance in the MENA region. She graduated from the National School of Architecture and Urban Planning in Rabat and completed her second Master’s in Urban Environment Sustainability and Climate at Erasmus University of Rotterdam. Rajaa has working experience in Morocco, Denmark and The Netherlands. Her fields of specialisation include urban planning, sustainability and climate issues. She is fluent in French, English and Arabic, and has a good understanding of Dutch and Spanish.
Willeke van Leeuwen
Willeke supports the preparation and implementation of multiple training programmes at the Hague Academy for Local Governance. She is currently working on projects related to local economic development and integrity in the MENA region and Eastern Europe. Growing up in the DRC, she got fascinated by the different cultures and backgrounds of people. After obtaining her BA in International Relations and International Organisation, she is currently finishing the specialisation in International Political Economy, as a part of the MA in International Relations at the University of Groningen. Willeke is fluent in Dutch, English, French and German.
Scholarship and Quality coordinator
Elma is responsible for managing Nuffic scholarships. She initiated the quality management system that led to the ISO 9001 Partos certification of the organisation in 2020. 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 coordinating the course administration and for quality management of the training department.
Valentina is responsible for processing and controlling the financial administration of The Hague Academy. She also supports the project managers and officers in all financial project related aspects. She provides financial information to the general manager and the board and also supervises all audits for The Hague Academy. After emigrating to the Netherlands in 2002, she studied modern business administration, financial cost, accounting and administrative process information. Before joining our team in 2014, she worked for seven years as an auditor’s assistant. Valentina was born and raised in Portugal (Algarve), where she studied Physical Education at the University.
Administrative and Logistics Officer
Gabriela Vales supports The Hague Academy as an Administrative and Logistics Officer. She completed a B.A. in Communication Sciences and has vast experience in commercial and supporting roles, both in private and public organizations. Gabriela is originally from Mexico. She arrived in the Netherlands 21 years ago as a diplomat to promote Mexican exports and foreign investment. She then worked 15 years in the Oil and Gas sector, taking the leap into the NGO world in 2016, and there is no looking back. She is passionate about providing the best service possible to our open course participants, as well as to her colleagues.
Laura is responsible for all internal and external communications of The Hague Academy. Prior to joining the academy, she worked as a communication officer for the Local Development Programme at the Municipality of Medellín, Colombia, and as a fundraising and communication officer for various NGOs and development organisations in Colombia, The Netherlands, Jordan and the US. She has a B.A. in Multimedia Communications and an M.A. in Development Studies from Erasmus University Rotterdam, with a specialisation in Gender studies. She wrote her thesis on the empowering effects of participatory governance tools.
Astrid van Egmond
Astrid supports the preparation and implementation of multiple training programmes. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in Human Geography, Sociology and Political Science at University College Roosevelt Middelburg and she holds a master’s degree in Development Studies, with a specialisation in Conflict and Peace Studies from Erasmus University Rotterdam. She is interested in topics ranging from social justice and change to sustainable peacebuilding, climate justice and gender empowerment.
Juan Pablo Aguirre
Juan Pablo supports The Hague Academy with the preparation and implementation of multiple training programmes. He has a bachelor’s degree in International Relations with honours from the University of Groningen and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Leiden. His topics of interest include among others: the European Union and the Americas, diplomacy and mediation, and democratisation. As an Aruban Dutch national with a Mexican upbringing, he is also interested in the ins and outs of intercultural relations. Juan Pablo is fluent in Spanish, English, Dutch and Papiamento, and is proficient in French.
Oscar supports the preparation and implementation of multiple training programmes at The Hague Academy. He is currently in the final year of his bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Organisation at Leiden University. Prior to studying international relations, Oscar studied Illustration and Visual Media at the University of the Arts in London. Academically, he is interested in European affairs, sustainability policies and energy governance. He is fluent in French, Italian and English.