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
- Programme Manager Freddy Sahinguvu
- Programme Manager Qazal Jamali
- Programme Manager Lars Burema
- Programme Manager Marianna Tsirelson
- Programme Manager Samir Marmouri
- Programme Manager Nicolas Haezebrouck
- Programme Officer Dayana Al Alam
- Programme Officer Koen Rozemeijer
- Office Manager Elma Jooste
- Finance Administrator Valentina Duarte
- Office Administration Erika Visker
- Communications Officer Hasan Aloul
- Intern Johanna Schijvenaars
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Qazal’s main focus at The Hague Academy is programmes and training courses in the MENA region. She has developed and manages a diversity of training courses on decentralisation and local governance, gender-responsive governance and female leadership, multi-level water governance, climate change and resilient cities and social affairs and employment. Qazal holds an MSc in Peace and Conflict Studies from Uppsala University in Sweden, where she also worked as a research assistant at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research and The Center for Sustainable Development. She assisted in publishing academic articles, books and research on water cooperation, human security and emerging security challenges. During her study, she worked in the political sector of the Netherlands Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda, where she was actively involved in development programmes of the embassy.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
Koen is a programme officer and coordinator for the Talent for Governance initiative at The Hague Academy. In this capacity, he works to realize the chance of a lifetime for young and talented civil servants from around the world. 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. After finishing his studies, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Hasan has experience 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 world history.
Johanna Schijvenaars joined The Hague Academy in January 2018. She contributes to training programmes focused on citizen participation and inclusive governance, and provides support for communications and outreach. Prior to joining The Hague Academy, Johanna completed her major in Environmental Sciences and Social Geography at Utrecht University. In addition to tackling sustainable development challenges, her interests include wildlife, climbing and scuba diving.