Internship Experience at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs

In the final stages of my MSc Forest and Nature Conservation, I conducted my internship at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For some 5 months, I worked as a Junior Policy Advisor at the department for Environment, Water, Climate, Energy and Food security (DME). During my studies, I focused on the Policy aspects of forest and nature, and also addressed climate change policies in my thesis. It made me aware that many international decision-making procedures (such as those on biodiversity and climate change negotiations) highly depend on internal national policy making. This has been the main reason why I chose to conduct my internship at the Dutch government, to gain more insight in the Dutch Government’s foreign agenda.

During the first few weeks I tried to get familiar with the hierarchical structure of the Ministry, the different Directorate Generals, Departments and deciphering the language of government officials (as they sort of talk in abbreviations only), which I picked this up surprisingly quick.

This economic/financial approach to nature, different from the ecological approach I have been using throughout my studies at Wageningen University, provided me a whole new and valuable insight in the field of nature, biodiversity and ecosystems.”
Alex Engel

Unlike other internships at the FNP chair, I did not have one specific research question. For this reason, I have been participating in many different projects that my department was engaged in. Due to my background in forests, nature and climate change, I soon worked on the preparations for the COP-12 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which would be held in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea. Additionally, I assisted the Dutch delegation during the negotiations on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will be enter into force in 2015, by developing a negotiation document in which the Dutch position on each SDG had been summarized. Moreover, I worked on preparing the re-negotiations for the Hyogo Framework for Action II (HFA-II) and on analyzing the proceedings of the Dutch Risk Reduction (DRR) team.

Perhaps the most interesting topic I worked on has been the search for Innovative Financing Mechanisms. As a result of cut backs in the Ministries budget, new ways of financing activities needed to be found. I went into some of such mechanisms, among others: the use of Green/Forest Bonds, Natural Capital Accounting, Payment for Ecosystem Services, True Pricing and Climate Financing.

In addition to my work at the department, I also joined the Internship Committee (StageCo) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with which we organized all sorts of activities for our fellow interns, such as: visits to foreign embassies and NGO’s, different workshops and an international networking event.

To conclude, this internship has been a valuable contribution to my knowledge on policy- and decision-making in the field of nature, climate change and sustainability. The knowledge I gained from courses in my studies and from writing my thesis have laid an excellent foundation for starting an internship at the Dutch government. Moreover, I got familiar with new facets and areas of expertise which I otherwise probably would not have encountered. I would recommend all students who are interested/curious in working at a Dutch Ministry as a Junior Policy Advisor to grasp this opportunity and start writing an application letter!

Alex Engel

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