Annual Report 2020 Academy for International Relations

We have created a concise overview of our Annual Report 2020, containing figures and links to the highlights. We briefly explain the most important affairs below. 

Our focus shifted from traditional in-person learning to remote working and virtual learning.

2020 was an extraordinary year for most of the world, and the Academy for International Relations was no exception. Although we had our five-year anniversary in September, we were more interested in monitoring the development of the pandemic than in celebrating. Our focus shifted from traditional in-person learning to remote working and virtual learning. And to concern for the wellbeing of our participants, team members and their families.

The move to remote working and virtual learning has required a stable, secure digital network. This was a complicated issue that had to be resolved in a short period of time. In addition to those colleagues working at missions abroad, all BZ staff in the Netherlands had to work remotely as well. And in 2020 there was still a great need for continued professional and personal development. With a good deal of creativity and flexibility, and through solid partnerships with other departments at BZ and external parties, in a short amount of time we were able to create a sizeable online curriculum with the necessary technical support.

Thus it was possible, for example, to welcome a new cohort of participants to the basic training programme for new policy officers (IBBZ) virtually in April 2020. Language classes and all training sessions on regional policy and on policy and implementation also went ahead as usual. Many other activities subsequently moved online too and so our online curriculum grew. This is something we are very proud of. Although the underlying reason for this shift is unfortunate, we are glad that the speedy transition from in-person to online learning also enabled many colleagues at the missions to participate. In 2020, participation in Academy activities among colleagues at the missions was significantly higher than in previous years. However, it also became clear that virtual learning is not ideal for all types of learning activities. It lends itself well to knowledge sharing, but is less conducive to networking, team building and sharing experiences. In 2021, we will focus increased attention on promoting interaction with and among participants in online learning activities.

Vision learning and development 2030

In 2020, the Academy established its learning and development vision in response to the BZ in 2030 strategy document, which aims to make the ministry a learning organisation. That means an organisation that is inclusive, that is there for the Kingdom worldwide, and where learning is an integral part of daily work practices. In its vision the Academy outlines its ambitions for BZ as a learning organisation, namely how we – as a provider of learning activities, as a learning compass, and as a learning platform – can continue to properly prepare BZ and other central government staff in international positions for the future. The vision was established on the basis of discussions with our management board, and managers and staff at missions and in The Hague. We also reached out to our partners in central government and beyond for their input.

Learning pathway

In late 2020 the vision was positively received by the Senior Management Board. The Academy, which wants to promote a positive environment for learning at BZ, took the first step towards making this vision a reality by carrying out a curriculum analysis (are we offering the right courses?) and introducing a learning pathway pilot. A learning pathway is a guide to the numerous learning opportunities relevant to a specific job group. It helps staff, together with their managers, to take more ownership and control of their own development. BZ currently has two learning pathways (presently only available in Dutch) – one for country officers and one for management assistants – putting us on course to make learning more accessible. In 2021 we will continue working to make our vision a reality by investing in solid digital infrastructure, professionalising our communication with the missions and launching a campaign to promote learning.

2020 in numbers

Below is a brief explanation of the figures provided in each section of the Annual Report 2020.


If you have any questions about our report or would like additional information, please email We would be happy to provide additional information or figures where possible.