H.E. Leoni Cuelenaere

Non-Resident Fellow

Ambassador Leoni Cuelenaere has served with distinction in the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs for
over two decades. Her assignments as Ambassador and Deputy Head of Mission were conducted in post-
conflict countries with significant social, political and economic challenges. The foundation for her work has
been a focus on the rule of law and human rights. She is currently serving as Special Advisor on Access to
Justice at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Prior to her return to the Netherlands in July 2018, Ms. Cuelenaere spent 14 years in different diplomatic
postings representing the Kingdom of the Netherlands across South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. She
served in the following positions:

  • Netherland’s Ambassador to Bangladesh 2015 - 2018
  • Netherland’s Ambassador to Rwanda 2012 - 2015
  • Netherland’s Ambassador to Yemen 2011 - 2012
  • Netherland’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka 2008 - 2011
  • Deputy Head of Mission in Harare, Zimbabwe 2004 - 2008

In her current role as Special Advisor, she organized an International Conference on Access to Justice in the
Hague. She continues to be an outspoken advocate for rights of citizens in fragile states. This commitment
includes bringing relevant parties together to resolve issues.

In Bangladesh the focus was on labor conditions in the garment industry, water management, sexual and
reproductive rights and the situation of Rohingya refugees expelled from Myanmar.

Rwanda is a post-conflict country still rebuilding from the genocide of 1994. Massive flows of refugees from
Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Burundi continue to impact the nation. The primary focus was
on the rule of law and human rights.

Ambassador Cuelenaere arrived in Sanaa, Yemen in the middle of a violent conflict which included bomb
attacks in the capital. Much of the diplomatic work was conducted in shelter due to the war-like situation.
The main effort was on preparation of the national dialogue and rule of law.

Ambassador Cuelenaere began her work in Sri Lanka during the final year of the 27-year long civil war. The
embassy was focused on conflict resolution, rebuilding lives of Tamil refugees and human rights.

Zimbabwe in 2004 began facing hyperinflation which left the general population without food and currency
without value. Extensive effort was given to establishing basic protection of Human Rights Defenders.

Prior to her overseas postings, Ambassador Leoni Cuelenaere was Deputy Director for the Department of
Migration from 2001- 2004.

Ambassador Cuelenaere presently serves as a board member for several (international) organizations.

She holds a master’s degrees in law and in Dutch Linguistics and Literature from the University of Leiden.