Willem Van Eekelen

Willem Van Eekelen

International Development Department
Teaching Fellow

Contact details

International Development Department
School of Government
Muirhead Tower
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Van Eekelen is a development economist who built his experience in a range of UN agencies and NGOs before assuming his two current roles: 

  • IDD Teaching Fellow (20%)
  • Independent consultant (80%)

In his latter role, Van Eekelen focuses on:

  • Organisational capacity development
  • Evaluations of complex humanitarian and development programmes
  • Philanthropists’ portfolio development

The assignments Van Eekelen enjoys most are the ones that require both strategic and detailed analytical thinking; management and technical skills; and interaction with both the developmental elite and the men and women we ultimately aim to empower.


  • MSc in Development Programming, Erasmus University Rotterdam and University of Sussex, 1994
  • MSc, Sociological Economics, Erasmus University Rotterdam, 1994


Since 2010, Van Eekelen has combined consultancy work with a small IDD role and a few trusteeships. In the past few years, his most significant consultancy assignments have been for the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), where he served as the team leader for reviews on Cash Transfers (2016-17), Migration (2016-17), the Conflict, Security and Stability Fund (CSSF, 2017-18) and Civil Society Organisations (2018-19). 

Before this and anti-chronologically, Van Eekelen held the following positions: 

Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW); UK, 2005 – 2009 

  • As the Head of the Policy and Research Unit (2005-2008): made a bit of a start with the organisational transition from a down-stream implementer to an organisation that contributes to the wider sector's thinking.
  • As the Head of IRW's Change Programme (2008-2009): led a change process that aimed to increase IRW's organisational capacity. The process included a restructuring, process re-engineering and a range of accountability-enhancing changes. An external pre- and post-change staff satisfaction survey concluded that 'the results have improved in all dimensions, and in most cases the improvement is significant.'

Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2004 – 2005

  • As the Head of Financial Integration of the City of Mostar: re-integrated six mutually hostile municipalities into a single financial city administration. This reduced the financial overhead; enhanced the local government's governance system; and helped to consolidate the country's peace as it contributed to the normalisation of relations between previously warring groups.
  • As the Senior Economic Advisor: designed a Socio-Economic Development Programme that focused on municipal economic development and public-private partnerships.

Office of the High Representative (OHR); Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2001 – 2003
As the Socio-Economic Development and Return Coordinator: coordinated and evaluated NGO programmes in the field of refugee return, and initiated and managed the implementation of a range of socio-economic development programmes. 

International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNDP; Egypt and Sudan, 1999 – 2001
For ILO and as an Associate Expert in Labour Market Policies and Gender Focal Point: managed a programme on 'Gender and Employment in the Context of Economic Reform.'
For UNDP and part of a consultancy team: co-developed a post-war peace consolidation and economic development plan for Southern Sudan.

United Nations Refugee Organisation (UNHCR); Jordan, 1996 – 1999
As a Junior Professional Officer: restructured and revitalised a support programme for refugees in Jordan, and subsequently managed it. The restructuring enhanced service delivery levels and brought down the programme costs by 30%.

Business School Rotterdam; The Netherlands and Egypt, 1994 – 1996
Researcher and Junior Lecturer in the field of sustainable tourism development.


Van Eekelen supervises MSc dissertations and contributes to modules titled:

  • NGOs in a Changing International Context (campus and distance learning programmes)
  • Rural Poverty and Development (campus and distance learning programmes)
  • Poverty and Inequality: Interventions and Approaches (campus programme)

In 2017, Van Eekelen was one of five recipients of the University of Birmingham’s ‘Outstanding Teaching Award’.


Research interests

NGO performance, NGO relations, evaluation techniques, organisational capacity issues, humanitarian and development standards.

Other activities

Co-owner of Green Visions, the Balkans’ liveliest adventure tourism company.



Eekelen, W. van (2014), 100 ideas for dads who love their kids but find them exhausting, London: Bloomsbury

Clancy, T. and Eekelen, W van (2005); A Guided Journey through Sarajevo, Sarajevo: Buybook

Clancy, T. and Eekelen, W van (2005); A Guided Journey through Herzegovina, Sarajevo: Buybook

Clancy, T. and Eekelen, W van (2005); A Guided Journey through Central and North Bosnia, Sarajevo: Buybook

Selected articles and book chapters

Eekelen, W. van (2013), Revisiting Child Sponsorship Programmes, Development in Practice, Vol 23: 468-480

Eekelen, W. van and Mould, H. (2010), Muslim NGOs and the Reality of HIV and Aids. In Haar, G. ter (ed.) Religion and Development, London: Hurst&Co, pp. 253-271

Eekelen, W. van (2008), When Faith Leaders and People Living with HIV Come Together, World Disaster Report; focus on HIV and Aids, Geneva: IFRC, pp. 155-156

Khan, A.K. and Eekelen, W. van (2008); Institutional Funding, the Penny Box and Innovation; Dialogue No. 5, pp 6-8

View all publications in research portal

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