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Prince Claus was born Claus von Amsberg on 6 September 1926, in Dötzingen (Hitzacker), Nedersaksen. He studied at the University of Hamburg, in the Faculty of Law and Political Science (1948–1956), after which he worked at the German embassy to the Dominican Republic and as chargé d’affaires to the Republic of the Ivory Coast. From 1963 to 1965, he worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bonn, in the Department of African Economic Relations. 

After his marriage to Princess Beatrix in 1966, Prince Claus focused his efforts on development cooperation. He was appointed member of the National Advisory Council for Development Cooperation (Nationale Adviesraad voor Ontwikkelingssamenwerking, NAR), member of the Office of this Commission, Chair of the National Committee for Development Strategy (Nationale Commissie voor de Ontwikkelingsstrategie), a position he held from 1970 to 1973, and Special Advisor to the Minister of Development Cooperation. In 1984, he was appointed Inspector General of Development Cooperation.
To commemorate the Prince’s seventieth birthday, the Dutch government established the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development (Prins Claus Fonds voor Cultuur en Ontwikkeling), of which Prince Claus was Honorary Chair. The objective of the Fund is to increase cultural awareness and promote development. 

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