International Conference: Deltas in Times of Climate Change

The role of science-policy-society interface in Delta Governance worldwide – Dutch experiences, lessons learned and the way forward.

Internationally, there is growing attention and interest for delta regions, in particular considering the interaction between humans and their ecological environment. Delta regions, harboring more than 80% of the world’s population, are under increasing pressure because of populations growth, economic development and climate change. As such, basic needs such as food, water, health, and shelter are in danger. Hence, delta regions pose important challenges for the post-2015 development agenda, in particular for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Designing more sustainable and equitable policies based on solid scientific ground to respond to the needs of societies and people lies at the centre of UNESCO’s scientific mandate. ‘’Our future depends on the relation we build between science and policy” said Irina Bokova at the launch the UN Scientific Advisory Board in January 2014.

The Netherlands water sector (including government , private sector, knowledge institutes and civil society organizations), has been very active in recent years in promoting and implementing the Dutch expertise on ‘delta governance’[1] in delta regions worldwide. This has been done, amongst others, by developing long-term water partnerships with Jakarta, the Mekong, the Ganges/Brahmaputra, the Incomati, the Zambezi, the Nile and Mississippi deltas.

These partnerships often entail the development of a Delta Plan, e.g. Mekong Delta Plan or Bangladesh Delta Plan. At the same time, governments and other stakeholders in the Netherlands are developing and implementing the Dutch `Delta Programme’, which aims to identify vulnerabilities and opportunities, and to develop a water management strategy that prepares The Netherlands for potential future changes.

These national and international activities together provide a wealth of experiences and useful lessons learnt on the process of co-creation of knowledge for delta governance. In the UNESCO perspective, the interface formed by the triangle science – policy – society is a crucial component of delta governance.

Hence, the Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO, in close collaboration with UNESCO-IHE, The Hague Institute for Global Justice and Wageningen University, organized an expert meeting in order to reflect on role of the science – policy – society interface in co-creation of knowledge for delta governance. The meeting focused on a few well-chosen and contrasting delta’s and is scheduled to take place in the ‘back to back’ sessions of the international conference ‘Deltas in Times of Climate Change’ in Rotterdam (24-26 September 2014).

Key questions:

  • What are general patterns when comparing the science – policy – society interface for delta governance in different regions of the world?
  • What are key factors that drive or hinder the process of co-creation of knowledge for delta governance?
  • What do the experiences and insights gained from the process of co-creation of knowledge for delta governance teach us?
  • What can The Netherlands learn from delta governance in other countries and what can the different regions around the world learn from the Netherlands?
  • How can processes of co-creation of knowledge for delta governance be tuned to the specific features of local geography, ecology, economies and cultures?

The expert meeting was the first step of a reflection that might result in recommendations for informing or improving delta governance arrangements yet to be developed, not only by Dutch government, organizations and companies, but also by international organisations such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, African Development Bank, UN agencies, European Union, Civil Society Organisations, private sector, and individual countries affected by climate change.


[1] Delta governance, as defined here, refers to the institutional, political-economy and legal dimensions of climate change adaptation in delta regions.

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