The Hague Institute Hosts Climate and Water Events at World Water Week

The Hague Institute hosted two events on climate and water at the jubilee edition of the World Water Week in Stockholm on 24 and 25 of August, respectively. This year’s theme ‘Water for Development’ coincides with the institute’s ambition to inform the negotiations and formulation of a new set of global commitments, including the post-2015 agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, a climate change agreement, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).

Governance of Climate Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction in Vulnerable Low-Lying Countries

At the opening ceremony of the World Water Week, President Christopher J. Loeak of Marshall Islands delivered a statement highlighting the vulnerability of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as his own country to the impacts of climate change. “We are a small country quite literally contemplating a future where we are being wiped off the world map,” said President Loeak.

The seriousness of climate change affecting vulnerable low-lying countries, including SIDS, as well as the urgency to adapt to its impacts, were echoed in the rationale of the event. The event focuses on the development of effective governance arrangements for adaptation and DRR in a participatory process.

Attended by 100 participants, the event was opened by a keynote speech from Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs of the Netherlands. Mr. Ovink presented his experience with preventive approaches to address climate change related disasters in both the United States and the Netherlands. These include the rebuilding strategies after Hurricane Sandy. Also mentioned were the ‘Room for the River’ program and other resilience projects in the Netherlands. Mr. Ovink introduced the long history of land reclamation and the culture of living with water and its associated disasters in the Netherlands. During this process, Dutch people have learnt to better manage risks and uncertainties. Building resilience, according to Mr. Ovink, not only maintains and enhances safety but also makes economic sense by preventing costs incurred by future disasters.

The keynote speech set the scene for the subsequent six pitches, which showcased the lessons learnt from past and ongoing projects in cities (Jakarta and Beira), deltas (Vietnam and Bangladesh), and SIDS (Zanzibar).

Dr. Patrick Huntjens, Head of Water Diplomacy at The Hague Institute, gave a pitch on participation in adaptation in Long An Province, Vietnam. The project involved participatory planning processes at provincial, district and local levels, supported by advanced decision support techniques. As a case of adaptive delta management in non-western cultures, Dr. Huntjens highlighted the criticality of context specific arrangements. Conflict resolution by negotiation, open attitude to new technologies and innovations, and the high level of participation in voluntary mass organizations, constitute a good basis for participation in decision-making and planning. In addition, Dr. Huntjens emphasized that participative planning methods such as Group Model Building and highly-interactive forms of learning are possible if properly embedded, initiated, and facilitated.

In her pitch, Conflict Prevention Program researcher Ting Zhang presented The Hague Institute’s project on the governance of climate change adaptation in Small Island Developing States. Zhang started with visuals displaying how climate change has already affected the Zanzibari islanders, underlining the importance of taking immediate action. After explaining how the project takes a participatory approach at the local level while connecting with national policy making processes, Zhang shows some preliminary lessons learnt. These include an integrated approach to devising solutions, issue linkages to achieve win-win situations, awareness raising, seeking consent where consensus is unrealistic, and the value of perceived legitimacy at the local level as well as political commitment at the highest governmental level.

Interactive parallel roundtable discussions followed the pitches, focusing each of the theme identified. Participants deliberated over the key governance challenges they have been faced with in adaptation and DRR work in deltas, cities and island states. Moreover, participants jointly made recommendations for overcoming the challenges. In general, effective governance arrangements have to enable decision-making that mainstreams adaptation and DRR into the sustainable development of all sectors and account for the evolving social, ecological, and economic functions of these countries and their complex scale and system dynamics.

The Hague Institute co-convened this event with Deltares. Delta Alliance was also a contributing partner. The key conclusions from this event were presented in a connecting session on the “The Delta Coalition: sharing experiences on Disaster Risk Reduction through Preventive Approaches”, which was organized by theDutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, and theJapanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

Water Diplomacy: Making Water Cooperation Work

On 25 August, The Hague Institute convened a strategic session with over 100 participants on the future of water diplomacy. The outcomes are currently being reworked into a policy brief which will provide international guidance to address the challenges within water diplomacy.

Today, the practice of water diplomacy –preventing and solving water related disputes– is hampered through a number of dilemmas. Identifying tools and constructive approaches to these dilemmas is of the essence as water related conflicts will occur more frequently in the near future.

The session at the Stockholm Water Week aimed to garner as much as possible the insights from all experts present, practitioners, academics and diplomats. To that end, short keynote presentations briefed the audience on the specific experiences in respectively the Ganges-Brahmaputra region, Mekong Basin and the MENA Region, including the Jordan Basin. After the presentations, the audience was divided into four groups with the aim of identifying strategies to overcoming the dilemmas. Next, the keynote speakers guided fruitful debates within the groups on particular requirements of making water cooperation work.

At the start of the session, head of The Hague Institute’s cluster on water diplomacy, Dr. Patrick Huntjens, welcomed the audience, introduced The Hague Institute’s work on water diplomacy and provided an overview of the aims of the day.

Next, H.E. Mr. Kees Rade, Ambassador Sustainable Development, Kingdom of The Netherlands, contextualized the experience of The Netherlands by referring the historic hydro-geological and institutional conditions that both forced and structured the cooperation amongst the Dutch.

Dr. Mark Smith, Director of the IUCN Global Water Programme, demonstrated the experience gained by IUCN in water diplomacy through the global BRIDGE project and the E4L project. Based on this experience he underscored the importance of having a shared vision; real results on the ground; space to learn, adapt and innovate; to ability to connect across scales; the ability to handle uncertainties effectively; the importance of connecting the negotiation process to the political realities and the importance of strong leadership as conditions for change.

Mrs. Maysoon Zoubi, former secretary general of the Jordanian Ministry of Water, focused attention on the importance to not only focus bilateral negotiations on water sharing rights, but to shift cooperation to a general policy making based on common interests and needs. Based on cases of successful cooperation over water resources in the MENA region, Mrs. Zoubi identified the ability to identify joint projects (revolving around joint problems and interests) as the key starting point. Within these joint projects, emphasis need to be placed on identifying mutual gains. Taking small steps will make the joint projects realistic and will help to generate trust.

The outcomes of this consultation will be published through the website of The Hague Institute (www.thehagueinstitute.org/water-cooperation). For more information and feedback on the consultation please contact p.huntjens@thehagueinstitute.org

This was The Hague Institute’s third consecutive appearance at the World Water Week, with events in 2013 and2014 focusing on water diplomacy. The critical insights gained and the network built during the events will be used for informing the methodology and enhancing the policy relevance of the two projects on governance of climate change adaptation and water diplomacy.

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