Against the backdrop of the Covid-19 crisis and recovery, it is even more critical to join forces to build an inclusive and resilient future. The challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic give an extra impetus to WWWeek at Home, the alternative event to Stockholm World Water Week that will be hosted from 24 to 28 August. The Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP) will be part of the event’s programme with various sessions including one on nature-based solutions. Bianca Nijhof, NWP Managing Director, discusses the importance of connecting water resilience to global challenges such as Covid-19 and climate change more actively. Further, she introduces #WaterTalks, a new initiative featuring the critical views of thought leaders in the Dutch water sector.
‘Stockholm International Water Week is one of the largest water events worldwide and annually receives contributions from multiple Dutch organisations. Due to Covid-19, the 2020 edition has an all online format called WWWeek At Home. The Dutch Government supports this initiative, serving as an official partner. It is quite impressive how the organisation has managed to put together an extensive and highly relevant programme in such a special virtual setting. It shows the sense of urgency to connect global challenges such as water, sanitation and hygiene, and their critical relationship to Covid-19.
We, the global water community, must seize this momentum. Water is one of our biggest global challenges. But at the same time, it offers enormous opportunities. We can and must work to build resilience, now more than ever, with solutions that are robust, adaptive, sustainable and inclusive. That starts with understanding local conditions, social structures, culture and natural systems. From that basis, we can work with local communities on solutions that solve water issues and simultaneously lead to important social, economic and environmental benefits. In many situations, whether we look at coastal management, river management or cooling down the planet, nature-based solutions offer the best opportunities. For instance, the restoration of the mangrove forest along the coastline in Demak, Indonesia, is a great example of nature-based solutions. EcoShape and the local community are restoring stable mangrove forests along the coastline that reduce erosion, adapt to sea level rise and enable inclusive economic growth, so that communities in Demak are safe and can prosper.
Personally, because I am convinced of the value and importance of these types of integrated solutions, I am looking forward to the session on ‘Co-benefits of implementing nature-based solutions for climate-related water and flood management’, which will be hosted during the WWWeek At Home. This session is initiated by the Northern Water Network, an international network which features several water partnerships around the world including NWP. NWP believes that it is highly valuable to be part of this initiative for sharing knowledge, linking stakeholders and raising awareness. We hope to work with the other members in the coming period to exploit the great potential.
We need to work together on solutions that offer security, prosperity and perspective for future generations. That is why I believe it is essential to invest in young people, have them contribute ideas and get them involved in the water challenges we face today. With this in mind, NWP is proudly co-convening the session ‘Solving the Water-Climate-Puzzle by connecting youth stories and decision-makers’ during the WWWeek at Home. Young professionals are well prepared to think outside the box and we can learn a great deal from them. At NWP, we experience the added value that enthusiastic and motivated young experts generate through the YEP Programmes.
A core activity of NWP, as the network organisation of the Dutch water sector and point of contact for international entities seeking collaboration with or assistance from the Dutch water sector, is to showcase the national expertise in the field of water and the successful Dutch solutions worldwide. While doing so, NWP boosts the international water impact of the Dutch water sector and illustrates how the sector contributes to achieving a more resilient environment and, ultimately, the Sustainable Development Goals. It does this with its knowledge and expertise, but also with its focus on integrated and sustainable approaches and leaving no-one behind. We give the sector a stage and are committed to bringing supply and demand together.
In this context, we believe it is essential to share critical opinions, continue the dialogue on what does and does not work, take an analytical look at our actions, and apply lessons learnt from the past. To enable this, a new initiative called #WaterTalks has been developed. The dutchwatersector.com website, which is supported by Partners for Water and hosted by NWP, will give a platform to experts’ voices so that they can bring their personal views to the fore. The first theme, unsurprisingly, is resilience. In the next few days, Piet Dircke, Global Leader Resilience and Water Management at Arcadis, will kick off the #WaterTalks series and share his thoughts with the global water sector. Stay tuned, I am convinced he will inspire many of you!’