In parallel with a Dutch Royal visit to Indonesia, an official trade mission there will take place from 8 to 13 March. NWP Programme Manager, Daniël van Dijk, and Project Manager Asia, Simone Sweerts, have worked with the Dutch Embassy in Jakarta and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) for weeks to put together the right programme for the representatives of the Dutch water sector in the four-day trade mission. In this Q&A, they explain the importance of trade missions and tell us more about this one.
Daniël van Dijk: NWP embarks on many missions every year which range from small dedicated missions initiated by local embassies or stakeholders to full blown trade missions during state visits. For the latter, we receive a formal request from our colleagues at RVO, as is the case with this mission to Indonesia. We often organise programmes for collective participation in international trade shows and conferences, and in all cases, we work closely with participants, embassies, local networks and stakeholders.
Simone Sweerts: What missions definitely entail is thorough preparation. We require months of preparation to put together trade missions with multi-day programmes. The last two to three weeks, for instance, we have worked almost full-time on finalising all the details in the programme with all the stakeholders. For this mission, we are arranging four seminar sessions and three site visits. The goals of a compelling programme like this one are always the same: on the one hand, to bring as many Dutch actors to the sessions as possible and on the other hand, to include influential local organisations and speakers so that water entities can establish a direct exchange of ideas and experiences. I believe we have accomplished these goals with the Indonesia trade mission!
Daniël van Dijk: With a population of over 275 million scattered over thousands of islands, Indonesia sadly faces all the main water challenges: too much, too little and too dirty. Some Dutch water actors are currently using their expertise to tackle issues such as flood protection, river basin management, integrated coastal zone management, nature-based solutions, integrated water resource management, water governance, water operator partnerships etc. The list is long and impressive. The Dutch water sector is making a real difference there. For many years now, the Netherlands has been considered a trusted advisor, but we are also seeking to engage more businesses and organisations in the actual implementation of projects and programmes. We mean business with this mission. This week another devastating flood hit Jakarta and many other places in Indonesia. These incidents make the mission even more relevant.
Simone Sweerts: The Netherlands and Indonesia are natural partners. Not only do we have historic ties, but both countries face tremendous water challenges. In this mission, we are seeking to learn from each other by sharing knowledge, training people and performing onsite work. The water activities in this trade mission are part of a long-term cooperation with Indonesia which is supported by the Partners for Water programme. This initiative supports these activities by co-financing projects that will enhance the capacity of Indonesian organisations to tackle the most imminent challenges.
Daniël van Dijk: Trade missions are vital for understanding the complexities of the local context, for gathering market information, extending local networks and for bringing topic or developments to decision maker’s attention. But trade missions do not work miracles by themselves. They are a starting point, a way to forge progress or highlight successes, but ultimately, it takes thorough preparation, effective local partners and, above all, a long-term commitment to succeed in markets abroad like in Indonesia.
Simone Sweerts: Trade missions are also great opportunities for the participants to get to know each other along the way and find new ways and joint opportunities to collaborate in this challenging market.
Daniël van Dijk: I think it is vital that we keep the momentum going so that any activities tackling water challenges in Indonesia continue. NWP will have an important role in engaging the Dutch water sector, especially when a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Water is signed later this year. It is difficult to predict the mission’s concrete results at this stage as ongoing developments may affect the mission and any subsequent follow-up.
Simone Sweerts: That is true, you never know what can happen. But to be positive, after the mission we will actively follow up with participants directly and during the various country platform meetings held throughout the year. We will share our experiences and takeaways with the broader NWP network as well, but before doing that, we will evaluate the mission and its outcomes carefully to ensure that we learn and understand where we can make improvements.
Daniël van Dijk: A mission is successful when it has enabled the participants to reach their set objectives. The mission is not about us, but about the ambitions and capacity of the Dutch water sector to collaborate in Indonesia. At NWP, we try to create an effective platform, to offer as many relevant connections as possible and support the participants during the mission.
Simone Sweerts: I agree with Daniël. The success can be measured by the extent to which the goals of the Dutch water actors that accompany us are met. But to me, providing the framework for direct discussion between the Dutch and Indonesian water entities is a step closer to a fruitful mission!