“From foe to friend,” the water management approach in the Netherlands and worldwide is evolving.

We asked water envoy Meike van Ginneken for her perspective on World Water Day and this year’s theme: Water & Peace.

Improving global water security begins with awareness

“World Water Day coincides with the beginning of spring,” Meike says, prompting us to reflect on the importance of water. “Although clean and sufficient water is commonplace in the Netherlands, many around the world lack this privilege.” Improving global water security and management begins with awareness. Hence, on March 22, we celebrate how water connects us and fosters cooperation while raising awareness about water-related challenges and solutions.

From water as an enemey to water as ally

It’s undeniable that the Netherlands, with its history of water struggles, now leads in embracing water, utilising Nature-based Solutions, and collaborating with water. “This shift, from water as an enemy to water as an ally, is a global phenomenon,” Meike explains. With climate change and population growth, more countries face the challenge of sustainable water management. This goes beyond technical hurdles, often involving administrative complexities, knowledge gaps, and conflicting goals. For instance, some countries inadvertently exacerbate water issues by subsidizing agricultural practices that deplete groundwater.

This shift, from water as an enemy to water as an ally, is a global phenomenon

Meike van Ginneken

Dutch Water Envoy

Knowledge exchange is a two-way street

“Looking beyond our water-centric perspective,” Meike notes, “we must examine how water intersects with agriculture, climate policy, and financial considerations.” While the Netherlands excels in water security and technology, there’s much to learn from other nations, for example in coping with extreme drought. Knowledge exchange is a two-way street.

“Focusing on water and peace,” Meike emphasizes, Dutch principles like poldering find practical application globally, mediating conflicts between farmers and nomadic herders or shaping transboundary river management. “I am convinced that we have prevented many wars over water by bringing people together in peacetime,” she adds. Sometimes it’s as simple as people from neighbouring countries or communities having each other’s phone numbers and getting to know each other.

Water as a symbol of unity and peace

“I am very proud of the role the Netherlands plays in supporting international initiatives to coexist with water,” Meike concludes. As a water envoy, she aims to share Dutch water expertise globally and facilitate dialogue between our nation and others. Together, we strive for a future where water is a symbol of unity and peace, not division and conflict.”

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