Closing address by Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok at the Planetary Security Conference

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It is always a dubious honour to be standing between a crowd and its drinks reception. So thank you for bearing with me, as we come to the end of this conference, which was opened yesterday by my colleague Sigrid Kaag.

What you need most from me at a moment like this, after two full days packed with workshops and special sessions, is a sincere promise to keep it short. 

Let me start by thanking you for being here. I don’t need to convince you of the importance of your work on the nexus between climate and security.

You know better than anyone how damaging the risks could be. Predictions say that climate change could force more than 100 million people into poverty by 2030. It could result in more than 143 million internally displaced people by 2050. You came to The Hague with a clear goal: to formulate concrete actions to address these and other climate-related security risks.

Your task has not been easy. The nexus between climate and security is complex and multidimensional. The problem transcends national boundaries. Yet we lack enough effective transnational bodies that can find the solutions we need.

That makes your work here all the more important.

The Planetary Security Initiative’s call for collaboration across the pillars has clearly worked: we see officers in uniform talking with development experts, and climate experts talking with ambassadors. This has generated new insights and forms of collaboration, both here and in the spotlight regions. Like in Mali, for example, where the ‘Mastercircle’ approach is being tested. This is one of those new forms of collaboration that could help us stay ahead of the curve on this multifaceted problem.

Four years on, there’s plenty to be proud of. I’m encouraged to hear about all the progress that’s been made. Progress, I hasten to add, that needs to be built upon in the coming years. Four years has been enough time to get out of the starting blocks. Now we need the stamina to run the race.

Today, the Planetary Security Initiative is an established forum, with regional consultations in all the spotlight regions. There is now a clear agenda for action in those regions, thanks in part to the adoption of The Hague Declaration on Planetary Security in 2017.

Climate-related security problems are now being felt across the globe. From the Himalayan glaciers (where the melting of ice can threaten the livelihoods of millions) to Central America (where the interplay between heavy rain, extreme violence and weak institutions can have devastating consequences).

However, the PSI decided early on to focus specifically on certain ‘spotlight regions’: Iraq, Mali and Lake Chad. Places where we could clearly see how interconnected problems in the realms of governance, security and the environment make peace and sustainable development harder to achieve.

But also: how the PSI’s approach could offer practical solutions.

It turned out to be a wise approach.

Take for example the situation in the Lake Chad region – a frequent topic of discussion over the past two days. Natural fluctuations in the size of the lake risk becoming more extreme because of climate change - both a blessing and curse for the 21 million people who depend on the lake’s resources for their basic needs.

A group of experts from inside and outside the region has been drafting a roadmap for action to improve the lives of the people living in this region.

The roadmap covers very practical and meaningful issues. Access to markets, water management and basic services. All with the goal of helping people and goods move with the changing flow of the water. This reduces the pressure on the region’s scarce resources and helps bolster stability.

That’s just one example from our spotlight regions, and it shows that the model works.

It also tells us that the Initiative is now entering a new phase. We’ve moved from creating a platform four years ago to formulating concrete action in 2019 – exactly the way we planned.

It’s the Dutch ‘polder model’ on an international scale. The same model of cooperation and consensus-building we used for centuries to shape our landscape can be applied to all kinds of other complex challenges today.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Netherlands prides itself on its ability to bring people together. Thanks to your effort and hard work, this forum – this polder, if you will – is not just another knowledge platform. Not just a talking shop. You’ve made it a platform for political advocacy and, more importantly, action.

The motto of this conference is #Doable. And rightly so. I am encouraged by three factors especially:

Firstly: This growing community of practice itself, which is working together closer than ever before. You come from different disciplines and different hemispheres. Scientists, military personnel, diplomats, private sector players, policy officials: your combined analyses and actions can help us tackle climate-security risks.

Secondly: The international agenda. This subject is now high on the various international agendas. At the level of the UN Security Council, and in the EU. Earlier this week the EU adopted new Council Conclusions referring to the importance of addressing climate-related security risks.

And of course I should mention the commitment of the UN Secretary-General. We welcome his Climate Summit this September – a strong push for ‘more early action’.

Thirdly, and most importantly, I’d like to touch on our technological progress, which is making us so much better at understanding and predicting outcomes and risks.

Because, quite frankly, we’ve never had so much data at our disposal. And we’ve never been so skilled at using this information in predictive models. In other words, we can now look further into the future than ever before. And we’ve never had better technology to help us prepare. To help us act on the basis of our predictions and risk analyses.

Of course, data are useless if we don’t take the next step. We need to follow up.

During our membership of the UN Security Council we did just that. We stressed the need for early warning and early action. We organised a special meeting where the Water, Peace and Security Partnership presented an innovative early-warning tool A new support tool is currently being tested in Mali. By using big data and local input, they will be able to predict where a mix of water stress and political, economic and social factors can lead to conflict.

Prevention, of course, is always better than cure. But we can’t avert every disaster.

So we do need to improve preparedness and resilience as well.

Here, we’re also seeing progress – at all levels. On the ground, we’re seeing more and better programming that is both conflict- and climate-sensitive.

For instance, in conflict-ridden and food-insecure rural regions like the Horn of Africa. Here, the Netherlands is supporting the resilience of food systems. Through technical support, like improved post-harvest handling and storage, feed and seed systems, and assistance on issues like land rights, making populations more resilient to shocks.

But we’re also working in cities. Since 2011 the Netherlands has been collaborating with the city of Beira, a port in Mozambique which is prone to flooding. We support Beira in pursuing climate-resilient development, helping to protect its people against rising sea levels.

Ultimately, however, prevention is our goal. And yet, prevention is complex. It requires not only multiple actors and interventions, but also political will.

Here, objective knowledge is key. And so is coordination and capacity, including by international bodies like the UN. Such institutions need the capacity to include climate-related security risks in relevant reports and briefings. We welcome the first steps that have been taken in this regard. New staff capacity has been created within UNDP, UN Environment and the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA).

This is an encouraging first step towards the establishment of an institutional home for climate-related security, as has been proposed.

Ladies and gentlemen, I promised to keep it short, and promises must be kept.

This event was an important one. It marked the culmination of this series of Planetary Security Conferences. We are now entering a new phase. A phase of concrete, doable actions.

Now it is up to all of us here in this room to move forward. The Netherlands is committed to doing its part, and actively working to reduce climate-related security risks.

So let me now conclude with a message to you all:

Let’s continue to use this Planetary Security Network in the future.

Keep building on what we’ve achieved.

And keep sharing our knowledge and expertise.

Together we can tackle complex climate-security risks.

Thank you.