The Netherlands puts water centre stage at the UN on World Water Day

The role of water in conflicts is often underestimated. It is this urgent message that Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag will aim to drive home at the United Nations Security Council on World Water Day on Thursday. ‘Water scarcity or, conversely, a surplus of water not only threatens local populations directly, but can also trigger violent conflict and migration flows,’ Ms Kaag explains. ‘Identifying the underlying causes of conflict and developing solutions can prevent so much human suffering. This issue needs to be addressed in a timely manner and brought to the attention of the UN Security Council, as the leading international body for peace and security. Dutch expertise could play an important role in finding solutions.’

During the Netherlands’ chairmanship of the Security Council this month, several neglected themes have been put high on the international agenda, with conflict prevention as one priority. To illustrate the interplay between water and security, Ms Kaag will brief the Security Council on the situation in the Lake Chad region, comprising Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria. Since 1950 the lake has shrunk significantly, which has had enormous consequences for food supplies and living conditions for 20 million people. The situation has worsened social and ethnic tensions, which are exploited by violent extremist groups. ‘The situation around Lake Chad is an example of a conflict where only an approach that combines security and development can bring lasting stability,’ the minister says. ‘Dutch expertise can contribute substantially to such an approach.’ Besides the 15 members of the UN Security Council, the briefing will be attended by the four countries mentioned above.

Waterlicht

Water has led to many Dutch innovations, but it is also a source of creative inspiration. On Thursday evening, Ms Kaag and representatives of various Dutch water companies will be present at the showing of Waterlicht, an artwork by Daan Roosegaarde on the premises of the UN Headquarters. Waterlicht demonstrates the power and impact of water, immersing visitors in a virtual flood that shows how much water levels could rise if people don’t take action. In 2012 Hurricane Sandy revealed how vulnerable society is, even a metropolis like New York, against the power of water. ‘Many of the world’s leading companies and knowledge institutions in the areas of water and water management are Dutch,’ Ms Kaag says. ‘They’ve proven their worth in New York and elsewhere. The Netherlands is always ready to provide support and expertise. Not only in the wake of natural disasters, but ­– equally importantly ­– to prevent them from happening.’