Speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the opening of the Colombian-Dutch Dialogue on water, transport and logistics, Bogotá
Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen,
It's great to be here in Bogotá, a city that's more than 2,600 metres above sea level.
Most of you take this for granted, but for me the thin air takes some getting used to.
After all, the Netherlands is a famously flat country.
Our highest peak is only 322 metres.
We're so bold as to call this little hill a 'mountain', but being here makes me realise how ridiculous that is.
Actually, the part of the Netherlands I come from lies almost entirely below sea level.
As does a quarter of the country, in fact.
If we hadn't invented an ingenious flood-protection system of dikes, dams, sluices and locks, a lot of the Netherlands would be under water.
So I'm not exaggerating when I say that water management has been a matter of life and death throughout our history.
It's in our DNA.
Ever since the Middle Ages we've known that working together is the only way to keep our feet dry.
And a devastating flood in 1953, which claimed more than eighteen hundred lives, taught us the hard way that long-term safety is not about tackling the previous disaster, but about preventing the next.
Today, in our national Delta Programme, we combine scientific knowledge and technical know-how with long-term financing policies.
Policies aimed at protecting our low-lying country against the destructive force of water.
In this way, the Netherlands has turned a threat into an opportunity.
Because our integrated approach to water management and logistics has become our unique selling point.
Our strategic coastal location makes us the gateway to an enormous continent.
The Port of Rotterdam - the largest port in Europe - and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol are world-class hubs where flows of goods and passengers converge.
And thanks to our outstanding infrastructure, these flows can then fan out all over Europe via road, rail, air, and water.
We're keen to share our expertise in this area with others.
That's something we've been doing for a long time, as illustrated by the Dutch engineer Willem Brandsma.
Way back in the nineteenth century, he developed a plan to position locks in the Canal del Dique, which connects the Magdalena River to the port of Cartagena.
The aim was to prevent the bay of Cartagena from being repeatedly blocked by sediment brought in by the river.
Back then, financial problems meant the plan couldn't be carried out.
But today, people are working hard once again to achieve that original goal.
And once again there are Dutch experts involved.
This time around, a team from the Dutch engineering firm Royal HaskoningDHV is working to ensure that the canal remains accessible.
And their blueprint is the great complex of locks in the heart of the Dutch river region, named after our former Queen, Beatrix.
And that's only one example of how Dutch expertise can contribute to specific solutions, not only here in Colombia, but all over the world.
I understand the Colombian government recently presented an ambitious new National Development Plan.
The aim is to make great strides forward in the field of infrastructure and logistics.
As a Dutchman, I find that really exciting, because the challenges our two countries face in those areas are the same.
Take port development, linking cities with ports, coastal protection and integrated water resources management.
These are crucial themes for both our countries.
And an integrated approach to water management and logistics is the key to success.
So let us join forces and support each other where we can.
Our countries may be very different in terms of their altitude.
But when it comes to water, logistics and transport, we truly stand shoulder to shoulder.
Ladies and gentlemen, I'll finish up, because we have a lot to get through.
Let's make this a successful conference!