Speech by Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, at the celebration of 45 years of bilateral relations with Vietnam, Hilton Hotel The Hague, 26 March 2018

‘Vietnam and the Netherlands are natural allies. We’re both coastal states, strategically located in river deltas. We’ve achieved a great deal in the last decade in the fields of water management and adaptation to climate change.
One of the highlights is the 2013 Mekong Delta Plan. It’s given us all greater insight into ways of making the delta more resilient.’ That said minister Van Nieuwenhuizen at the meeting with Vietnam celebrating the 45-years of cooperation.

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to the Netherlands! Ms Ngan, I’m delighted that you’re visiting the Netherlands in this special year – marking 45 years of friendship between our countries.
In April 1973 the Netherlands was one of the first Western countries to start diplomatic relations with the young Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
But our contacts go back 400 years. Dutch merchants first set foot in Vietnam in 1601. Some years later one of the merchants was even adopted as son of the king. In those days, a Vietnamese sign of courtesy.

Today, Vietnam and the Netherlands are natural allies.
We both have strong agricultural and maritime sectors.
We’re both coastal states, strategically located in river deltas. Vietnam mainly in the Mekong and Red River Deltas, and the Netherlands in the delta of the Rhine and Maas.
We face similar challenges in terms of climate change, urbanisation, industrialisation and subsidence.
And we’re also exploring new opportunities for sustainable agriculture, port development and economic expansion.

Our relationship is strong and dynamic.
We’ve achieved a great deal in the last decade in the fields of water management and adaptation to climate change.
One of the highlights is the 2013 Mekong Delta Plan.
It’s given us all greater insight into ways of making the delta more resilient.

For instance:
- In the longer term, adjusting to salinity in the coastal zone works better  than fighting it.
- Moving away from triple rice cropping will enable a more sustainable use of water.
- And well-maintained waterways are crucial to smooth goods transport in the delta.

Since 2013, Vietnam has worked hard to implement the Mekong Delta Plan, with the help of development partners and the Netherlands. The World Bank’s loan to Vietnam in 2016 has made significant progress possible.
The Netherlands pays special attention to issues of governance.
Are all stakeholders involved in finding solutions to delta problems? How does government facilitate behavioural change among the inhabitants who are central to its policy?
It’s crucial to raise awareness of the issues among local people. If they’re to adapt working methods, they have to know what needs to change and why. From using less groundwater to pioneering with alternative crops.

This is an interesting time in our relationship.
Last year your prime minister signed Resolution 120 to strengthen the Delta’s sustainable development. It sets out new insights, new objectives and solutions, which will require new strategies and plans for implementation.

Tackling the challenges ahead will demand much of the government and people of Vietnam.
My country is keen to keep working with your country towards a sustainable and prosperous Mekong Delta.
I look forward to sharing our mutual knowledge and expertise. And to visiting your beautiful country myself in the future.
Here’s to the next 45 years of constructive and dynamic relations between our countries!
Thank you.