By August Zeidman and Virginie Peccoud.
On Thursday 29 April from 15:00 to 16:30 IHE Delft Institute for Water Education and Diplomat Magazine organized an Ambassadors’ Briefing on International Knowledge Sharing for Development. The theme of this meeting was to tackle water related challenges affecting a large number of countries in the world by developing capacity and sharing knowledge on the topic.
Firstly, Dr. Mayelinne de Lara, publisher at Diplomat Magazine, welcomed the ambassadors. Then, Professor Eddy Moors, Rector of IHE Delft, introduced the institution and its capacity development programs to address water challenges. IHE Delft has been providing practical education and training to water professionals for more than 60 years and is the most international Dutch University in terms of both the staff and students.
Professor Moors and Mr. Johan Aad van Dijk, Business Director of IHE Delft, highlighted the need for water expertise in a world increasingly threatened by risks of resource depletion exacerbated by climate change. By 2050, many regions will evolve from a situation of no water scarcity or water scarcity to severe water scarcity, which will have severe negative consequences, namely water quality, and on food systems.
They highlighted the fact that water is crucial and is at the heart of almost every Sustainable Development Goals (SDG); for instance SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 3 (good health and well being), SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) but also SDGs 14 and 15 (life below water and life on land). Improving capacity development in people and in institutions is an accelerator of sustainable development and it was the aim of this meeting.
To reach this goal there are two possibilities; the first one is to help countries to identify water and sanitation capacity gaps and to enhance it and the second one is to implement development plans for example by providing training and institutional strengthening. IHE Delft has a crucial role in developing water capacity by providing an alternative and efficient approach to the matter.
Professor Moors and Mr. Aad van Dijk, said that countries can get involved easily by providing a capacity gap assessment of individuals and organisations, selecting training programs for individuals and analysing how to improve institutional capacity. In the Netherlands many governmental institutions have expertise in the water sector and are open for collaboration, for instance the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Furthermore, Professor Moors, also expressed the urgency of water related crises as not only some of the most likely natural disasters which will take place in the future, but as some of the most impactful as well. With alumni all over the world and partnerships with numerous United Nations institutions, the IHE Delft has an important and active role to play in the crisis management which is all too important going forward in not only in disaster relief and management, but also in preemptive action in order to mitigate the future of water shortages.
After the presentation, the floor was opened to discussion with many ambassadors and national representatives making remarks or asking questions. There was great interest from many ambassadors including H.E. Mr. Giorgio Novello, Ambassador of Italy and H.E. Mr. Fernando Grillo, Ambassador of Colombia, as well as others, in organizing greater coordination amongst their respective national graduates of the IHE Delft for the purposes of building a stronger working relationship with the institution, expressing great pride in these individuals so widely spread across the globe.
Other ambassadors mentioned their nations’ own unique national challenges and brought up other circumstances that may complicate any of the many water related challenges being faced today and in the near future. The Ambassador of Egypt, H.E. Mr. Hatem Elsayed Mohamed Kamaleldin discussed some of the challenges relating to water diplomacy and the challenges of fairly sharing global resources, mentioning the example of the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance dam and the contentious diplomacy surrounding the project.
In addition, comments were made by the Ambassador of Uruguay, H.E. Ms. Laura Dupuy Lasserre, Ambassador of Panama, H.E. Ms. Elizabeth Ward Neiman, Ambassador of Morocco, H.E. Mr. Abdelouahab Bellouki, Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago H.E. Mr. Colin Connelly, Ambassador of Costa Rica H.E. Mr. Arnolodo Brenes Castro, Ambassador of Burundi H.E. Mr. Gamaliel Nkurunziza, Ambassador of Azerbaijan H.E. Mr. Fikrat Akhundov, Ambassador of Malta H.E. Mr. Mark Anthony Pace, Ambassador of South Africa H.E. Mr. Vusi Madonsela, Mr. Aizaz Khan Counsellor of the Embassy of Pakistan, Ms. Byonabye Mwesigwa of the Embassy of Uganda, Ms. Ghallia Benziouche Counsellor of the Embassy of Algeria, and Mr. Jose Vieira Counsellor of the Embassy of Brazil.
Almost every country in the world is already or will soon be facing challenges of water scarcity and quality making the work of IHE Delft all the more important. The University already collaborates with many national institutions across the globe, with projects in South Africa and Cuba being among those mentioned during the event, but many more as well and is always interested in expanding their portfolio of partnerships for a changing world.
At the conclusion of the event, many ambassadors requested direct meetings with Rector Moors in order to facilitate opening greater dialogues between their national institutions and the IHE Delft in hopes of spawning further collaboration between the University and its many partners. These were met with enthusiasm, and the embassies in attendance were encouraged to make contact and organize bilateral meetings for mutual benefit.