August 22, 2017

The Hague Roundtable on Climate & Security

On the picture, Roundtable hosted by the Embassy of Australia. April 2017.

The Roundtables are an ongoing initiative started in 2015 – created and organized by Matt Luna of the Institute for Environmental Security.

The overall goal is to get different countries and stakeholders to share information and strategies (including initiating new strategies) on addressing climate risks to natural resource availability, food security, migration, disaster response, and stability of fragile states.

The Roundtables are also an opportunity for local dialogue with a global reach to support international climate and security initiatives such as the Planetary Security Conference and the UN COP meetings.

International cooperation on water-related climate change impacts was the theme of the fifth Hague Roundtable on Climate & Security. More than 40 representatives of embassies and non-governmental institutes shared strategies on key water issues at the meeting hosted by the Ambassador of Australia to the Netherlands, H.E. Dr Brett Mason. Threats and opportunities were examined from various perspectives with the aim of building capacities to address challenges such as sea level rise, climate induced immigration, droughts, natural disasters and water-related conflicts.

Roundtable hosted by the Embassy of Canada. October 2016.

Admiral Chris Barrie (ret.) of the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change (GMACCC)  provided insights on climate/water adaptation actions vs. needs by Skype from Australia. Admiral Barrie pointed out needed planning for potential large-scale regional migration due to sea level rise, while noting the EU’s global role in climate and security.

In presentations, Mr. Jan Busstra, Head of Unit on Water Policy at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, opened an information exchange on initiatives such as the UN/World Bank High Level Panel on Water that comprises 11 Heads of State. It was stated that local actions of ‘informal structures’ (like the Roundtable) can support positive outcomes within ‘formal structures’ such as global programmes and conferences. Also, representatives from Deltares highlighted multi-stakeholder programmes of the institute on water resource security and conflict, as well as specifics on ground water engineering for fresh water and related adaptation in small island states.

H.E. Petar Vico, Ambassador of Serbia, Mr Istiaque Ahmed, First Secretary, Embassy of Bangladesh Mr. Abdelkader Abidine, Deputy Ambassador of Morocco; Mr. Bechir Langar, Deputy Ambassador of Tunisia; and Ms. Indra McCormick, Deputy Ambassador of Australia.

For additional pictures, please open the following link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/121611753@N07/albums/72157684900168991

A Planetary Security Initiative update provided a preview of action focus in areas including Mali, Lake Chad and Iraq at the December 2017 conference.  Ongoing programmes from COP 22 Marrakech and the 2017 COP 23 – being organised by Fiji in Bonn, Germany – were mentioned as opportunities to carry forward ideas developed at the Roundtable. The success of the recent SunGlacier solar-powered water generation mission in Mali and year-one progress of the Microbial Desalination (MIDES) project for lower energy desalination were featured innovation updates.

Roundtable participants shared information in presentations and in open discussions with the goal of building opportunities for regional and international cooperation. Initiatives including water diplomacy, disaster response, water management technology, and broadening the climate humanitarian role of military units were examined as potential areas of joint efforts. Multi-stakeholder actions for peaceful climate adaptation are increasingly needed to meet emerging risks.

H.E. Dr Brett Mason, Ambassador of Australia leading the table.

Roundtable participants at the Residence of the Australian Ambassador in The Hague :

Among the countries represented were Australia, Bangladesh, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Serbia, Sudan, Tunisia, the United States.

Organizations represented: Asser Institute; Civil Military Interaction Command, Royal Netherlands Army; Ranger Campus; Clingendael Institute, Deltares; Diplomat Magazine; Hague Centre for Strategic Studies; IHE Delft Institute for Water Education; Institute for Environmental Security; International Water Association; Leiden University/the International Centre for Counterterrorism (ICCT); World Resources Institute.

From left: Dr. Nagi Iskander Awad Masoud Agricultural Attaché, Embassy of Sudan; Mr. Wouter Veening, Chairman/President of the Institute for Environmental Security; Ms. Indra McCormick, Deputy Ambassador of Australia; and Mr Istiaque Ahmed, First Secretary, Embassy of Bangladesh.

Moderators:
Matt Luna and Wouter Veening, Institute for Environmental Security

The Australian Ambassador, H.E. Dr Brett Mason explained:

“The unifying theme of today’s Roundtable discussion is water. In particular, the relationship between
water crises and conflict on the one hand, and good water management and security on the other. In
Australia, water plays an important, indeed defining, role.

We are the driest inhabited continent in the world and prone to highly variable and extreme weather. Flood, drought and fire have long been part of our national story. The expertise and knowledge we have developed in managing water is something we have in common with the Netherlands.

Last November, the Dutch King and Queen visited Brisbane, and launched the Smart Scanner for Water Resilient Cities, an interactive tool to explore the effects of various flood mitigation measures. We also share a commitment to improving water management with a view to ensuring that every person in the world gets access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation.

And, importantly for today’s forum, we share a concern about the risks to peace and security created by a failure to provide functional water supply and sanitation systems, as well as the security risks posed by extreme weather events, including water scarcity.

That’s why Australia’s PM Turnbull has, along with the Netherlands’ PM Rutte, became a member of the UN’s High Level Panel on Water. So far, the focus of our cooperation has been in Myanmar where we are helping to develop a sound water resources management system focused on the Ayeyarwady basin. The Ayeyarwady delta was devastated in the worst natural disaster in Myanmar’s recorded history, cyclone Nargis, in 2008. Early cooperation has been focused on exchange of information and data, and capacity building for local institutions that manage the basin. In the management of shared water resources, systems for sharing hydrological data can be integral for building constructive civilian-government relations – a key building block for peace and security.

When it comes to the impacts of climate change, we know it will primarily affect the water cycle. And the UN has projected that, by 2030, almost half of the world’s population will face severe water stress. The focus for Australia’s work in this area is the Indo-Pacific. In our neighborhood, the security implications of sea-level rise caused by climate change are very real.

We are increasingly sensitive to the need for our development assistance to integrate climate considerations with decade-long time frames that deal with the slow-onset impacts of sea-level rise such as salt water intrusion, inundation and increasingly severe floods. With our support, our vulnerable neighbours are undertaking sea-level rise modelling and long-term economic and development planning.

As well as factoring slow-onset impacts into our development assistance, we are also helping our neighbours address acute climate impacts. We have invested heavily in climate resilience across the Pacific where, together with partner governments, we are working to climate-proof new investments and to strengthen disaster risk reduction, preparedness and response.

Mr Istiaque Ahmed, First Secretary, Embassy of Bangladesh; and on right is Mr. Abdelkader Abidine, Deputy Ambassador of Morocco.

The relationship between security and climate change is complex to understand, and complex to address. But this cannot be an excuse for inaction. Australia is focused on doing what we can – together with those around this table working on analysis, policies, research, implementation, funding and advocacy – before it is too late.”

Istiaque Ahmed, First Secretary,  from the Embassy of Bangladesh highlighted the vulnerability of his country to the climate change pointing out that Bangladesh is hardly responsible for the cause. He  reiterated Bangladesh’s strong commitment to the mitigation and adaptation. Mr. Ahmed informed the meeting about the water conference in Bangladesh hosted at the end of July. He thanked the Institute for Environmental security for organizing the event.

 

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For more information on joining The Hague Roundtable initiative, contact Matt Luna, Roundtable creator and organiser at mluna@envirosecurity.org

(Photos by Jurga Martinavičienė, IES Researcher)

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