New Policy Brief on Adaptive Delta Governance

The Hague Institute for Global Justice has published a new policy brief on adaptive delta governance. Based on an analysis of the governance challenges in three deltas, this policy brief provides recommendations for improving delta governance.

In deltas, humans interact constantly and intensively in rapidly growing numbers with their ecological environment against a backdrop of increasing climate change impacts. How do governance systems, as a nexus of science, policy and society, cope with uncertainties and complexity in the socio-ecological system in different deltas? 

Fishermen unloading their catch to the local fish market in the Mekong Delta.

Key lessons

The policy brief reflects on key lessons learned and the way forward in three deltas: the Rhine-Meuse in the Netherlands, the Mekong in Vietnam, and the Sacramento–San Joaquin River in the United States. For each delta, two questions were asked: what the key governance challenges are and how these challenges are addressed. The desk-based analysis is corroborated with a wealth of information provided by the speakers and participants at the workshop Learning from Dealing with Dynamic Deltas, organized by the Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO, The Hague Institute for Global Justice, UNESCO-IHE, and Wageningen University on September 22, 2014, in Rotterdam, as a back-to-back event with the international conference Deltas in Times of Climate Change.

Adaptive capacity

The impacts of climate change are visible in all three cases, much like all low-lying areas of the world. At the same time, scientists and other stakeholders disagree over future climate change scenarios and possible mitigation and adaptation strategies. The authors identified a trend towards a more holistic approach in the plans of all three deltas studied and the inclusion of increasing the adaptive capacity of the socio-ecological system of the deltas. Increasing the capacity of systems to adapt is key to responding to climatic changes: both natural and social systems with high adaptive capacities can retain their integrity under a broader range of conditions better than systems with low adaptive capacities.


The policy brief provides three broad sets of recommendations for improving delta governance targeted at practitioners, policymakers, and researchers working on climate change, environmental policy, politics, and governance. The recommendations focus on dealing with the uncertainties of the impacts of climate change, on closing the innovation gap between science, policy and society, and on facilitating effective stakeholder participation, learning and integration.

Source: The Hague Institute for Global Justice



(Foto: CC / Sergiu Bacioiu)

UNESCO stelt zich ten doel duurzame oplossingen te realiseren voor watergerelateerde problemen die veroorzaakt worden door klimaatverandering. De Commissie draagt hieraan bij door met een reeks activiteiten de visie op watervraagstukken te verbreden van vooral techn(olog)isch en natuurwetenschappelijk naar sociaalwetenschappelijk en maatschappelijk perspectief.

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