The role of the science-policy-society interface in Delta Governance

On the 22nd of September an expert meeting takes place in Rotterdam with the purpose of stimulating a critical reflection on delta governance. Wageningen University and Research Centre, UNESCO-IHE, The Hague Institute for Global Justice and the Netherlands National UNESCO Commission organize the meeting in the ‘back to back’ sessions of the international conference Deltas in Times of Climate Change.

Densely populated

Internationally, there is growing attention and interest for delta regions, in particular considering the interaction between humans and their ecological environment. Delta regions, harboring more than 80% of the world’s population, are under increasing pressure because of populations growth, economic development and climate change. As such, basic needs such as food, water, health, and shelter are in danger. Hence, delta regions pose important challenges for the post-2015 development agenda of the United Nations, in particular for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Governance is an important part of Delta dynamics. Ecological or technical changes may trigger governance responses, and vice versa, changes in the governance may alter the sustainability of the system.

About half of Egypt’s 80 million people live in the Nile Delta region.

Designing more sustainable and equitable policies based on solid scientific ground to respond to the needs of societies and people lies at the centre of UNESCO’s scientific mandate. “Our future depends on the relation we build between science and policy”, said Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, at the launch of the UN Scientific Advisory Board in January 2014.

Science – policy – society

From a UNESCO perspective, the interface formed by the triangle ‘science – policy – society’ is a crucial component of delta governance. Co-creation refers to the processes in which scientist, policymakers and civil society actors  jointly seek  the best way of understanding and guiding complex change processes.

Long-term water partnerships

The Netherlands water sector (including government , private sector, knowledge institutes and civil society organizations), has been very active in recent years in promoting and implementing the Dutch expertise on ‘delta governance’  in delta regions worldwide. This has been done, amongst others, by developing long-term water partnerships with Jakarta, the Mekong, the Ganges/ Brahmaputra, the Incomati, the Zambezi, the Nile and Mississippi deltas. These partnerships often entail the development of a Delta Plan, e.g. Mekong Delta Plan or Bangladesh Delta Plan. At the same time, governments and other stakeholders in the Netherlands are developing and implementing the Dutch `Delta Programme’, which aims to identify vulnerabilities and opportunities, and to develop a water management strategy that prepares The Netherlands for potential future changes.

Best practices

These national and international activities together provide a wealth of experiences and useful lessons learnt in both the approaches of delta governance, the process of co-creation and the role of the Netherlands water sector. By bringing together a community of practices and presenting five concrete delta stories, the organizers intend to favor an (eye)open(ing) discussion on delta governance, the science-policy interface and the deployment of the Dutch expertise. This workshop is the first step of a reflection that may result in recommendations for informing or improving delta governance arrangements yet to be developed.


- Programme for the workshop 'Learning from dealing with dynamic deltas