Netherlands & Panama governments seek our help to further collaboration on water

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The Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte and the President of Panama Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez have sought our advice and assistance to tackle water risks in Panama. Our CEO Jane Madgwick was invited to participate in the lunch meeting hosted by Prime Minister Rutte on bi-lateral cooperation, alongside ministers from both governments.

President Varela and Prime Minister Rutte shaking hands in The Hague, 22 January 2018. Photo by Government of Panama.

President Varela and Prime Minister Rutte meeting in The Hague, 22 January 2018. Photo by Government of Panama.

The state visit by President Varela recognises many common interests between the two countries and aims to identify new opportunities for collaboration on water, trade, and agriculture as well as port and airport expansion. Tocumen Airport in Panama is the hub where Dutch airline KLM connects Europe to the rest of Latin America. High water levels can threaten airport operations. It is protected from the sea by a mangrove belt. Recognising the need for integrated, landscape solutions to reduce flood risks, the General Manager of Tocumen Airport Mr Carlos Duboy requested support from us and the Dutch water sector to enable sustainable, flood resilient expansion.

Our involvement in this meeting is grounded in the success of local Water Dialogues which we facilitated in Panama City, together with the City Mayor and the Dutch Embassy. Through our efforts, local communities, government agencies and private sector companies came together to jointly map out the root causes to the flooding problems in low-lying areas. This resulted in a shared understanding that loss of floodplain wetlands and mangroves had contributed to the increased flooding, and conflicts were turned into collaboration. The action plan for flood risk reduction then included restoring wetlands, other infrastructure measures, and improved regulations.

The Heads of Government and Ministers agreed with Jane on the benefits of our broad stakeholder engagement, and asked her to elaborate on the concept of Building with Nature. She was able to laud the success of the Dutch implementation of Building with Nature, including through Room for the River, where massive investment has reshaped the Dutch river landscape, re-creating floodplains to protect people and properties from floods, while bringing multiple benefits to society.

President Varela and his delegation welcomed our proposals to extend our Building with Nature work, and the two countries may make it a focus of bilateral cooperation. Our presence through our Latin America and the Caribbean regional office in Panama City, combined with our international experience in ecosystem management and in facilitating Public-Private-Partnerships for Building with Nature is complementary to the Dutch water sector and knowledge institutes. One of our Building with Nature partners, the research institute Deltares, was also present in the meeting. We have committed to combining our efforts to follow-up on the lunch dialogue, in Panama.

Bilateral cooperation meeting between Panama and the Netherlands. CEO Jane Madgwick is in the foreground. Photo by Government of Panama.

Our CEO Jane Madgwick is greatly encouraged by the interest of the President and his cabinet to collaborate on extending Building with Nature solutions in Panama and in the wider region. In moving forward these opportunities, we are reassured that we can count on the continuing support of the Dutch Embassy and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management in particular; and that all these efforts now have the blessing of both Prime Minister Rutte and President Varela.