Speech by the Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment, Melanie Schultz van Haegen, at the Conference on Sustainable Logistics

“When I look at the facts, there is a world to win. Take the fact that the cost of transport in developing countries accounts for about 25-30% of total costs. That alone is shocking. In Western countries it’s about 9%. Let’s do something about thatThat’s why we’re here.” Dat zei de minister vanochtend bij de start van een tweedaagse conferentie over sustainable logistics. Op initiatief van de  Wereldbank en topsector logistiek wordt een programma gestart om duurzame logistiek van de grond te laten komen in ontwikkelingslanden.

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning!

I would first like to welcome the team from the World Bank, Dinalog and everyone else who helped to start this programme.
It’s great to see so many people here, representing so much experience. I know that many of you have travelled far to be here.
I welcome the representatives of the World Bank and my colleagues from Foreign Affairs who are co-hosting this event. I also welcome the academics, practitioners and business leaders from around the world, and – last but not least – representatives of the Bank’s client countries.

This conference is about developing ideas, initiatives and creativity.
We want to bridge the gap between trade facilitation and sustainable logistics so we can promote sustainable economic trade.
We need lots of ideas.

So, let me tell you a story that’s all about ideas and logistics.
It involves a group who were concerned about the one billion people who don’t have access to good roads.
They thought up a plan to build a network of unmanned little electronic helicopters which could be used to transport medicine or food supplies. It’s called Matternet.

The plan may not succeed. I really don’t know.
But that’s not the point.
The point is the motivation behind it: to tackle problems, come up with ideas and launch concrete initiatives.

Three years ago, the logistics community in the Netherlands – which is committed to improving logistics in developing countries – was likewise driven to take action.
Willem Heeren , the chairman of Dinalog, and my staff at the ministry, approached the World Bank about closer cooperation on sustainable logistics. 

Two and a half years on, two departments are involved and a trust fund has been born!
And now here we are, at the start of a practical, concrete programme.
I believe in its mission.

When I look at the facts, there is a world to win.
Take the fact that the cost of transport in developing countries accounts for about 25-30% of total costs. That alone is shocking.
In Western countries it’s about 9%.

Let’s do something about that! That’s why we’re here.
This is the age of networking and sharing knowledge. Connecting Dinalog – the industry organisation for Dutch logistics – and the World Bank and lots of other organisations, countries and institutes is something I believe in.
The World Bank and the Netherlands are no strangers to one another: We were one of the Bank’s first donors and are still one of the larger shareholders. 

Over the years the World Bank and the Netherlands have focused on many of the same themes: from road safety to water safety and water management. From women’s rights to education. From liveable cities to climate change. And from improved healthcare to sustainable development.

Last November I spoke to Jose Luis Irigoyen - the director of Transport, water, Information and Communication technologies - at World Water Week in The Hague.

We found that we have similar portfolios.
Of course, he’s responsible for transport all over the world. I’m only responsible for one small country, but still!

There is a similarity between ‘water’ and ‘logistics’.

My country has fought an ongoing battle with water. So we have a lot of knowledge and experience when it comes to water safety and water infrastructure. And we have a lot of water institutes and companies.

We want to boost other countries’ resilience by sharing our knowledge with them.
And of course we hope to find new economic opportunities for our companies, too.
We have a similar approach to sustainable logistics.

My ministry aims for a high-quality infrastructure network that will keep the Netherlands well-connected domestically as well as internationally.

The Dutch government has invested in 9 economic sectors that are seen as crucial to our economy: they include logistics and agri-food.

Together with the industry, knowledge institutions and regional authorities – many of which are represented here today – we have developed an action plan to maintain the Dutch logistics sector as one of the most efficient and innovative in the world.
Take our seaports and airports. They are far more than places to load and unload goods. They increasingly function as global transport hubs connecting the Netherlands with booming urban regions around the world.

Transport and logistics are at the very heart of our economy. Logistics contributes about 50 billion dollars to our GDP.
But building infrastructure isn’t enough. We need smart solutions.

Look at the worldwide process of urbanisation.
Our cities will expand enormously over the next twenty years. And we can’t solve the urban transport problem by building inner-city motorways.
So we’re encouraging companies to think about smart sustainable solutions. In fact we’ve set up a lean and green programme to get them started. And it’s working!

In Utrecht, for instance, a transport firm circles the city with a big electric truck. It delivers goods at special locations. Small vans powered by green gas then bring them into the city.
What can we learn from this for the international program of sustainable logistics?
I’d like to make two points.

First, companies in a supply chain must work together to succeed. They need to share information to cluster goods and organise efficient transport.

Second, international relationships should be mutually beneficial.
That’s why you see Dutch firms and institutions not only trading, but also investing in our partners and in local companies, sharing knowledge and building local capacity.

Take a company like Transsafe setting up a local operational simulator centre in Paraquay. Or the port of Rotterdam investing in a sister port in Sohar, Oman. Or researchers from Wageningen University running many programmes combatting food loss in Africa and Latin America.

For us, trade and foreign aid are linked. The Dutch minister responsible, Lilianne Ploumen, is based here at the foreign ministry.
As she puts it, ‘Ours is one of the most open countries in the world. We depend on other nations’ development for our own wellbeing and prosperity. Sustainable, inclusive growth is in our own interests and in the interests of others.’
That’s why we like to partner with the World Bank, and vice versa.

It allows us to work with highly skilled and dedicated staff, gives us first-hand access to a wealth of data and knowledge, and enables Dutch researchers and companies to demonstrate their skills and experience. 
For that reason, an initiative that focuses on improving sustainable logistics – particularly for developing nations – has our enthusiastic backing and support.

That’s why Ms Ploumen has given 2.5 million US dollars to this trust fund, and why I and our partner Dinalog invest in technical and capacity support.

We are doing that because, in the end, this conference and this trust fund is not about sustainable logistics.
It’s about stimulating economic trade and fight poverty.
It’s about making the most out of each other’s knowledge and experience.
It’s about your ideas, creativity and initiatives to bridge the gap. Thank you.

Verantwoordelijk ministerie

De Rijksoverheid. Voor Nederland.