Toespraak minister-president Rutte bij de 6e Malaysia-Netherlands Water Dialogue, Kuala Lumpur, Maleisië

Als onderdeel van een 3-daags bezoek aan Maleisië en Vietnam hield minister-president Rutte op 1 november 2023 een toespraak tijdens de 6e Malaysia-Netherlands Water Dialogue. De speech is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Minister Nik Nazmi,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I’m honoured to be taking part in the sixth Malaysia-Netherlands Water Dialogue. It’s a great pleasure to return to this beautiful, vibrant city.

Earlier today I got a bird’s eye view from the KL Tower. And once again I was impressed. Impressed by the skyline. Impressed by the buzz and energy of the city below. Impressed by Malaysia’s rapid economic development.

But when you’re up there, high in the sky, you can see how vulnerable the city is to flooding. Like so many cities and regions around the world. Not least the Netherlands. Because a large part of our country is below sea level.

And  that, ladies and gentlemen, brings me straight to the theme of this conference.

Water unites us all. It’s the source of all life. It’s the softest of things.

But sometimes it’s 1 of the most powerful and devastating forces of nature. Flooding is a natural phenomenon that can cripple economies, destroy livelihoods and even take lives. And as sea levels rise and extreme weather events become more frequent, we need to adapt. To protect ourselves from the effects of climate change. We need to keep working together on this. Helping each other. Learning from each other. Maintaining our dialogue.

In December 2021 Malaysia was hit by major floods. The Netherlands was glad to help, and deployed a team of experts to Malaysia.

The Dutch Disaster Risk Reduction and Surge Support Programme aims to prevent and reduce the impact of water and climate-related disasters worldwide. Sharing knowledge, technical expertise and technology is an essential part of setting up international frameworks for climate resilience and keeping our feet dry in the future.

And believe me, we know from experience what this takes. The Netherlands is a low-lying delta. For centuries, we’ve been largely successful in managing flood risks with dikes, dams and innovative techniques.

A devastating flood in 1953 led to the iconic Delta Works project, which has kept the southwest of our country safe ever since.

Another project that captured the world’s imagination is the Maeslantkering. This is a storm surge barrier that protects one of the Netherlands’ most densely populated areas against flooding, including the city and port of Rotterdam.

All this engineering innovation has attracted the attention of countless water experts and leaders from abroad. So it’s no coincidence that the world looks to the Netherlands when it comes to climate adaption through water management.

‘We admire how Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur are improving their flood resilience. The SMART Tunnel is a key feature of those efforts. To us in the Netherlands, a tunnel that channels flood waters past the city centre is a real feat of engineering.’

Conversely, we’re always keen to learn from others. We admire how Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur are improving their flood resilience. The SMART Tunnel is a key feature of those efforts. To us in the Netherlands, a tunnel that channels flood waters past the city centre is a real feat of engineering.

But as we all know, building more steel and concrete infrastructure may not be enough in the long term.
We’re learning that green infrastructure and nature-based solutions are often more resilient, flexible and reversible than traditional methods.


It’s taken the Netherlands many years to change our approach, giving room to water and building with nature, as we say. I’m pleased to learn that Malaysia is also looking at preventive measures, incorporating nature-based approaches to climate adaptation and flood management. Protecting the environment and ecosystems is fundamental to climate resilient cities.

So, ladies and gentlemen, it would be an understatement to say that there’s a lot we can learn from each other.

In March this year, the world came together in New York for the first major UN Water Conference in almost 50 years. The conference, co-hosted by the Netherlands and Tajikistan, resulted in the Water Action Agenda, aimed at getting the world on track to meet Sustainable Development Goal number 6.

So far, more than 800 voluntary commitments have been generated by various countries. Now it’s important to capitalise on the momentum of the UN Water Conference and ensure that those commitments are met.

Minister Nazmi, I appreciate that, in your statement in New York, you mentioned that our two countries have been holding this annual Water Dialogue since 2018. We’re pleased to be involved in your efforts to achieve your own Water Action Agenda goals.You can count on our continued commitment.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This Water Dialogue is a key platform for sharing ideas and best practices, and learning from each other.
Some prominent Dutch experts have already presented several highlights from the Netherlands. I’m proud of the water partnerships between Malaysian and Dutch knowledge institutions, consultancy firms and water companies. And I’m sure this sixth Malaysia-Netherlands Water Dialogue will only add to what has already been achieved.


I wish you all a productive and inspiring dialogue.

Thank you.