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Report on the first ‘Force of Water’ conference


The first Force of Water conference took place in Zeeland, the Netherlands, on 31st January – 1st February 2023. Demonstrating the Straits Committee’s commitment to learning from each other, some 50 climate and flooding experts, elected members and officers came together to discuss how Straits Committee regions are tackling water-related challenges in the context of climate change and rising sea levels.

This rich, first exchange saw a long list of challenges being shared and a selection of these will be the focus for more in-depth knowledge exchange in the next two conferences.

With the conference in Zeeland timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the 1953 flood, participants had the honour of taking part in the Netherlands’ national remembrance commemoration at the Flood Museum in the municipality of Schouwen-Duiveland. This very moving ceremony was followed by a public symposium where 500 guests discussed the urgency to act in the face of climate change, and heard testimonies of survivors of the 1953 events, and of the more recent 2021 inland floods in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Elected members from East Flanders, Essex and Kent were privileged to represent the Straits Committee in one of the panels, share filmed testimonies from their areas and give an international perspective on the shared challenges in the Straits in the context of sea level rise and climate change.

The Straits Committee’s visit to Zeeland included a private guided tour of the Flood Museum and an early morning peak at the Oosterschelde storm surge barrier, the jewel in the crown of the Dutch Delta Works. These are some of the world’s most sophisticated sea defences and were conceived in response to the widespread damage and loss of life in 1953. The visit gave a sense of their scale and the justifiable local pride in these extraordinary feats of engineering. 

 For more information

  • A report on the conference and visit by Dr Martin Hurst, Chair of the Southern regional flood and coastal committee, can be seen on LinkedIn
  • The Straits Committee panel session at the flood museum symposium can be seen on the Omroep Zeeland facebook site. The Straits panel discussion begins at 05:48:55; the East Flanders interview and testimony is from 05:50:45; the Essex interview and testimony is from 05:56:59; the Kent interview and testimony is at 06:02:59 https://www.facebook.com/OmroepZeeland/videos/556611629730702
  • Presentations given at the first Force of Water Conference are available to all delegates taking part in the conference.

Follow-up conference in Kent

The second conference will offer the opportunity to discuss more in-depth the identified challenges and to further strengthen the network on the 4th and 5th July in Kent, UK. The event will combine inspiring plenary discussions with break-out workshops where participants will work in smaller groups on peer-reviews and exchange good practices on pre-selected themes as adaption to extremes: heavy rainfall and drought, governance of climate adaptation, awareness of climate change effects and risks for different groups of stakeholders involved. Participants will have the chance to visit recent water-related investments in Kent during a field visit programme and to exchange again views with the elected members of the Straits Committee during the event. 

The aim of the third meeting and closing conference later this year in Zuid-Holland, the Netherlands, will be on the results of the exchange and the opportunities for cooperation

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