Applied Open Data for Sustainable Development

Published: 18 December 2017

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs initiated the third conference of the Planetary Security Initiative, which took place on December 12-13, 2017 in The Hague. This year the conference focused on moving ‘from analysis to action.’ Approximately 300 people participated, representing governments, NGOs, businesses and community organizations from around the world, especially regions suffering from climate-change related impacts.


The Declaration and outcome of the workshops


The endorsement of The Hague Declaration on Planetary Security with concrete actions was a key outcome of this conference. Deltares was one of the 87 parties that signed the declaration.
Additionally, the fifteen workshops organized within the conference focused on issues related to climate change and security and came with recommendations for actions that can be taken to counter existing and arising problems.


Forecasting water-related disasters in order to act


Deltares organized the workshop on ‘How to forecast water-related disasters in order to act’ and also co-organized the PBL-lead workshop session ‘from Dryland to Cities’.The workshop on forecasting water-related disasters was moderated by Henk Ovink, the Dutch special envoy for international water affairs. He started off by giving the participants a wake-up call: Despite the knowledge and experience in good water management, in which the Dutch often play a role, crises are still occurring. He challenged the group to identify why this is happening, and how businesses and financial institutions can become more involved to work towards solutions. The tendency to only act after a disaster has taken place still prevails. A major topic of the workshop discussion was how to produce the information that can trigger preventive action. In other words: which data and information provide the call-to-action to get things moving?


Need of urgency


The presentations showed that awareness about climate-change related challenges is increasing and a role is seen for early warning systems. The importance of open, accessible and independent data was recognized in order to provide an objective source of information not owned by a specific party in a conflict. Examples from the Sahel and Central America showed how extreme weather events combined with poor governance can erode local livelihoods and lead to conflict and migration.


Sustainable development concepts for peace and security


There are solutions, such as the flood forecasting tool for the Niger Inland Delta, which can support local communities in making important decisions such as which crops to grow or when to cross the water with their cattle. It was emphasized that information can only influence decisions if there is trust and confidence in the source of information and the communicated message. Additionally, governments must have the capacity to understand the complexities of the information and to act accordingly, while also taking into account other factors influencing political choices.


Thinking at different levels and accelerate


Perhaps thinking at a totally different level is required in order to support sustainable development. Few interventions have had as large an impact on sustainable development, as the mobile phone and the availability of microfinancing. These two inventions have empowered individuals and communities and provided possibilities for them to act, to create opportunities and improve their own living conditions. Deltares, in cooperation with others, is eager to develop data tools which provide answers on how can we communicate our warnings and potential solutions at this same level. Data could become the trigger to act.