Neeltje Kielen is the new Delegated Representative for Water (DR) at the Netherlands Embassy in Bangladesh. On the 4th of March she’ll make the move to Dhaka, to stay for 3 years. To get to know Neeltje a bit better, we sat down with her to hear about her plans.
‘I’ve always worked in the field of water, for governments and international organizations. My first job was in Punjab, Pakistan. An interesting assignment for a research institute, on the influence of waterlogging and salinity on agricultural production. After working, amongst others, for the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Italy and the Environment Agency in England I’ve been with Rijkswaterstaat for the past fifteen years before joining RVO.’
‘My position in Bangladesh mainly focuses on supporting the Bengal government with executing their Delta Program by providing our support and expertise. After all, the Dutch have been working on our delta since – basically – the Middle Ages. Therefore, our governmental organizations, knowledge institutes and companies have a lot to offer. Now that Bangladesh is predicted to becoming a middle-income country in the next few years it means our relationship with Bangladesh will transform into a more balanced one based on working together in the ‘golden triangle’ of government, knowledge institutes and the private sector.’
‘A large part of my time with Rijkswaterstaat I worked on the Dutch delta program. That experience I’ll be able to use as DR in Bangladesh. When it comes to knowledge, policy, or implementation, process and content always go hand in hand. For example, when I read “It’s our goal to provide millions of people with clean drinking water”, I immediately think: who’s goal is this, how do you want to accomplish this, who gets to participate and who gets to take decisions? Content-based objectives raise process-based questions – and vice versa.’
‘I’m a strategic thinker who likes to analyze complex playing fields. To have an overview, learn the rules, and get to know the players. And then decide which chess piece to move at which time to make sure good interventions are made. However, when I arrive in Dhaka I can’t sit around and only study. Action is also needed. For example, on how we’re going to continue with the currently ending SIDBP-program (Support to the Implementation of the Bangladesh Delta Program).’
‘Adaptive water management is crucial. Social-economic developments go fast, we’re dealing with a climate and ecological crisis: we’re investing in an unknown future. If you do this in adaptive way with short cycles, taking the latest insights and expected developments into account, you can make small but meaningful interventions towards a shared vision. How we can give this form in Bangladesh is something we’ll need to discover together.’