ADB IHE Delft Knowledge Partnership
Asian Development Bank - IHE Delft

Support to the KCD Delft Symposium


Water security has become an imperative for economic prosperity, environmental sustainability and social inclusion. Climate change, rising demands for water and increasing pollution are leading to ever more insecure water resources, threatening sustainable development. These trends challenge our water resources management and require strong human, organisational and institutional capacity to understand and address them. The five-yearly Delft Symposia on Water Sector Capacity Development at UNESCO-IHE in Delft, The Netherlands, a tradition which started in 1991, has been thus far the only international forum dedicated to the subject. The 5th Delft Symposium on Water Sector Capacity Development took place on 29-31 May 2013 in order to provide a forum for water professionals and managers, development practitioners, policy makers, researchers, and capacity development specialists. In the face of rising challenges for, and mixed experiences with, water sector capacity development, the Symposium addressed who is - or should be - taking the lead in developing capacity development across sectors, disciplines and other boundaries so they can be leveraged to become more effective and efficient. 

Progress to date

The Symposium successfully convened more than 220 delegates from 60 countries. A total of 20 delegates were funded by the ADB to attend and contribute to the Symposium as either keynote speakers, authors of full (peer-reviewed) papers, or session chairs and facilitators. The Symposium itself was attended by a number of senior ADB staff : Wouter T. Lincklaen Arriëns , Lead Water Resources Specialist, as presenter and chair; Naomi Chakwin, Resident Director General of ADB's European Resident Office, who was a panel member during the closing ceremony; Vijay Padmanabhan, Senior Urban Development Specialist, South Asia Department who presented during the session Fostering the adoption and adaptation of innovative solutions for water challenges).

The ADB had been one of five organisations working together to prepare the Symposium. The Symposium Organising Committee consisted of the ADB, UNESCO-IHE, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cap-Net UNDP and Vitens Evides International. The ADB was represented by Wouter T. Lincklaen Arriëns , Lead Water Resources Specialist. The preparation of the Symposium also entailed a variety of input streams and activities to which the ADB contributed:

  • A number of commissioned papers in the form of country case studies on the dynamics of knowledge and capacity development in the water sector according to common Terms of Reference were prepared.  Case studies included Indonesia, Bangladesh, South Sudan, Uganda, and Colombia.
  • 45 papers were accepted that had been selected from 115+ received abstracts in response to a call for abstracts. Both abstracts and full papers were reviewed by a Scientific Committee consisting of 22 international experts.
  • An Expert Meeting on Capacity Development & water-related SDGs (6-7 February 2013) at UNESCO-IHE with the overall objective of challenging the group of 25 international experts to explore how capacity development challenges for sustainably achieving water-related SDGs can be addressed in the post 2015 development agenda. 
  • An Expert Workshop on Knowledge and Capacity Development in the Water Sector that immediately preceded the Symposium (27-28 May 2013), gathering 37 international experts, including 11 from the Asia-Pacific region. The insights of the workshop fed directly into relevant sessions of the Symposium.


A selection of the best papers presented at the Symposium is being published in a special issue on Leadership in Water Sector Knowledge and Capacity Development of the international journal Water Policy (launched at the IWA Development Congress in October 2013). Collectively, the contributions examine knowledge and capacity development in both, the water services and the water resources sub-sectors. In order to be linked well to current local realities, the papers rely on both, academic analyses based on empirical research as well practitioners' accounts based on their professional experience. Together, the papers in the special issue and the insights from the Symposium summarised in the editorial introduction to the special issue present an overview of the current state of the art in knowledge and capacity development in the water sector.