Join our conversation with H.E Hans Sandee, Consul General for the Netherlands in Dubai and the Netherlands Commissioner General, Expo 2020 Dubai as he takes us through his role and what we can expect from the Netherlands Pavilion.
As the Commissioner General for the Netherlands pavilion, could you tell us about your role and duties?
As the Commissioner General for the Netherlands pavilion, I have been selected as a representation of our nation from the Netherlands Ministry. My role primarily includes overseeing the entire project, its functioning, investing time and maintaining relations with the local government authorities and international participants. I also attend the Expo senior management meetings and am the liaison to communicate key informations related to event updates, new rules and regulations, safety and security, programming initiatives, etc. to our Netherlands Expo working group. I also play the role of the main spokesperson for the Netherlands pavilion and convey the story of our fantastic pavilion to the media world and encourage guests to visit our pavilion once the Expo gates open on October 1, 2021.
Do you think that the Netherlands pavilion will encourage people and companies to utilize their food and water more sustainably - what methods are you using to achieve this?
Connecting, discussing, raising awareness and finding feasible solutions to these global challenges is the key to bringing a positive change! And that’s exactly what we intend to do. At the Netherlands pavilion, we are offering a top-notch platform where businesses can meet and connect with various key stakeholders’ and can get involved in many different effective ways. Our pavilion will fascinatingly depict a story of the embodiment between water, energy and food.
In fact, as a stepping stone towards our participation in the Expo, we recently organized our first virtual ‘Digital Trade mission’ in collaboration with prominent officials from UAE and Oman. With more than 400 companies and 550 participants connecting, this event was a successful platform with experts discussing topics from water, energy and food sectors.
During the course of Expo at the pavilion, we will be hosting a range of signature events with our partners that will emphasize the nexus between water, energy and food, importance on creating a circular economy, healthcare advancements and more. Our pavilion offers all the facilities including a business lounge and an auditorium to host board meetings, distributor meeting, seminars, conferences and network events. Besides that, there will also be options to organize hybrid events with virtual platforms and live events simultaneously.
We view the Dutch participation as a regional project in a global context in which you want to partner with other countries to share knowledge, expertise and solutions. Why?
Countries in this region are large-scale consumers of water and energy, and import most of their food. The rest of the world also faces major challenges with regard to the sustainable use of water, energy and food. The Gulf states are increasingly aware that things have to change, and have high ambitions in this regard. To achieve these goals, there is a necessity for a lot of knowledge and experience.
The positive fact is that, the Netherlands is an important global player when it comes to food security, water management and renewable energy and we are the coherent partner for addressing the global challenges that we face. In order to be able to provide the growing world population (projected to be almost 10 billion in 2050) with food, energy and clean water, we have to find smart and sustainable solutions. Dutch companies, knowledge institutions and civil society organizations have a great deal of experience and know-how in these areas and can play a major role in meeting these challenges. Expo 2020 is the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East with many countries from around the world participating. With our presence, the Netherlands aims to connect and strengthen partnership with relevant stakeholders locally, regionally and globally.
What inspired your theme ‘Uniting water, energy and food’, and how significant is this in the mission of creating a more sustainable future?
That came about in close consultation with all our stakeholders: the private sector, knowledge institutions and municipalities. This elaborate process led to the theme ‘Uniting water, energy, food’, honoring the thought process and leadership the Netherlands has historically had in these fields. We are very proud of the current design by the Dutch architects of V8 Architects. It is truly a Dutch design that incorporates Dutch innovations, developed by startups and reflects the Dutch values of openness, inventiveness and inclusion. By tendering the pavilion under a ‘Design, Build, Maintain and Deconstruct’ (DBMD) contract, we adopted a forward-looking and sustainable approach to building our pavilion.
The pavilion has a massive 19m green food cone known as the ‘Biotope’ as the center of attraction. The vertical farm is covered with edible plants and irrigated with the harvested water from the air using innovative Dutch technologies. Even our art programmes by the Dutch artists are aesthetically designed to create an intense sensory experience for the visitors. Possessing a naturally controlled climate, the pavilion’s structure is constructed using locally sourced materials that will be recycled after Expo period, minimizing its ecological footprint.
What hopes do you have in regards to long term (& immediate) achievements and impacts of the Netherlands Pavilion?
Collaboration is something that occurs naturally in the Netherlands, and it shows now. In fact, in times of current COVID crisis, we still continue our efforts in raising awareness in all possible ways.
This is exactly the key point of our participation in Expo 2020 with the theme: “Connecting minds, creating the future”. We want to share this inspiring #dutchinnovativesolutions with the entire world to show what a small country can do to bring a change for a better world. The Netherlands is a great partner to work with for sustainability initiatives and we highly promote creating awareness on the interlinkage between vital natural resources -water, energy, food through our expertise, knowledge and technological advancements.
What would you consider as the most ambitious project in the Netherlands Pavilion?
Our pavilion is truly a Dutch design that incorporates home-grown innovations from both our corporates and startups. It also reflects the Dutch values of being open-minded and creative. Within the pavilion, we have created a balance of all innovations that relates to the three focus sectors. In fact, the Netherlands Pavilion was designed with circularity in mind, right from the outset. This means that we’ve been able to incorporate several smart, state-of-the-art technological innovations into the climate system and will be showcasing the connection between water, energy and food.
The pavilion will be brimming with sustainable solutions; for example, the living biotope will have a cooling system in the cone’s chimney that helps in controlling the temperature and the moisture in the air required for growing oyster mushrooms on the cone. As part of the water production system, a machine on the roof captures humidity from the air outside to help produce water 800 liters of water per day. Water is also purified using a distinctive, innovative method. In addition, renewable energy is produced using conventional solar panels and transparent solar cells that allow natural light to enter the pavilion and stimulate the growth of the plants on the cone. And there is still so much more in the offering!
Has the Covid pandemic posed as a challenge-or opportunity for the Netherlands Pavilion? How did you overcome or embrace these?
As you must be well aware, the pandemic has had enormous impact worldwide. We were also forced to take a step back and analyze the situation. Together with the other member states of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), we voted to postpone Expo 2020 Dubai, which enabled participating countries and companies to focus on tackling COVID-19 and the pandemic’s social and economic fallout.
Fortunately, during the postponement period we had full commitment from the Dutch businesses and organizations involved, as well as the Dutch Dubai partners. Together, they reflect undiminished enthusiasm for Expo. We also had new additions to our Expo Champions who inspire and inform Dutch companies about the opportunities that the Gulf region and Expo 2020 has to offer.
1st March 2021, marked an important milestone as we resumed the final stages of construction at our pavilion! As it happens, the postponement of the Expo 2020 Dubai has had a positive effect on the achievement of our sustainability goals.