Speech by His Majesty King Willem-Alexander on the occasion of the Dutch national day at Expo 2020 Dubai

Highnesses, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

First of all allow me to wish you a happy Flag Day on this third of November.

It’s a fascinating experience for my wife and me to be visiting the United Arab Emirates again. Almost 10 years ago, we accompanied my mother on her state visit to your country. Returning has been like stepping into the future. 

A decade has passed, but looking at all the spectacular developments that have taken place, one might think it had been a quarter of a century.

I’m pleased that Expo 2020 is finally happening. The Middle East’s first world exhibition! Everyone who played a part in its organisation deserves great praise. 

Dutch businesses, researchers, designers and officials have been looking forward to this Expo eagerly.

Why, you might ask.
After all, at first glance the Netherlands and the Emirates seem worlds apart.
A cold, wet country on the North Sea and a hot, dry Gulf State. What could they possibly have in common? 

A great deal, in fact, as this Expo shows. We face the same problems, as fellow travellers on a challenging path to the future.

Both our countries are reaching certain limits, and are on the brink of an unavoidable transformation. 
The ideas, methods and growth strategies that helped us achieve greatness and prosperity in the past are no longer fit for purpose. They don’t offer solutions to the major challenges of our time: tackling climate change and pollution, ensuring water security and food security and moving towards an energy supply that won’t exhaust our earth. 

To give but one example: as you are aware, ground water levels here are falling by one-and-a-half metres each year due to irrigation. An untenable situation.

In the Netherlands, too, growth is no longer a given, because Mother Nature has put on the brakes.

If we want to take the next steps in our development, we’ll need a different approach. Smarter, with less waste, more cohesion and more collaboration.

No one has all the answers. But the Netherlands is among the pioneers exploring new terrain step by step. And we’re proud to share our discoveries at Expo 2020 Dubai.

We’ve selected three themes that are crucial in every person’s life: water, energy and food. 

And we’re not treating them as three separate issues with separate solutions. They are organically connected. And we believe that this is the essence of the new circular economy: thinking in connections.

We’ve encountered that same way of thinking here in your country.

I saw a great example only this morning: strawberries, tomatoes and lettuce growing in the middle of the Abu Dhabi desert. Water, energy and food in almost perfect symbiosis. 

Pure Harvest is the name of the company. I saw high-tech greenhouses, that run on solar power. Water use is hyper-efficient, so hardly a drop is wasted. Fresh and healthy home-grown produce all year round. That’s pretty amazing in a country that currently imports 90 per cent of its food.

The Netherlands is proud to have been able to contribute to this success. 

Our businesses and researchers worked on the project and are still closely involved. Several of them are present here at Expo 2020.

Earlier today my wife and I had the opportunity to admire the Netherlands Pavilion. I invite you all to explore it yourselves. It’s not so much an exhibition space as a living ecosystem. A biotope in which food is produced, water harvested and electricity generated.
So, if you want to see a vertical farm with your own eyes, find out how water is distilled from desert air, or see organic solar panels in action, visit the Netherlands Pavilion. 

Dutch knowledge and know-how are as relevant in the desert as they are in the Dutch delta. So we’re keen to continue working with you all closely.

Ladies and gentlemen, from here I can see our host country’s pavilion, which is shaped like a falcon. 

It features a quote by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first President of the United Arab Emirates.

The message is: ‘Unity is the way to strength, honour and the common good’.

I wish this country, which is celebrating its Golden Jubilee this year, a future filled with strength and honour. I hope it will be a future with fair opportunities for all of the federation’s 10 million inhabitants. A future that centres on working together for the benefit of the common good.

And, finally, I wish you all – participants and visitors alike – an enjoyable and successful Expo 2020 Dubai!

Thank you.