Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment
Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment

Shahnoor Hasan

Date: 24 June 2021
Time: 16:00 - 18:00
Location: UvA

Dissertation title: 

Making Waves: Reimagining Policy Transfer in the Context of Development Cooperation

Group: IHE Delft, Water Governance
Promotor: Prof. dr. Margreet Zwarteveen
Co-promotor: dr Jaap Evers


Representatives of the Dutch government usually refer to transfer of Dutch delta planning expertise an example of success of Dutch knowledge elsewhere. Their storyline aligns with theorizations of policy transfer as a process of diffusion. These ascribe the mobility of a policy – or its capacity to travel - to its intrinsic quality. The belief in the quality of the Dutch Delta Approach is anchored in the renowned Dutch ability to deal with its own floods and flood risks. By making the contents of that what travels an important cause of its mobility, diffusion theories make it difficult to see, acknowledge and understand the actions and actors needed to make policy transfer happen. This is why in this thesis we theorize policy transfer as a process of translation. Based on an identification of actors involved in the transfer of the Dutch Delta Approach to Vietnam and Bangladesh, and by re-tracing their actions, we show that the transfer entailed an active process of engagement, negotiation, and contestation. In their attempts to develop a Vietnamese and Bangladeshi version of the Plan, the involved actors made active use of old relations of collaboration and friendship, while also developing new ones. In the course of the transfer process, and because of the negotiations and contestations that it entailed, the delta plan became something else altogether. The thesis concludes that telling the story of the transfer of the Dutch Delta Approach as a story of translation is useful as it allows recognizing and giving credit not just to those who initiated the process, but to all involved. This, we hope, can in turn provide the basis for a more symmetrical dialogue between ‘senders’ and ‘recipients’ in international policy transfers.