The Policy & Practice of Climate Change & Water

4 things to know about the ‘Omnipresent’ youth at the World Water Forum 8!

This guest blog was written by Shabana Abbas of the Water Youth Network.
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Water Youth Network (WYN), one of the leading global networks of young water professionals and students was at the recent 8th World Water Forum in Brasilia. We seized this opportunity to demonstrate the potential of young professionals and the meaningful contributions that they are making or can make in the water world and beyond.

In the words of one of our senior partners in the water sector, ‘We were impressed by the omnipresence of Water Youth Network at the forum and would like to see how we can further strengthen our partnership with them’.

So, here are four things you need to know about youth’s contribution at the forum:

1. Young professionals recognized as active contributors and integral part of the forum:
It was the first time in the history of World Water Forum that Young professionals were recognized as active contributors on different discussion topics and were offered space in the panel discussions as speakers. Thanks to the efforts of the WYN Coordinator for the forum, a large number of session organizers included young professionals from WYN and outside in their sessions.

Our own statistics tell us that young professionals participated in about 20+ sessions as panellists, moderators and as official rapporteurs. Roles in these panels allowed youth to share their knowledge and experience on topics as diverse as, ‘financing resources for rural and peri-urban communities’; ‘multi-stakeholder engagement platforms for achieving SDG 6’; ‘financing multi-purpose infrastructure for sustainable growth’; ‘Integrated solutions for the Arab region’ and others.

In addition, WYN joined forces with IHE Delft, Deltares, Netherlands Water Partnership and others to organize one session and two side events at the forum. One side event was dedicated to the preparation of the next World Water Forum in Senegal, thus, ‘Road to Dakar 2021’ and a second one on ‘Shaping Youth Water Agenda’. We also organized a successful session on ‘Water and Jobs’ in partnership with IHE Delft. The session offered a safe space to young professionals to engage directly with young as well as senior experts from the OECD Water Governance Initiative, IHE Delft, Deltares, Asian Development Bank, PUB Singapore, Rand Water, Suez, Josh’s Water Jobs, Antea Group and Young Professionals from the World Bank.

2. Young people include local voices in global discussions: Young professionals proved that they care about voices of people that do not have access to high level political discussions and processes. WYN alone was able to organize nine satellite events globally before the forum, reaching out to hundreds of citizens, young people & women, students & professionals to bring their ideas and aspirations on a more water-just world to the forum. These satellite events were organized under a solid strategy of the World Water Council’s Youth Delegates Program.

In addition, WYN reached out to University of Brasilia students and engaged them in an interactive master class on different water management experiences. The master class was organized at the campus, together with partners such as University of Twente, VP Delta/TU Delft, Deltares, Akvo Foundation and University of Brasilia’s faculty of Environmental and Water Technology. The Dutch Ambassador to Brazil also joined the session.

3. Youth rally with ‘One’ voice: Young people from diverse backgrounds & countries, different ages, and with various organizational affiliations came together for a two-day ‘Junior Forum’ prior to the official forum. They managed to put together for the first time a ‘Youth Statement’. The statement highlights youth demands for valuing water and investing in capacity building; it stresses investing in innovation programs and seed money and emphasises the need for more inter-generational cooperation. It was presented at the high level ministerial meeting and is part of the official outcomes of the forum. The full statement can be found here.

4. Youth seek Inter-generational cooperation: As we see it, there are not many avenues for young people to directly engage with more senior actors in the water sector. We thought to take the opportunity of being at the forum to enable interaction between the two groups. Young and Senior professionals from GWP, AGWA, Josh’s Water Jobs, Asian Development Bank and International Water Center, Australia, all joined our ‘coffee meet-up’ on one of the mornings of the forum to share their experience and insights with the young professionals. The meet-up was appreciated by all parties and we have received requests to continue such meet-ups at other water events & meetings too.

So...

What do all these contributions and engagements mean?

Space for young people has been created and secured. Now it is up to us to show what we can do and why organizations should continue trusting us and value our inputs. Don’t be shy to ask for your space! We bring innovative ideas, creative ways of collaboration and on top of all knowledge and some level of experience.

We urge all young people to join us in starting a movement in the water sector on #valueyoungpeopleinwater #valueyouthinwater.

If you are a young person (under 35) and would like to contribute towards capacity development of youth in the water sector and would like to enable greater inclusion of youth in accomplishment of SDGs, then get in touch with us. We are looking for good talents like you!

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Check out some selected photos of our activities at the forum here.

For more info on Water Youth Network’s participation at the forum, follow our social media pages (Facebook; Twitter) or visit our website.

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