Imad Antoine Ibrahim of the World Youth Parliament for Water (WYPW) reports back on his participation in the World Water Development Report 2021 (WWDR 2021) inception meeting convened by the World Water Assessment Program (UNESCO WWAP) in Perugia on the 19th and the 20th September 2019. The WWDR 2021 kick-off workshop topic was valuing water.
The WWDR is a global report that provides an authoritative, comprehensive assessment of the world’s freshwater resources and recommendations that is produced annually. The content is produced through coordinated efforts by the UN-Water in conjunction with governments, NGOS, and international organizations. The World Youth Parliament for Water (WYPW) had the honour of advocating on behalf of the youth voice during the recent World Water Development Report (WWDR) Workshop. WYPW engagement builds upon WYPW President Lindsey Aldaco-Manner’s consultation for the WWDR 2020 on the topic of Climate.
A Shared Vision for Valuing Water
In 2019, the topic of the report was “Leaving no one behind” and in 2018, the topic of the was “Nature-based Solutions for Water”. After decades of witnessing the lack of awareness over the importance of using water in a sustainable manner, the WWDR 2021 introduces a new approach with a focus on valuing water as a resource.
The topic of valuing water was addressed by numerous United Nations (UN) agencies as well as water organizations and institutes during the meeting that was held in Perugia. The purpose of WWDR workshop was to develop new ideas, examine existing ones and draft a basic table of content for the report. WYPW participated in several presentations and brain storming sessions during the workshop. The process was very interesting as each participating organization came with its own understanding and perception concerning the value of water. As such, this meeting constitutes the first of a series of meetings and brainstorming sessions that will occur for the purpose of agreeing on the general content of the WWDR 2021.
It is important to mention that there was consensus over the importance of valuing water as a resource. Several rounds of negotiations took place where participants discussed how to best value this resource. In fact, the topic of valuing water proved to have strong significance to each organization. While each came with their own identified vision for valuing water, the debate of what to include regarding water’s value proved to elevate the importance of the value of water. Among the many debates that took place, the value of the ecosystem was an important one as well as the economic and intangible value of water. Hence, from the beginning, participants understood that there is a need to balance different water uses and concerns simultaneously while new topics kept emerging such as whether the value of water changes during armed conflicts and whether the utilization of new technologies such as big data and artificial intelligence may alter the value of water.
The 2019 edition of the World Water Development Report
A Collaborative Process
Regarding the report, there was several tentative chapters that were suggested and put in a tentative table of contents where different organizations were given an opportunity to lead a chapter.
WYPW made several inputs and suggestions throughout the collaborative process. For instance, the question of the value of water during armed conflicts and the potential role of emerging technologies were raised by WYPW and received great interest from the event organizers and the participants. The WYPW participated in the debates that were taking place pointing out that several factors must be taken into consideration to provide a value for water: whether water is accessed at the surface or groundwater (WYPW advocated the need to examine its value separately); whether it’s a domestic or transboundary resource.
Including Youth Going Forward
WYPW intends to lend the expertise of its members on water related issues. Indeed, WYPW was invited to provide input the following year on the WWDR 2022 theme of groundwater – an important topic as two thirds of the existing freshwater available to humans is under ground. And, WYPW will continue to support in the dissemination of the results of report to youth that are active in the field.
Moreover, other organizations have expressed their interests in collaborating with the WYPW on matters related to research on water in general, as well as the dissemination of this research by inviting WYPW members to present their work at various conferences in 2020. There was also interests in collaboration from other organizations such as the International Water Resources Association (IWRA) that is organizing the XVII World Water Congress (11-15 May 2020, Daegu, Korea) and would love to have members from the WYPW contributing and presenting their work.
Overall, the WWDR Workshop was a great opportunity for WYPW to provide inputs on a very important issue that shall be the subject of examination by various UN agencies and international organizations in the coming months. It highlighted WYPW involvement and participation in the debates and discussions revolving around water as a resource at the international level showing that the voice of the youth is being taken into consideration and heard.