A unified #WaterGeneration at the 9th World Water Forum

As key elements of the 9th World Water Forum youth strategy, the General Assembly of the World Youth Parliament for Water and the Youth Space of the 9th World Water Forum allowed young people from all over the world the opportunity to work together to strengthen their capacities on major water-related themes,  to develop strong advocacy messages to present to decision-makers and to unite to bring about the necessary changes that our societies and our planet need to ensure a sustainable and equitable present and future.

10 years ago, during the 6th World Water Forum in Marseille, youth were mobilized for the very first time in a more structured way. Key networks in the water and sanitation sector were created, such as the World Youth Parliament for Water and the Water Youth Network. Over the last decade, youth and water actors have multiplied, at all levels, giving more and more importance to the youth movement for water.

At the World Water Forum in Brasilia (2018), this diverse youth movement was present, but a lack of coordination and synergy affected its outreach and impact. The Senegalese organizers of the 9th World Water Forum thus joined forces with several partners, including the International Secretariat for Water (ISW) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) to develop a youth mobilization strategy to converge ideas and solutions between generations, sectors and countries.

60 young people mobilized during the General Assembly of the World Youth Parliament for Water

Since 2003, the International Water for Secretariat (ISW) has mobilized hundreds of young people from around the world during the General Assemblies of the World Youth Parliament for Water (WYPW). The aim is to advocate for proper integration of young people in the water sector by fostering capacity building and network and leadership skills development.

For the 5th General Assembly, the ISW and the WYPW presented a new format to maximize the impact and the engagement of young people while ensuring the health and safety of all participants. The General Assembly was presented as a bimodal program combining an online event (which took place in March 2021) and in-person activities (March 2022).

In the midst of the pandemic, the 1st part of the GA held virtually, mobilizing more than 600 young people from +50 countries who participated in +40 sessions. To date, this is the largest virtual mobilization of youth for water that has taken place and it was a key moment to identify priority themes and connect new members of the network.

The 2nd part of the WYPW General Assembly was held on the sidelines of the 9th World Water Forum in Toubab Dialaw, Senegal, from 16 to 25 March 2022. Over 370 young professionals applied to take part in this event.

Over 10 days, the group of 60 young professionals selected from 42 countries participated in several training sessions led by key actors of the water sector including the European Union, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Presence Switzerland and Aquafed. The participants also exchanged with key Senegalese actors such as Organization for the Development of the Senegal River (OMVS), the Association of Young Water and Sanitation Professionals of Senegal (AJPEAS) and representatives of the Executive Secretary of the 9th World Water Forum on the key issues faced by the water sector.

Through this General Assembly, the WYPW strengthened the cohesion between the members and allowed participants to gain the necessary tools and knowledge to optimize their presence and influence at the 9th World Water Forum. WYPW representatives took part in many sessions and dialogues during the 9th World Water Forum such as the “The Road to the UN 2023 Water Conference” high-level coordinated by the Netherlands, Tajikistan and Senegal.

The Youth Space: a place for youth engagement and intergenerational partnership  

Presented for the very first time as part of a World Water Forum, the Youth Space aimed to catalyze a youth movement for water, in the sense of a broad, dynamic and connected mobilization of young people around the world, which will take necessary actions at the local, regional and global levels. A movement led by young people, that aims to give youth a voice in the management of water-related challenges through concrete actions and advocacy.

Led by the Executive Secretariat of the 9th World Water Forum, the International Secretariat for Water, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the World Youth Parliament for Water and the Association of Young Water and Sanitation Professionals of Senegal, the Youth Space was entirely created and supported by young people from all over the world.

“Impossible is not youth” – Honourable Marieme Soda, youngest member of the National Assembly of Senegal

Through 23 thematic sessions led by, for and with young people and several networking sessions and intergenerational dialogues with governmental, private sector and NGO representatives, the Youth Space helped catalyze the engagement of young people for a sustainable and inclusive management of water resources.

Several decision-makers expressed their commitment and engagement to the global youth movement for water through their presence in the Youth Space:

  • Mr. Abdoulaye Sene, Executive Secretary of the 9th World Water Forum
  • H.E. Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for Water of the Netherlands
  • H.E. Mrs.  Irène Mingasson, Ambassador of the European Union to Senegal
  • Mr. Christian Frutiger, State Secretary of Switzerland
  • Mr. Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to water and sanitation
  • H.E. Janet Rogan, COP 26 Ambassador to Africa and the Middle East
  • Mr. Iya Touré, Delegate General of Québec in Dakar

As mentioned by H.E. Henk Ovink, “young people need to provoke me and my generation to make sure that we stop doing everything that doesn’t work and start investing and scaling up everything that does work.”  The voice of young people is of paramount importance and the authorities present stressed the need to partner with young people to foster ambition and be the change that the world needs.

“The Youth Space of the 9th World Water Forum was a place of sharing, learning, discovery and networking. I participated in sessions that allowed us to exchange ideas and advocate. This experience proved to me that young people are key actors for water security for peace and development. The sooner young people are involved in decision-making bodies, the sooner we build a better world that benefits all.”

Ben Rachad Sanoussi, Benin

As an expression of the innovation and creativity carried by young people in the sector, art was used to raise-awareness and share key messages in the Youth Space. An artistic mural created by young Senegalese artists and the Swiss Water Partnership Youth presented a collage of several hundred postcards which portrayed the key messages and priorities not only of the youth but of participants of all ages present during the Forum. The Youth Spaces also hosted numerous artistic performances by artists committed to the cause of water, including a slammer, poet and singers. Click here to view the sessions of the Youth Space

Over a hundred young people from more than 15 networks participated in the working sessions of the Youth Space. Building on the work previously done by the World Youth Parliament for Water, 3 key messages to be carried by the youth during the Forum were identified:

  1. The inclusion of young people in decision-making must be the norm, not the exception;
  2. A “Blue Youth Fund” to financially support the action of young people on the ground is created;
  3. Employment opportunities for youth in the water sector are improved and diversified

These messages converge towards a global vision, in which young people, especially the most vulnerable, are better represented in water governance and management and participate meaningfully in addressing the growing water-related risks in a changing climate and strengthening community action through cross-sectoral approaches. These messages and priorities were presented by H.E. Marieme Soda, youth representative of Senegal, and Miss Nita Yuliati, youth representative of Indonesia, during the closing ceremony of the 9th World Water Forum.

Our mission is now to collectively implement these commitments, locally and globally, especially in view of the next United Nations Water Conference in 2023, a key event for the water sector. Several youth representatives stressed the importance of implementing tangible actions to ensure the inclusion of young people in the twelve months leading up to the UN conference and called for the recognition of young people as equal stakeholders and participants in global water governance processes.

The International Secretariat for Water has been working for over 20 years to support the global youth movement for water. With its Youth Strategy #WaterGeneration 2017-2022, ISW aims to mobilize, connect and support the next generation of young water leaders.

Would you like to receive the full report of the Youth Space? Would you like to be informed of upcoming events and key actions of the global youth movement for water towards 2023?