New partnership with youth on water and climate

The Netherlands Government, together with our partners IUCN, KWR Water Research Institute and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre have launched the Valuing Water Youth Journey - a Dutch-funded programme to catalyse youth engagement and action on water and climate.

The vision is to fully integrate youth values, initiatives and ideas into water governance and management, so young people can contribute to water and climate resilience and sustainability. Much of the activity in the programme will focus on the global south.

AquaFed will lead a workstream to support career development of young professionals in water, sanitation and climate.

Our aim is to ensure greater understanding from employers about the exciting, innovative, new types of skills and ways of working that young people have. This in turn can ensure career paths in our sector are attractive to the very best young talent, so that we can accelerate progress on SDG6 goals and beyond.

The Valuing Water Youth Journey is one of several ways in which AquaFed is supporting both young professionals and activists around the world, to pursue their careers and have their voices amplified and heard by decision-makers at the highest levels. Our work includes:

• Continuing to support the World Youth Parliament for Water in its advocacy ahead of the UN 2023 Water Conference.

• Providing specific support to the African members of the World Youth Parliament for Water on research and to expand its group on the continent.

• Supporting a collaboration of groups representing youth in water to start a campaign and movement to call for decisive action at the UN 2023 Water Conference.

• Mentoring a young water activist from the DRC.

• Working with Montclair State University (New Jersey, USA) and other partners on a programme to identify and develop partnerships involving young people on local water and climate solutions.

The Valuing Water Youth Journey will focus on three key outcomes: 1: Youth are better equipped to understand and take action on water-related risks in a changing climate, with a wider range of opportunities being created to match their skills. Activities will include the implementation of programmes to equip young people with practical and technical knowledge and skills to strengthen their participation and collaboration with institutions responsible for water governance and management.

2: Local youth action to address water-related challenges in a changing climate are formally recognised and implemented as part of official planning and program delivery. Activities will include supporting young people in implementing local initiatives, convening youth advocacy groups and integrating young people in the roll-out of water projects.

3: Youth contribution to local, regional and global water governance and management-related dialogues is the norm, not the exception. Activities will include the creation of intergenerational dialogues for knowledge exchange as well as convening and supporting youth groups to create a roadmap for advocacy.

The Youth Journey has a global scope with emphasis on engaging young people in the global south, through the creation of regional hubs.

This partnership aims to tackle the obstacles to meaningful youth engagement in the water sector identified in research by the Water Youth Network in 2021. The research found that despite recent progress, young people are frequently underrepresented and disempowered in water management and governance processes. Specific challenges include:

(i) Hierarchical decision-making processes in which youth are excluded by default;

(ii) Youth participation being treated superficially or seen as an end in itself (tokenism);

(iii) The exclusion of those lacking specific technical training or education despite water’s status as a public good;

(iv) Language barriers preventing meaningful inclusion of non-English speakers;

(v) Limited opportunities for capacity development especially in the Global South; and

(vi) Fragmentation between youth-focused initiatives that limits their collective impact.

In combination with the outcomes and its associated activities, the roll-out of this Journey will be supported by a Valuing Water Youth Taskforce. This global, multistakeholder coalition will comprise youth and other organisations committed to strengthening the representation and empowerment of young people in water management and governance around the world.

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