Engaging and empowering young people can help us achieve more sustainable outcomes both in the water sector and in society as a whole. The High Level Panel on Water (HLPW), convened by the United Nations and World Bank, emphasised that valuing water means recognising and empowering under-represented groups, particularly women and youth. This is enshrined in the first Valuing Water Principle – to recognise and embrace water’s multiple values to different groups – and in the second principle: to reconcile values in a way that’s inclusive and equitable and builds trust among stakeholders.
Recognising the key role that young people can play in water and climate security, the Valuing Water Youth Journey seeks to support young people to overcome barriers and make their voices heard, demonstrating the added value of meaningful youth engagement. The barriers include young people, often left out of water governance and decision-making processes, limited opportunities for capacity development especially in the global south and fragmentation between youth-focused initiatives reduces their potential impact.
The vision of the Valuing Water Youth journey is that “Youth priorities, initiatives and ideas are fully integrated into water governance and management, contributing to water and climate resilience.”
Young people’s role in water governance
In 2021 the Valuing Water Initiative (VWI) partnered with the Water Youth Network to conduct out a scoping study into what is needed when it comes to achieving systemic and meaningful engagement of young people in the water water management and governance. This was undertaken with the aim of initiating a Youth Journey which empowers young people to drive systemic change in how water is governed and managed and become equal partners in driving positive change. The study concluded that while several excellent youth initiatives are currently underway, young people as a demographic are frequently underrepresented and disempowered in water governance and decision-making.
Who is involved
VWI is working to establish a Youth Engagement Action Plan with like-minded partners to address some of these obstacles. Rather than creating an entirely new initiative, this workstream is intended to build on some of the good work that is already ongoing in the sector. The action plan aims to bring together a variety of different stakeholders including NGOs, civil society groups, research institutes, policymakers and the private sector to collectively engage and empower more young people in water governance and decision-making. We are currently working with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (Consortium Lead); Aquafed (the international federation of private water operators); Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre and KWR Water Research Institute.
The project has just started, but the expected outcomes are:
Outcome 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.
Outcome 2: Local youth action to address water-related challenges in a changing climate are formally recognised and implemented as part of official planning and programme delivery.
Outcome 3: Youth contribution to local, regional and global water governance and management-related dialogues is the norm, not the exception.
If your organisation is interested in becoming involved in the Youth Engagement Action Plan, please contact: