By Sara Lowgren (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Stockholm World Water Week 2019 centered in on the slogan of Agenda 2030–leave no one behind–and focused on inclusion. This theme shaped the sessions and side events as well as the inspiring line-up of key collaborating partners (KCPs): Alongside UN Water, Women For Water Partnership, and the Inter-American Development Bank, SIWI also selected the Water Youth Network. The first-ever youth organization to become a KCP, we were honored and inspired to offer our knowledge and expertise as young people in the water sector.
During the closing plenary all the KCPs participated in a panel to offer their insights on the week. As the WYN, I represented the youth. Youth, people younger than 35 years old, make up the majority of the world population. While I was answering questions from my personal point of view, I was aware that inevitably, I was simultaneously representing the voice of youth. How do you speak on behalf of over half of the world population?
This is quite a question to grapple with. I decided to not pretend to be able to represent everyone, but instead to just speak to the few things I know are true. These are my key points:
Young folks are here already
Over the past year, youth have begun to assume a more pronounced role in international politics and governance. In state houses as well as on the streets, young people are raising their voices and the senior world is finally starting to listen. What do they hear? Loud and clear, across the globe, billions of young professionals, researchers, writers, artists, and community leaders are offering innovation, creative minds, and an undying passion to solve local and global problems. Including youth isn’t an abstract dream of the future, it is a current demand.
Meaningful inclusion is key
We all think it is important to include youth. But all too often, what senior decision-makers and conservative spaces pat themselves on the back for doing is not inclusion. It is not enough to place one young person at the table and take their picture. Young people are more than their mere age and in order to meaningfully include youth, governance processes must incorporate young professionals’ unique experiences and expertise.
Solving the water crisis takes everyone
The water crisis is complex and urgent. The challenges of drought, floods, and water quality are towering above us. It is not more important than ever to work together, across our differences of age, race, gender, socio-economic status, nationality, and all the other barriers we construct as humans. Cooperation based on inclusion is not just an attractive statement, it is an absolute necessity.
These points reflect my sentiment from the Stockholm World Water Week 2019: The way towards inclusion still lies long before us, but slowly and surely, we are starting to walk the talk.