The Water Youth Network at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

The Water Youth Network at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

By: WYN HPLF Team (Melissa McCracken, Shabana Abbas,  Natalija Fisher, and Dewi Dimyati)

What is the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development?

The UN established the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) as part of the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development. It meets under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council annually with ministerial meetings and every four years with Heads of State and Government under the General Assembly. Its main role is to follow up and review the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) globally. The theme of this year’s meeting was Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies, with a focus on reviewing the following SDGs:

  • Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  • Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  • Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development

Summary of Official HLPF review of SDG 6

The official review of SDG 6 by the HLPF took place on Monday 9 July and was opened by H.E. Mr. Mahmadamin Mahmadaminov, Vice-President of ECOSOC. The key findings of the 2018 Report was presented by the Statistics Division of UN DESA, which included that only 71% of people use safely managed drinking water and only 39% have safely managed sanitation. Mr. Stefan Uhlenbrook, Coordinator of the UN World Water Assessment Programme at UNESCO spoke on the key findings of the SDG 6 Synthesis Report on Water and Sanitation. Ultimately, the world is not on track to meet Goal 6 and its targets. There is still significant work to be done; agriculture needs to be part of the solution as does addressing climate change.  Work must be done to improve water ecosystems, and IWRM and transboundary water management are paramount. In order to achieve SDG 6, we need five things, according to the Synthesis report:

Each of these goals underwent an official review, during which the Water Youth Network representatives participated.

1) multi-stakeholder partnerships that are inclusive;

2) better monitoring and innovations;

3) good water governance;

4) financial investment in water and sanitation, and;

5) human capacity.  

How was Water Youth Network Involved at the HLPF?

Water Youth Network serves as the Global Focal Point for SDG 6 on water and sanitation for the UN Major Group for Children and Youth (UN MGCY). Four Water Youth Network Members attended the HLPF from 9 -18 July 2018 in New York, NY at the United Nations (Shabana Abbas, Natalija Fisher, Dewi Dimyati, and Melissa McCracken).

The keynote speaker was Ms. Mina Guli, a water advocate and ultra-runner, who is running 100 marathons in 100 days to raise awareness of the water crisis. She advocated for nature and people-based solutions to enhanced water security and public participation toward saving water. Following Ms. Guli, Mr. Joakim Harlin, Vice Chair of UN-Water, led a panel discussion that cover topics related to the need for transboundary water cooperation, need for financing, need for integration and interlinkage with the other goals, the crisis of water governance, needs for partnerships and stakeholder participation, and how the time devoted to SDG 6 at the international level is not an adequate amount of time. The floor was then opened for official statements from member states and UN Agencies and Major Groups. Much of the statements by member states and agencies mirrored the statements of panelists, discussants, and speakers. States and UN Agencies and Major Groups spoke to achievements, partnerships, and innovations they have made towards achieving the SDGs, as well as the challenges being faced, and what can also be done in order to ‘ensure access to safe water and sanitation for all’ so that ‘no one is left behind.’

  • As focal point, WYN oversaw the development joint UN MGCY’s statement on SDG 6 and was prepared to deliver that statement at the official review. The full statement can be found here: UNMGCY SDG 6 Statement
  • WYN worked to create a network and links with other youth organizations working toward the achievement of SDG 6 and the other goals.

During the official thematic review of SDG 6, WYN President Shabana Abbas, gave the official statement on behalf of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, demonstrating how youth can provide input and participate in dialogues on SDG 6 in partnership with member states and other actors. Her full statement can be found here: https://goo.gl/ip9Pjq.

WYN on UN-Major Group of Children and Youth seat during the thematic review of SDG 6

WYN President Shabana Abbas speaking on behalf of the Kingdom of the Netherlands at the Official Review of SDG 6

Shabana Abbas with Sandra Pellegrom, Head of the Development, Humanitarian and Human Rights section, Mission of the Netherlands to the United Nations


Side Events

The WYN co-organized, along with its partners – UN-Water, World Youth Parliament for Water, and UNESCO-IHP, a side event on Ensuring Intergenerational Policy Dialogues for Achieving SDG 6, which included a panel discussion on how to facilitate the inclusion of youth in political and decision-making processes surrounding SDG 6.

WYN Side Event organizers and panelists


In addition to the side event, WYN members participated in several other events.

WYN Member Natalija Fisher, pictured, presented on behalf of UN MGCY in the side event on Major Groups and other Stakeholders engagement in the review of A/res767/290. Her intervention focused on the value of creating spaces for incorporating young people, their knowledge, and the data they produce in SDG related decision-making processes at all levels.

During the side event on Water Education as the Vehicle to Achieve SDG 6.a organized by IHE Delft, UNESCO, and OECD, Natalija Fisher was invited to speak as an IHE alumna. The session focussed on the SDG6a targets, increasing investments in education, and bridging the gap between demand and supply in education. Joining the presentation of IHE Rector, Eddy Moors, Natalija spoke to the role of water-related institutions and their alumni networks in supporting life-long learning as well as the retention of human capital. More so, the role of IHE Delft in connecting people across boundaries and sectors thereby laying the foundation for future cooperation and diplomacy. Finally, she acknowledged the role of academic institutions in supporting and incubating youth-led projects. Notably, the walls of IHE are where WYN was incubated to become a global network of connected, informed, and empowered young professionals that are making meaningful contributions at global water governance forums from the Budapest Water Summit to the World Water Forum.

WYN Member Natalija Fisher (far left) presenting on the panel on Water Education as the Vehicle to Achieve SDG 6.a


During the second (ministerial) week of HLPF, Shabana Abbas was invited to present youth perspective on the launch of the United Nations and World Bank convened High-Level Panel on Water’s Valuing Water Initiative. The launch was attended by ministers and other high-level officials of the Netherlands, South Africa, Peru, Mexico and Bangladesh and of the World Bank. A lot of interesting discussions took place and good ideas were shared on how to mobilize and engage youth from different regions on understanding the values of water. As one of the three selected cases/potential cases for engagement in Valuing Water discourse, Shabana emphasized the need to engage children and youth in the discussions that concern the present and future of this planet. 1.1 billion live in today’s world and Children and Youth together account for about 40% of the world’s population. She highlighted the need to educate the future generations to understand the critical role water plays in our everyday lives. Furthermore, there is need to help raise awareness about water’s central role in achieving sustainable development. Water Youth Network has been actively part of the discussions and consultations of the valuing water initiative and aims to take it to the next level.

Shabana Abbas making the case for youth to be more actively engaged in valuing water initiative

Water Youth Network, UN MGCY and European Youth Delegates teams with State Minister Stientje van Veldhoven & Henk Ovink, Special Envoy Dutch Government during the Valuing Water side event


Throughout the HLPF, WYN representatives attended various meetings, reviews, and side events on water and sanitation, as well as other SDGs, while advocating and demonstrating the role of youth in these discussions.  We attended: UN MGCY Youth Blast and the Official Review of SDG 6, 11 & 15. This meetings prepared us for the week, as well as allowed us to understand the linkages between SDG 6 and the SDGs.

The Side Events we attended also expanded beyond a strictly water scope and covered other topics and issues that link with water and sanitation goals.  We attended as participants and/or speakers during:

Water Education as the Vehicle to Achieve SDG 6.a; Hydrology towards Sustainable Resilient Societies; Building Resilience by Ensuring Access to Water and Sanitation for All: Experiences with Human Rights Based  Approaches; Why Robust Multi-Stakeholder National Accountability Mechanisms are Essential for Achieving SDG 6; Transboundary Water Cooperation to Support the SDGs; Advancing the 2030 Agenda in a Context of Uncertainty; the Role of NGOs in Preventing Violent Water-Related Conflict;  SDG11 and Sustainable Urban Mobility – what can YOU(TH) do?; and Circular Economy and Youth (SDG 12).

Overall Impressions?

Overall, the WYN team found that the HLPF was a good next step to engaging in the UN process following our involvement in the ECOSOC Youth Forum earlier this year. It was valuable in making connections with other youth and professionals working to achieve SDG 6 and those working towards other goals.  SDG 6 will not be achieved through a siloed approach, only through engaging and collaborating with the other goals and targets can SDG 6 be fully realized. The WYN values its role as global focal point for UN MGCY on SDG 6, as it enabled the network to provide a voice for its members and the wider constituency in the UN high-level diplomatic process of reviewing SDG 6.

WYN, UN-Water, and UN MGCY representatives at the HLPF 2018

What’s Next?

While this year’s review of SDG 6 and Goals 7, 11, 12, 15, and 17 has closed, the HLPF will be adopting a ministerial declaration (Advanced version). Next year will be the first full review of all the SDG’s, which will take place at the HLPF 2019 at the level of heads of states and governments.  

Please continue to participate in your country’s Voluntary National Reviews.  

There are several opportunities to get engaged with WYN:

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