by Melissa McCracken (WYN Governance Group Member)
The Water Youth Network, as the Global Focal Point on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 for UN Major Group for Children and Youth, sent representatives to the UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development. While HLPF reviewed SDGs 6, 7, 11, 12, 15, and 17, the Water Youth Network, along with its partners, co-organized a successful side event on Ensuring Intergenerational Policy Dialogues for Achieving SDG 6. The organizers also included UN Water, UNESCO-IHP, and World Youth Parliament for Water, with support from UN Major Group for Children and Youth and the International Secretariat for Water. The objectives of the side event were to:
Through this event, we aimed to build upon past youth events and the ongoing intergenerational dialogue with a focus on the youth forum at the World Water Forum and the outcomes of the ECOSOC Youth Forum earlier this year.
The side event was moderated by Shabana Abbas, President of Water Youth Network, and Faduma Ali, an intern at UN-Water. To set the scene of SDG 6 and the role of youth, Dr. Stefan Uhlenbrook and Ms. Judith Munguia presented two keynotes. Dr. Stefan Uhlenbrook, Coordinator of UNESCO WWAP and Director of the UNESCO Programme Office on Global Water Assessment, reminded the audience that we are not on track to achieve SDG 6 by 2030, even though we are moving in the right direction. Youth have a significant role to play in innovations towards achieving the goal, but it is not current practice to directly involve youth, in the development of actions plans or their monitoring and implementation, and this must change. Ms. Judith Munguia, Minister of the Mexican Foreign Service, presented the results of the report by the High-Level Panel on Water, which included the recommendation that youth and communities need to become the ambassadors of change and that water cooperation, disaster risk, and safe water and sanitation need to be priorities.
Following the keynotes, our main focus of was the facilitated panel discussion, brimming with global and youth leaders:
The panel responded to questions from the moderators related to challenges and opportunities for youth involvement in water policy discussions. It was an opportunity to showcase ongoing youth initiatives related to SDG 6 and the role youth play in water conflict and cooperation processes. Several keys points, recommendations, insights, and challenges emerged from the panel discussion:
To continue the dialogue the floor was opened to include questions and comments provided by the audience to the panel, as well as to spur the dialogue on how to develop intergenerational dialogue in relation to SDG 6. Several examples of programs were discussed including UNLEASH – Global Innovation Lab for the SDGs, as well as the youth involvement at the Budapest Water Summit. Plus, there was further discussion on how to also engage children in achieving SDG 6, such as through education and innovation projects.
Ultimately, the side event on Ensuring Intergenerational Policy Dialogues for Achieving SDG 6 demonstrated the need to engage youth in the decision making process. Both junior and senior water professional must work together and collaborate to devise solutions, enact change, and inspire fundamental paradigm shifts in order to actually have a hope to achieve SDG 6. As the moderators and panels noted, there are many reasons to be passionate over water: “future, necessity, life, fun, human rights, spirituality, and sustainability”, but ultimately this can be summed up with the idea that “yes, we can!”