Meet Mr Bart de Vos from Belgium



Born and raised in West Flanders (Belgium), I got involved in water issues at a young age. It all started with my participation in the World Water Youth Forum in Istanbul in 2009. This motivated me to be involved in local youth initiatives on water and environment. In 2012, I was elected president of the World Youth Parliament for Water, a worldwide network of fantastic young people who act for water at local level. We mobilize youth for the water cause, and promote youth participation in water issues. I also am member of the board of (a Belgian NGO that works on educating people on sustainability issues) the International Secretariat for Water and the French Water Partnership, and I advise Global Water Partnership on youth issues. I’m currently student at Brussels Free University (Master International Law).

What is your motivation in water sector?

I love challenges in my life and I am totally fascinated by the challenges posed by water system and its complexities. I’m very enthusiastic to join the water sector in identifying solutions for the complex challenges that we face. My motivation to deal in particular with water issues is its cross-cutting nature: more than anything else, safe and sustainable access to this precious resource is crucial for food security, energy, health, education and many more. Also, from a young age I have been fascinated by the way in which water can link people, or be a source of conflict, depending on people’s sense for cooperation.

What project/campaign/work related to water sector you are leading (or you have lead)?

Currently my main involvement in the water sector is presiding World Youth Parliament for Water. Our main goals are to raise awareness amongst young people on water issues and to mobilize them for acting for water, as well as to promote youth participation in water sector (at local level, but also in water policy making at international level). An example of a recent campaign of the World Youth Parliament for water is the letter that we sent to the Permanent Representatives of the UN Members states, and to key UN actors, to share with them why having a Global Goal on Water in the Post-2015 Agenda is so important for young people.

At this very moment I’m also creating a Fund that will serve to provide small grants to other young people with innovative ideas for addressing water challenges (such as access to drinking water, sanitation, or water management). Within the Belgian NGO, we educate young people on sustainable development (with a scope that goes beyond water: energy, consumption, waste reduction, biodiversity, etc.).

As a member of the worldwide Global Water Partnership family (, I’m involved in making the organization engage more and more with youth. Global Water Partnership is a global network that consists of global and national partnerships. Consequently, the range of youth engagements is very broad, going from supporting youth participation in conferences, to supporting concrete local youth projects on water management.

What are your success, failures and learning?

Well, the three (success – failures – training) are very much interlinked. I consider every failure as a learning that brought some experience that will sooner or later be useful.

When I look back at the track record of World Youth Parliament for Water, I think we can be happy with the progress that has been made on making the voice of young people heard in the sector. We realized, together with other youth networks and young individuals, that youth are recognized as an important player. However, now that we are getting integrated, the present challenge is to ensure that youth can effectively contribute to the water sector. Therefor we need a precise understanding of the roles of different youth groups (young water professionals, young environmental activists, young academics, young entrepreneurs, etc.),

When looking into failures, I must say that one of my main regrets so far is that I failed to find more innovative ways of financing youth projects. Financing is a major obstacle that prevents a lot of brilliant and creative young minds from implementing their ideas and solutions. Also, in poorer communities, new financial mechanisms could enable young volunteers and young technicians to improve their access to water and sanitation. Therefore, I hope to discuss soon with young colleagues how we can tackle this (identifying success stories, developing new models, etc.) major challenge.

When asked about the main learning from my past experience, I must not think about it even for a second: the only way to be successful is by cooperating.

What do you think is greatest water related challenge in your region and how can it be addressed?

Where I live, although water related problems are low priority in politics, several challenges are to be tackled: groundwater depletion and water pollution due to high population density and the industrial and agricultural activity, but also floods have to be taken into account. I would lie if I’d say that I, as youth, can point out which is the biggest of these problems. But what I know for sure that raising the public awareness and creating understanding of these problems is the key to solving these problems so that the different water-related issues get a higher place on the political agenda.

What message you want to share with other water youth leaders?

We have to ensure that in the middle of all existing international commitments to address water-related challenges, no child and no youth is left behind without access to clean water and sanitation. At the same time, let’s all work together to ensure that youth is no longer only known as primary victim of water problems, but also as key part of the solution, an active link in the Water Cooperation Chain!