UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development: Ensuring Intergenerational Policy Dialogues for Achieving SDG 6

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:

  1. Facilitate the inclusion of youth and young water professionals in discussions with decision makers and the follow-up and review of SDG 6
  2. Encourage the inclusion of youth perspectives in political processes and declarations
  3. Demonstrate the role of youth networks in implementing or monitoring of the SDGs with decision makers.


Side event organizers and discussants

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.

Moderators Shabana Abbas and Faduma Ali pose questions to the panel.

Following the keynotes, our main focus of was the facilitated panel discussion, brimming with global and youth leaders:

  • Sena Alouka – Executive Director, Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement (JVE) International
  • Ms Lindsey Aldaco-Manner– President, World Youth Parliament for Water
  • Judith Arrieta Munguia – Minister of the Mexican Foreign Service
  • Zoubir Bernarbia – First Secretary to the Permanent Mission of Algeria to the UN
  • Natalija Fisher – Water Youth Network
  • Mina Guli – CEO, Thirst
  • May Dobosiewicz – Science and Education Policy Association
  • Neelam Melwani – Second Secretary Political Affairs, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN
  • Anil Mishra – Programme Specialist UNESCO-IHP
  • Eddy Moors – Rector IHE Delft
  • Katsuhito Okubo – Japan Youth Platform for Sustainability
  • Callist Tindimugaya – Commissioner for Water Resources Planning and Regulation, Ministry of Water and Environment, Uganda
CEO of Thirst, Mina Guli, speaks about her recommendations to youth and senior water professionals about ways we can solve the world’s water crisis.

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:

  • We need to have a consensus between the generation, as it is not a competition.
  • Youth have an important role and responsibility to achieve all SDGs, not just SDG 6. Young people and water can serve as a bridge to link SDG 6 with the other SDGs.
  • Intergenerational means across all generations, including children. Education is one means to engage. In Uganda, schools have created water and sanitation plans to educate children, who in turn are able to teach their parents.
  • Many member states have institutional bodies to include and engage youth, but youth still need to be included in policy discussions.
  • Senior working professionals have a responsibility to pay attention to the views, perspectives, and innovations of youth in all aspects of decision making.
  • Youth need to utilize the opportunities given and to fully participate, speak out and advocate on behalf of the most vulnerable. It is a privilege to be included in these forums and that platform should be used in an inclusive way to support other young people, like those in conflict-affected areas who are refugees or internally displaced, and whose education or access to basic water services has been disrupted as a result.
  • Mentorships, connections, and relationships with youth help cultivate confident, experienced and effective youth leaders. Senior professionals should make time and open themselves to youth, as that time is an investment in the future.
  • We need partnerships and collaboration of achieving SDG 6 – these are means to create cooperation.
  • Universities and institutions need to listen to the needs of youth and the water sector to provide education on the topic that is needed, as well as explore new ways of learning.
  • Youth have significant agency; they need to be provided with resources to build their capacity, particularly jobs and practical experience.
  • Young people have a role to play in organizing, setting the Agenda, and providing input to the political process because youth are more than just beneficiaries to the 2030 Agenda, they are scientists, researchers, influencers, and knowledge holders.

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!”