Youth participation at the UN 2023 Water Conference
The United Nations (UN) has recognized the importance of engaging youth in its water-related initiatives and events, including the UN 2023 Water Conference. Youth engagement in the Conference took many forms, such as attending as delegates or observers, participating in side events and workshops, and contributing to the conference's outcomes through various channels.
By amplifying youth voices and perspectives, the UN 2023 Water Conference helped to ensure that water-related policies and initiatives are responsive to the needs and aspirations of young people and future generations.
According to the UN Stakeholder Engagement and Impact Reporting, 37% of the total registrants of 6767 stakeholder participants were under the age of 35, and in total, 64 young delegates were matched with speaking opportunities in the Conference’s Special Events and Side Events (inside and outside HQ and virtually) as well as in New York Water Week events. One of the main and impactful youth initiatives during the UNWC 2023 was The #FillUpTheGlass, a communication campaign that was first launched during the 9th World Water Forum.
Young Water Professionals – New Perspectives for New Solutions
I was nominated by the public organization “Open Innovations” and with the financial support of the Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC) to attend the UNWC 2023. My involvement in the UNWC began in Kyrgyzstan where I provided assistance in organizing a side event outside UNHQ. The event, titled “Water Resources in Central Asia: Challenges and Prospects,” brought together stakeholders to discuss the sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, as well as prospects for cooperation in Central Asia. I was honored to contribute to the national water dialogues in Kyrgyzstan and take the opportunity to meet water experts and decision-makers at the country level. During the preparation for the side event, I helped with communicating with the participants. I also initiated participation in the global campaign “Be the Change” towards World Water Action. I managed a hummingbirds campaign event where every participant made a commitment to contribute to addressing the global water crisis and presented these commitments at UN Headquarters during the UN 2023 Water Conference in New York. To show our contributions to the SDG 6 issues, a global action was launched on March 22, 2023 – World Water Day, entitled “Become the change you want to see in the world.” I organized and showed a new perspective to this campaign. In order for the campaign to be sustainable, without a waste and have a story, I decided that it would be cool to reuse a Tush Kiyiz *, which my mother made in her youth in 1970’s, add a drawn hummingbird on it – the symbol of the campaign – and use water drops as a sign of the campaign in the form of each individual’s stamped fingerprint in place of signature.
Engaging with Role Models and Youth Supporters
Columbia University’s Harriman Institute for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies organized an event to showcase the Women in Water Diplomacy Network’s Central Asian water women’s voices. As a young woman water specialist, I had the opportunity to share my perspective on the main barriers and opportunities for women who choose to develop their careers in the water sector. I pointed out the main challenges for young women specialists in the water sector – often tied to perceptions of girls/women’s role in society, strict hierarchies at working place, and additional social expectations on girls/women.
About the network
The Women in Water Diplomacy and Water Management promotes promotes women water professionals’ participation in decision-making in the water sector and gender mainstreaming in water governance, inthe Nile region and Central Asia and Afghanistan.The Women in Water Diplomacy network in the NileWomen in Water Management in Central Asia and AfghanistanA Path Forward for Women, Water, Peace, and Security
Key messages elevating youth at the UN 2023 Water Conference
During the UN 2023 Water Conference, I witnessed some important changes towards including youth in all aspects of water and its processes. However, more work is needed to ensure that all stakeholders cooperate and integrate youth perspectives (not ‘siloing’ youth) as equal partners in water processes. Several of the key outcomes focused on the importance of young people were included in the following themes of the UNWC:
- Water for Health: Access to water and adequate sanitation as basic human rights, especially for young women and girls.
- Water for Development: Target youth funding for community-based water solutions, promoting transparency and accountability.
- Water for Climate: Adequate education and training for youth, especially young women, to acquire knowledge and skills to better address water and climate issues.
- Water for Cooperation: Including youth in water-related mechanisms, negotiations and solutions using water as a tool for peace and cooperation.
- Decade of Action for Water: Establishment of an inclusive and permanent body within the UN to address water issues and appointment of a UN Youth Envoy for Water https://youthforwater.org/un2023-water-conference/