Joao is at the World Water Youth Forum in Istanbul, Turkey, from where he's keeping us posted on what’s happening and how young people are participating at the forum.
Wednesday, 18th March, Istanbul: The early morning meeting of the youth delegates kicks off another long and intense day at the 5th World Water Forum. Our group gathers briefly to report on what happened yesterday and where we are at in relation to the theme discussions. We also discuss the highlights in today’s agenda and our strategy for the day. Everything is over with a quick distribution of tasks and everybody is back to work.
Within minutes all the youth participants are spreading across the many sessions, workshops and discussions simultaneously happening here at the forum. The issues on the table are many, ranging from governance and water management, to participation of civil society in decision-making. Discussions also tackle technological challenges and opportunities, the crucial role of education and the impact of our current climate and economic crises on water issues.
Governments, development agencies, international bodies and civil society representatives are gathering around the table (and in the corridors, cafes and conference rooms!) engaged in search for solutions to respond to our current water challenges. Most of all, regardless of the issue, the Water Forum is calling for joint action. All stakeholders (young people included!) must learn how to work together in a true partnership if we are serious about creating real change.
During the entire Water Forum, the young people of the Youth Forum are not working under the label of “youth participants,” but rather as participants that happen to be young. This shift in the understanding of our role allows us to engage in meaningful debates throughout the forum on a more equal level (even if we still face some challenges in overcoming the stigma!). We don’t want to only complain and ask for change; we want to become partners in the development efforts.
The work of the young participants is self-led and structured, and currently divided in three main groups A team is working hard to report on all sessions, and to combine all results into a final document that will be our Youth Declaration to be presented to all the authorities attending the Ministerial Meeting at the end of the week. As we all know, only talking about the issues is not enough, along with our recommendations we want to present our commitments to action. So we established a second team looking into practical action points that can be carried outpost-forum hoping that decision makers will also commit to taking the discussions out of paper into real community work.
The last action group -- definitely far from being the least important -- is the group focusing on participation. This group, composed of every single young person attending the 5th World Water Forum, is engaged in raising the importance of youth participation in the decision-making. They are attending the sessions of the forum, asking questions, challenging decisions-makers, suggesting solutions and change! We want to wake up all participants of the Water Forum for the crucial role young people have to play if we are serious about making a difference!
Through active participation in all sessions, combined with lobbying authorities and demanding more voice and participation we want to raise the profile of youth-led development and make governments and development agencies understand the real potential of engaging young people as equal partners in the development efforts.
But lots more is still to come. We still have another week to go. And if you want to engage in the forum, you can follow some of the sessions broadcasted online. We are working, trying to transform the official website of the World Water Youth Forum (http://youth.worldwaterforum5.org/en) to an online platform that will allow all of you who were unable to join us here in Istanbul to provide inputs and influence the process and the discussions here at the 5th World Water Forum.