The English poet W.H Auden once said, “Many have lived without love, none without water.” This sentiment from the poet neatly depicts the critical importance of water to the survival of the planet, a fact that is often forgotten or overlooked by many people.
2015 is a momentous year for water: it is the last year of the International Water for Life Decade and, more importantly, it is the year where all countries will try to achieve global consensus on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. As such, there will be a myriad of activities, expert meetings and political negotiations around the world that focus on water and other developmental issues. For instance, UN-Water will hold its Annual International Conference on water and sustainable development in Spain in mid-January. The Conference will focus on methods to better implement initiatives addressing challenges to water resources management and ways to ensure global water security.
The primary objectives of the Post-2015 Development Agenda is to eradicate poverty and to achieve sustainable development for everyone. In my humble opinion, if the objectives are to be achieved, water must be acknowledged and regarded as the core of sustainable development. The achievement of a number of development goals under different thematic areas such as energy supply, health, gender equality, human rights, disaster risk reduction, the green economy and cultural heritage, practices and traditional knowledge will be heavily dependent on how all the countries manage and protect water resources. There is a nexus between water and all global concerns. For instance, people are often astounded when I tell them that water-related disasters, such as floods and droughts, have left people around the world vulnerable to perpetrators of human trafficking. Thus, water resources should not only be a concern for environmentalists or persons working in the water sector, but for anyone who wants an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable future for our planet and for present and future generations.
The many successes and failures that governments, UN agencies and civil society have had in trying to achieve global water security are well-documented. The world can accentuate these successes and eliminate future failures provided that: (1) the general public has greater access to information on water resources; (2) people have access to justice and effective legal remedies to address issues that arise relating to water resources and sustainable development and; (3) there is genuine and meaningful public participation in decision-making processes.
Information about water resources in simple language that the average person can understand is very important. Education will empower people to transform themselves by developing knowledge, attitudes and values required for addressing global and local contextual challenges to water resources as well as other natural resources.
The need for laws and independent judicial systems to protect water resources and the environment is clear: without an effective legal system we cannot, for instance, enforce our human rights to a safe and healthy environment or prosecute persons in authority guilty of corruption in the management of water resources. Finally, effective participation of young people in decision-making processes is vital to promote intergenerational dialogue and solidarity. The views of young people must be taken into account because they are the torchbearers of the next sustainable development agenda.
Young people are ready to lead. They are taking the lead around the world in providing solutions to challenges in the field of sustainable development. For instance, the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) has been conducting research and educating society on integrated water resources management, focusing particularly on the linkages between climate change, biodiversity loss and unregulated waste disposal. CYEN has been formally recognised by the Global Water Partnership (GWP) as one of its Most Outstanding Partners in the Caribbean. As recently as December 2014, several members of CYEN from across the Caribbean participated in the GWP Media Workshop on Water Security and Climate Resilience. CYEN has been actively involved in policy meetings on water resources management and has conducted practical community-based activities in collaboration with local authorities. Similarly, the United Nations Environment Programme TUNZA Youth Network has been promoting the Think.Eat.Save Campaign on the effects of food waste, and has been highlighting how food waste contributes to water wastage.
Water is one of the world’s most precious natural resources. Water is the lifeline of the planet and it needs to be featured prominently in the post-2015 development agenda. To secure our survival, every human being has a responsibility to help ensure that we achieve global water security.
About the Author:
Stefan Knights is currently serving as UNEP’s Youth Advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean and the Special Envoy to the Caribbean Youth Environment Network on Small Island Developing States. He is a lawyer in training who has dedicated his time to addressing environmental, social, and economic challenges relating to sustainable development from a legal perspective.
This February, two ambitious young people will begin a 6-month cycle from Amsterdam to Cape Town in a bid to develop the post-2015 development agenda from the grassroots level. The Building Bridges project is the work of the United Nations current Dutch Youth Delegate Jilt van Schayik and his friend Teun Meulepas. The two boys will make 25 stops everywhere from Spain and Senegal to Nigeria and Namibia, during which they will connect with young people on the ground to find out what they want for themselves and for the world in 2030. Building Bridges will focus especially on the views of women, emphasizing the ideas that gender equality is a precondition for sustainable development, reducing poverty, and achieving good governance. Youth Flash will feature monthly updates from the Building Bridges project, and you can learn more at their website or by using the hashtag #PicturePost2015.
The UN Inter-agency Network on Youth Development (IANYD) is getting ready for the ECOSOC Youth Forum that will take place on 2-3February 2015. The Forum brings young leaders from around the world to the UN Headquarters in New York to engage in dialogue with Member States and voice their priorities for the transition from MDGs to SDGs. To find out more about the programme, please click here.
UN Entities Highlighted News
UN Women & the World Association of Girl Guides launch youth curriculum to prevent violence against women
In partnership with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, UN Women has rolled out a unique, non-formal education programme that will provide approximately 800,000 young people between the ages of 5 to 25 with tools to prevent violence against girls and women.
Youth at Work: Increasing youth entrepreneurship opportunities to reduce rural poverty in Mali
One of Mali’s top national priorities is the promotion of youth employment. The FAO, the Ministry of Agriculture, and select national producers’ organizations, are implementing a project that aims to establish 400 new work opportunities, and to improve 1,000 existing jobs across two regions and four agricultural value chains.
Youth guarantees, entrepreneurship and apprenticeships are key tools in getting over 74 million youth back to work, says ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. To learn more, watch this video interview conducted by the Asia and Pacific Youth Network of the ILO (APYouthNet).
ILO: Somali Voices – Youth for Change (video)
In this video, Ahmed Ali Adam, a beneficiary of the project Youth for Change, tells his story. Youth for Change is a joint initiative between ILO, UNDP and UNICEF and aims at reducing the risk of youth becoming involved in antisocial and criminal behaviour. The programme, funded by the Government of Japan, provides young people with an opportunity for social rehabilitation and economic reintegration.
UNFPA: #Showyourselfie: A Visual Petition for Youth
Young people today are getting an unfair deal: millions of youth lack access to basic needs such as education, health services, contraception, sexual education, protection from violence, and employment opportunities.
This year, we have created an enormous opportunity to change this.
Take action by joining #Showyourselfie, a campaign by UNFPA and Global Citizen. This visual petition will show UN Member States at the September 2015 General Assembly that every young person’s potential MUST be fulfilled in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
IOM & UNAOC: PLURAL+ Youth Video Competition
PLURAL+ is a Youth Video Festival that promotes migration, diversity, and social inclusion. Following last year’s success, the 2015 Festival will launch in the first quarter of this year. PLURAL+ aims to build on the number of video entries it received last year and widen the scope of countries participating in order to ensure global promotion of the PLURAL+ message. Last year, videos were received from countries such as Bhutan, Colombia, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Hungary, India, and Palestine. More
UNFPA: Girls House - Forum for Young People
The Girls House, established by Ahlam Al-Moqbali, a former Y-PEER Oman Focal Point In-Charge and an active Focal Point living in Buraimi, was intended to provide a creative space for girls and women of Buraimi and the region who otherwise lack a gathering place to pursue any hobbies or interests. The space will also be used for educational purposes for various issues that interest its visitors.
Call for Applications: UNAOC-EF Summer School in Tarrytown, New York
The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and Education First (EF) invite youth aged 18-35 to apply to their upcoming summer school program in Tarrytown, New York, 13-20 June 2015. The conviction that young people are drivers of positive social change is the basis for the UNAOC-EF Summer School. The program’s interactive workshops, discussions, and site visits immerses participants in knowledge and action to address pressing global challenges concerning cultural and religious diversity.
Application Deadline: 9 March 2015, 11:59PM, EST. More
Youth in Action
Institute of Law, Nirma University - ILNU Model United Nations 2015
Institute of Law, Nirma University (ILNU) is proud to present their inaugural session of ILNU Model United Nations (ILNU MUN) to be held from 13-15 February 2015. ILNU MUN will host three committees: UNHRC, UNSC and UNEP. ILNU MUN promises scintillating debates, modern caucuses and stimulating international discussions, all of which will encourage students of all academia to critically evaluate the agendas in a thought-provoking setting. The beautiful city of Ahmedabad awaits your presence. To participate, complete the registration process here.
ILO: Monitoring performance and assessing impact of the Portuguese Youth Guarantee
The ILO has been called to support the national team responsible for the implementation of the Portuguese Youth Guarantee in developing a monitoring and evaluation framework. A five-day training of trainers workshop took place in Lisbon from 17-21 November 2014. The ILO train-the-trainer programme on performance monitoring and impact assessment of the measures of the Portuguese Youth Guarantee is part of a technical support package developed by the ILO’s Programme on Youth Employment.
ILO: Labour demand and social dialogue: Two binding constraints for decent work for youth in the Arab Region
This ILO Working Paper argues that the main reason for the persistently high youth unemployment rates in the Middle East and North Africa has not been slow economic or “jobless” growth. Economic and employment growth in the decade until 2008 – but also since the outbreak of the recent financial crisis – were high. The author identifies slow productivity growth together with limited creation of quality jobs as main constraints to better youth employment outcomes in the region.
ILO: Work4Youth reports in Armenia, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, El Salvador, Uganda, Brazil and Tanzania
The ILO Work4Youth project has published reports presenting the highlights of the School-to-Work Transition Survey (SWTS) run in Armenia, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, El Salvador, Uganda, Brazil and Tanzania. The SWTS is a unique survey instrument that generates relevant information on the labour market transitions of young people aged 15 to 29 years.
Partners for Change:Young People and Governance in a post-2015 world
Plan UK, Restless Development and the Overseas Development Institute have worked with young people to develop clear recommendations on governance and accountability issues in the post-2015 development agenda.
Their recent report demonstrates how youth participation at all levels of decision making can build and strengthen good governance structures. The report explores the opportunities and barriers that exist for young people engaging in governance processes, and supports a stand-alone goal for governance in the post-2015 development agenda, with the role of young people a clearly defined part of this goal.
WHO: Global community must strengthen efforts regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights of adolescents
In 1994, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) called for international and national efforts to help ensure the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents. The WHO-led Special Supplement to the Journal of Adolescent Health is an analysis on progress made by the global community in the 20 years since the ICPD. The authors of the Special Supplement have called on all stakeholders to strengthen their commitment and efforts to ensure the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents.