At a Forum that brings together so many knowledgeable and experienced individuals from around the world, how can youth contribute? Because they represent the next generation of leaders, it is vital to involve youth in decision-making processes. Youth also offer a valuable perspective to water-related issues through general openness to learning, collaborating, and developing innovative ideas. The Youth Opening Session on Monday March 12th in Marseille, France introduced the youth groups present at the Forum, presented the schedule of youth events for the week, and outlined the contributions of youth toward water issues beyond this Forum. Around 100 young people were present at the opening session for youth. The setup of the session itself reflected the potential of youth to collaborate and to produce solutions for water-related issues.
The Youth Vision
The Water Youth Movement, a recently-formed network for youth interested in solving water-related issues, presented ideas for their “Youth Vision” to be presented later this week at the Forum. In its current structure, it consists of three “pillars” that are the foundation of the Youth Vision because they both affect youth and can be influenced by youth. They are:
- Crossing Boundaries
Following an outline of the Water Youth Movement’s ideas, the audience broke out into small groups to discuss these “pillars” and how youth can contribute to each. This brainstorming session allowed youth from around the world to meet, share ideas, and make connections. The attendees were diverse in countries of origin (including the United States, India, Japan, France, Netherlands, etc.), area of study or work (including students in engineering and environmental studies, members of non-governmental organizations, etc), and experience with water.
A member of each group then presented their ideas to the entire audience of youth. Rupal Prasad, a Master of Environmental Studies student at the University of Pennsylvania, is pictured below presenting her group’s ideas on innovation and crossing boundaries. One idea was students using the internet and other educational tools to reach other students to exchange cross-boundary information. Another idea was to encourage second generation immigrants to transfer knowledge to youth living in their parents’ country of origin. These ideas were recorded and will be incorporated into the creation of the Youth Vision document this week.
Youth: The World Water Forum and Beyond
This week, youth will organize a total of 19 sessions. These range from interactive brainstorming sessions to presentations of solutions to presentations by specific youth organizations. The dialogues at this Forum appear to be a step in a positive direction as the youth leaders try to build momentum towards future global meetings. Looking into the future, youth will continue to attend other forums such as Rio +20 and the World Water Forum 7. The nature of this opening session suggests that we can expect increasing youth involvement for the remainder of this week and into the future.
Are you involved in a movement as a youth representative? Are you a member of an organization that includes youth in a significant way? Leave your comments below.