The Dushanbe Water Process highlighted that if the water crisis is at the epicentre of the storm of challenges the world is facing today, collective water action and youth engagement must be the compass which guides us forwards.
With each passing day, youth are getting more involved in action for water across sectors and levels, from the local to the global. Young people are increasingly aware of their critical role as changemakers and future leaders. They have hunger and curiosity to further learn and deepen their expertise in different aspects of water, and build dialogues and collaborations to deliver their message both locally and globally. Their strength resides in their diversity, and their message is clear. Young people are willing and ready to have their say in the co-creation of a better, sustainable and more equitable world – it is now up to the world to listen. Yet, despite the growing inclusion of youth in global water talks, their participation remains small. With 2022 marking two years of the covid-19 pandemic, and in an upside-down world full of uncertainties, it is crucial for the world water community to promote the greater inclusion of young people.
The Dushanbe Water Conference, which served as the next important milestone for the world water community on the road towards the UN Water Conference 2023 , involved youth from different parts of the world. The Youth and Children's Forum , organised by the government of Tajikistan and UNICEF in partnership with the World Meteorological Organization and the EU, was set up as a space for youth to interact and exchange ideas, as well as to coordinate their key messages prior to the major events of the conference. This youth integration within the Dushanbe Water Process, and parallel efforts of different individual organisations that work with water and youth, served as a great model to pave the way for better youth representation. For instance, the Central Asia Youth for Water (CAY4W) Network and its partner International Secretariat for Water (ISW) , with the support of Blue Peace , made it possible for a relatively large youth delegation from Central Asia to attend the conference. While these spaces are absolutely useful and neccesary, they could in future be integrated into the main body of the forum itself, rather than serving as a parallel body.
Concrete outcomes emerged from the conference. Inclusion and wide endorsement (both by leaders and the peer youth) of the 303030 target for youth inclusion in water-related decision-making, the , and UN1FY’s Youth Development Plan and Agenda (YDPA) in the main conference documents are some examples from Dushanbe. As a result, many young people left Dushanbe with inspiration and hope. The reasons for this include participating in an enormous process of learning from each other, discussing not only the daunting challenges but many of the solutions, and the concrete steps forward for youth to coordinate our actions in order to achieve better, wider and more meaningful representation of our voices across sectors and levels in water action.
This was a unique opportunity for the regional youth of Central Asia. By “hosting the world”, regional youth were able to see and feel what it is to be at the forefront of the global movement for water action. For many years now, youth in the region have had a unique opportunity to build local water action and get involved in water-related issues through involvement in the Blue Peace global water diplomacy initiative of the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC). The 2nd Syr Darya River Basin Youth Dialogue was organised by CAY4W, ISW, SDC and their partners, allowing the youth of Central Asia to engage in a parallel “domestic” exchange, where young representatives of the countries of the Syr Darya river basin gathered together to discuss specific local solutions.
In the framework of the visit, the CAY4W network and its 30 members from the region had a unique opportunity for involvement at both levels: international and regional. This was another great way to strengthen and contribute to the network’s mission of empowerment of a new generation of water leaders in Central Asia for a sustainable and peaceful region through water dialogue and cooperation. Finally, youth empowerment and inclusion in water action, across levels and means, is about building a world of broader perspectives, better solutions and united efforts. It seems it happened in Dushanbe.