IHP IX Young Water Professionals Consultation

On Friday 29 November from 14:00-17:00 at IHE Delft, the Netherlands National IHP-HWRP Committee together with the UNESCO IHP Secretariat co-hosted a workshop for young professionals (18-35 years old) to give their input on the new IHP Phase IX (2022-2029). UNESCO IHP, which is the UN’s only intergovernmental programme dedicated to water science, research and capacity development, is currently implementing its Phase VIII on “Water Security: Responses to Local, Regional and Global Challenges (2014-2021).” However as this Phase is coming to an end, the next seven-year strategy, IHP IX, is currently being drafted. To ensure that the voices of youth and young professionals are incorporated into this new strategy, the Dutch IHP-HWRP Committee invited more than thirty young participants from across the world (virtual and in-person) to give their inputs.

The workshop began with an opening plenary where the participants introduced themselves and their respective organizations and affiliations. Among these, included representatives from the Water Youth Network, International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre, World Youth Parliament for Water, IHE Delft, Pan African University Institute for Water and Energy Sciences, Association des Jeunes Professionnels de l’Eau et de l’Assainissement du Sénégal, Scheldt Youth Parliament, the Netherlands UNESCO Youth Commission and Wageningen University.

To frame the subsequent consultation, the participants were introduced to UNESCO IHP and its Phase IX. Sandra de Vries, who is a young expert on the Task Force creating this draft document, helped the participants visualize and understand the contents and organization of IHP IX.

Currently, IHP IX consists of three main pillars (1): Addressing the gap between data and information; (2): Supporting science-based decisions for adaptation and mitigation to face the negative consequences of past-adopted decisions; (3): Achieving sustainable water management. Because the participants came from diverse academic and professional backgrounds, they were asked to select the pillar that most resonated with them during the Breakout Sessions.

The breakout sessions were each dedicated to a specific pillar. Facilitators of the sessions, included young representatives from IHE Delft, the International Groundwater Resources Assessment, and the Water Youth Network. These 50-minute sessions gave participants the opportunity to directly deliver their input on the pillar of their choice. The participants were asked to reflect on the aims and indicators of success of that pillar, and engage in a discussion on what is still lacking and how they as young professionals can provide their support.

The first breakout session focused on the gap between data and information in support of water resources management. Led by Lauren from IHE Delft, this was a dynamic and well-attended session. The group reflected on the importance of transparency and ownership in the gathering and analysis of data. They wondered how we can make data more understandable, usable and accessible to everybody. They noted that if the data is not generated and stored ‘properly’, it cannot be completely legitimate. As young professionals, the group agreed to question authority and historical methods, be proactive, and collaborate across disciplines.

The second session was led by Claudia from the International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre. Here, the discussions revolved around how science can be used for adaptation and mitigation to face the negative consequences of past adopted decisions. The participants reflected on the importance of raising awareness and support among people, and noted that climate change adaptation and mitigation measures should be designed taking into account the inputs of local people, since they are the ones most often facing the challenges. Education, through both formal and informal methods, should be used to spread awareness and include all members of society in water management. Hydrologists are not the only ones with valuable input

The final session, was led by Tim from the Water Youth Network. This session, was a virtual one, attended by nine young experts from around the world. The participants called this pillar: “21st Century Integrated Water Resources Management.” They focused on the importance of inclusiveness and collaboration, achieved through both existing (Stockholm World Water Week) and new platforms (online, webinars). As young water professionals, they agreed to collaborate, advocate and engage in governance processes, and promote new and innovative ideas.

During the closing plenary, the representatives of the breakout sessions were invited to recap their main points of discussions. Together, the participants of the workshop engaged in a reflection and discussion on the Pillars and the IHP IX document as a whole. One of the common threads of discussion, was the importance of engaging people beyond the scientific community around data gathering and participation in the water sector. A lingering question was how to ‘sell’ this IHP IX document in a way that will touch and relate to all people. It was agreed that there is a strong need for monitoring, accountability, transparency and governance in the water sector. Young people can be pivotal actors in pushing and achieving these.

In conclusion, the participants were asked to come up with a title for IHP IX. Among the many suggestions, three titles stood out the most. The winning title, was “Making Water Work for All: Future-Proofing Water Management.”

When asked to describe their main takeaways from IHP IX, the participants jointly created the following word cloud:

Diversity, inclusion, young professionals, data and IHP. These were the common themes that stood out to the participants during the workshop. Thank you to all the participants who joined us and contributed their valuable input to IHP IX. Your voices will be heard.