Youth and Water

A significant percentage of the world’s population falls under the age of 35. The average age of the world population is 28. In many countries, young people make up more than 50 percent of the citizens. There is often very little involvement of youth in decision making process. Limited access to useful knowledge is the reason of a huge pressure on young people and intensifies the difficulties for them in participating in water management.

The term “youth” is elastic and comprises a range of several age groupings. Even when linked to age, development and aging, it is also a social construction linked to connotations different cultures and societies give to individuals between childhood and adulthood; hence, definitions based on age are not consistent across cultures. The United Nations definition of youth refers to those between the ages of 15 and 24, but despite this commonly used category countries can include people up to the ages of 29 or 35.

In some parts of the world studying water resources management, water related technologies, and engineering have dropped with a low attention of competent ministries, albeit some progress was made to include the youth in a global dialogue regarding water and environmental aspects of development issues. For example, chapter 25 of UN Agenda 21 Declaration emphasizes that “it is imperative that youth participate actively in all relevant levels of decision-making processes, recognizing their intellectual contribution, ability to mobilize support, and unique perspectives”. The current practice shows that youth involvement is often informal, ignored and suppressed to make the youth being active participants.

As the future adults, young people should be active participants in forming the future agenda, therefore their engagement must be secured at this present time. The youth will have to deal with the consequences of the choices and actions undertaken today by older generations. The following arguments to consider the youth an equal stakeholder include:

  • Young people are much easier exposed to the web, thus in contact with people worldwide all the time; as a result, it is more natural for young people to think globally, look for solutions that may already exist somewhere else or to jump up and create solutions that fit their own local situations.
  • The top ten in-demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2000, thus, adult teachers today need to prepare their students for jobs that don’t yet exist; hence mutual dialogues about professional carriers between the youth and the adult need to be encouraged.
  • The youth is the most flexible group easily able to adapt to changes; this should be considered as an opportunity for sustainable solutions especially in the area of water management and other connected sectors. 
  • The youth add tremendous value to the work place; technological innovations are easily tested and implemented moving swiftly to new solutions and approaches.

The youth may lack the experience, therefore the investment in youth should be considered as an investment in human capital in pro of development initiatives. Most initiatives involving youth in water related issues have three fundamental pillars which are all interrelated:

Education, at all ages, in all places and in all aspects is necessary to raise awareness and support participation. It is imperative to provide educational material and advice to build capacities through specialized and technical training.

Communication. It is vital to ensure that youth groups have access to adequate information on water management to avoid isolation and to gain knowledge from past experiences. Platforms where young groups and young professionals share their experiences and knowledge with the senior professionals can provide major advantages to bridge ideas and to promote networking.

Innovation, to develop new strategies through the inclusion of local traditional expertise and experiences. Support research and entrepreneurship programs and new technologies to reach new ideas and design effective technologies and mechanisms.

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