Perspectives from a Young Environment and Climate Policy Advocate from Jamaica Having Attended the UN 2023 Water Conference

The Global Water Partnership-Caribbean (GWP-C) since being established in 2004 has always ensured that it creates or provides avenues for Caribbean youth to be involved in water management and to empower them to be agents of change. The UN 2023 Water Conference held on March 22nd – 24th, 2023 was a highly anticipated event for many all over the world with an interest in water sustainability. Among the young professionals in the region with a passion for water management and hopes of attending the UN 2023 Water Conference was Mr. Mario Galbert from Jamaica who is the:

  • Interim Coordinator – Caribbean Youth Climate Council (CYCC)
  • Executive Director – Global Sustainable Development Network
  • Curator – AquaoCaribe Project

GWP-C was therefore pleased to provide partial funding to enable Mario to attend the Conference. Below are Mario’s perspectives on his participation at the UN 2023 Water Conference:

Mr. Mario Galbert seen above at the UN 2023 Water Conference in New York.

The UN 2023 Water Conference was considered a watershed moment for the world, as this was the second conference being held in almost 50 years. Since then, the United Nations (UN) system has evolved. We now have UN Water which acts as a coordination mechanism for water issues within the UN. However, there is no set agency with responsibility for water across the entire UN.

Since the first conference, UN member states have implemented policies and frameworks to coordinate water management and governance at the national level. However, there are many emerging issues with water, such as its shared benefits in the fight against climate change and the access to transboundary water for different countries.

Additionally, the UN Water Action Decade (2018 – 2028) was considered a major focus for this conference as it serves as an avenue for the midterm comprehensive review. Member states were tasked with sharing their input on where we are and what we can achieve while noting that we need more actions to fulfil our mandate. The United Nations Secretary-General charged member states leading up to the conference to develop concrete solutions supporting SDG 6—Clean Water and Sanitation—while contributing to the decade.

Having recognised the benefits of addressing many water agenda issues, member states and stakeholders could register their commitments towards the water action decade. The conference saw the full integration of different stakeholders, including children, women, and girls. Leading up to the water conference, over 300 youth organisations joined together to form the Global Youth Movement for Water to provide a united youth voice at the 2023 conference. This youth movement allowed people to contribute to policy positions, including leading the #FillUpTheGlass campaign.

The Water Conference is of interest to me as a young environment and climate policy advocate due to the linkages between all the current global issues that we are facing. Water should be at the centre of all our discussions, especially for those countries with a limited capacity to conserve this valuable resource. I strongly believe in the power of stakeholders in these processes, as we can give a perspective that goes beyond the limits of political or diplomatic opinions. The Water Action Agenda is a step in the right direction. However, we need to accelerate action by acting on commitments made during this conference with result-oriented outcomes. This will only be achieved if all work together as we fill every glass up, invest in new and emerging technologies that would decrease energy consumption in the water treatment process and ensure that investment in water is profitable; socially, economically, and environmentally.

Youth Briefing

It is customary for youth briefings to be held or organised by constituencies for different multilateral events. For the 2023 UN Water Conference, this was no different however, due to space limitations for caucus rooms, the youth briefings had to be held outside of the UN compound at the Water House. The briefings allowed different groups to share their positions alongside the youth position for the conference.

However, for this conference things were a little different, we didn’t get much opportunity to hear about strategy engagement on how to get support from member states on the youth policy positions. It was clear that there was the need for more synergy among the Global Youth Movement for Water especially with the campaign #FillUpTheGlass. I strongly believe that more could have been done to ensure that the conference report incorporates the youth demands and policy positions and any support announced by member states.

Youth Demands:

  • Water for Health
  • Water for Development
  • Water for Climate
  • Water for Cooperation
  • Water Action Decade

Regional/Personal Demands by Mario Galbert:

  • Central Water Voice within the Region
  • Investment in Water Governance and Management
  • Strengthening of Stakeholder Engagement in Water Management and Governance
  • Appointment of a CARICOM Special Envoy for Water
  • Increasing focus on Water Resources Management in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) required by parties to the Paris Agreement
  • Establishment of Youth Advisory on Water
  • Capacity Building
  • Increase access of youth to water management and governance engagement opportunities
  • Robust approach to wastewater treatment and water desalination in the Caribbean

Thematic Focus: Water-Climate Nexus


Organised by the NDC Partnerships in collaboration with the Netherlands and IFAD, this session raised awareness on the water nexus by identifying the links between water, food, agriculture, and climate. These were examined by experts while linking all these nexuses to financial matters regarding how institutions fund water-related initiatives. This was linked to how the NDC can be enhanced through these water resource management and conservation investments.

One of the highlights of the session was the introduction of the Great Green Wall Initiative, which covers several countries from Senegal to Djibouti. The partners and panellists at the meeting highlighted the importance of engaging stakeholders in water projects, especially since many of these stakeholders, mainly investment firms, do not find water attractive.

The Chair of the Global Water Partnership (GWP), Mr. Pablo Bereciartua joined the session as a speaker and highlighted the role that the organisation has placed to ensure that all stakeholders play a role in water. He also pointed out that to conserve water, more must be done to engage those who use the most water for activities like agriculture. There was a very lively discussion around pricing water. The panellists highlighted that for us to scale our actions towards SDG 6, more has to be done to ensure that all see the benefit of water, while also making investments that would see projects being done and everyone playing their part. The representative of IFAD suggested that when positioning water for possible investors, we must state the economic, social and environment returns on investments.

The Global Stocktake (GST)

Following a brief introduction of myself to Mr. Stiell, I was able to update him on the introduction of the Caribbean Youth Climate Council (CYCC) since the establishment of the organisation eight (8) months ago. Mr. Stiell asked about my expectations for COP28 and the Global Stocktake. I informed Mr. Stiell that through my engagement with the YOUNGO NDCs Working Group, I have officially engaged in the communication and narrative building exercises around the GST. In the photo above, Mr. Galbert (left) is pictured with Mr. Simon Stiell (right), Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the COP28 Presidency session on the margins of the Water Conference.

One of the main pointers outlined was a recommendation for the phaseout of fossil fuels, along with four (4) other main priorities. I also informed Mr. Stiell that the CYCC will market the GST to young people across the region. The CYCC has over 60 members from over ten (10) Caribbean islands with the hope of increasing membership to 100 by July 18th, 2023. We will use this as an avenue to educate young people about climate change and different climate processes. A briefing will be done on the outcomes of the Water Conference alongside the Caribbean youth centred GST campaign.


SIDS Focused Engagement Highlight

Malta organised this Small Island Developing States (SIDS) water-related session. The representatives outlined their successful LIFE IP RBMP-Malta project which the Mediterranean has been using to provide its people with water.