Engaging youth to promote the Water, Security and Peace Nexus in West Africa

The countries of the world have jointly committed to achieve the SDGs through the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, including the SDG #6 on water and sanitation, central to achieve the other SDGs, particularly related to agriculture, energy, disaster resilience, health, environment and ecosystems, economic growth, and SDG #16 on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.

This requires the active participation of all stakeholders, including the Youth. Young people are important and potential resources not only for the development of nations but also in the context of conflict. They represent a significant proportion of those affected by armed conflict, violent extremism, banditry, violent demonstrations and gender-based violence in Africa.

The Youth’s contribution to conflict prevention and peace building is recognized and partnership and support to youth groups and organizations are required for peacekeeping efforts, and the need to consider the needs of young people in the planning and implementation of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes.

West Africa is an armed violence affected region with great effects on peoples’ security greatly negatively impacting populations that have water access problems. If water can be a "vector of conflict", armed conflicts, in a reverse dialectic, can make the deprivation of access to this precious resource "a weapon of war".

To contribute to the sensitization, the Regional Partnership on Water and the Environment (PREE) project, implemented by the IUCN Programme for Central and West Africa (IUCN-PACO) in collaboration with Global Water Partnership West Africa (GWP-WA) with financial support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), conducted from 23 to 30 December 2021 conference debates in 8 West African countries (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Guinea, Senegal and Togo) on “the process of promoting the Water, Security, Peace Nexus: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities for Youth in West Africa”.

These conferences were carried out as a contribution to the consolidation of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development through better integration of youth concerns into legal, policy, strategic and institutional frameworks as well as initiatives to promote integrated water, security and peace investments in West Africa.

The debates in each country involved at least 40 delegates representing youth organizations working in the fields of security and peace, national government structures in charge of water, security, national defense and youth, local authorities of communes at high risk of insecurity or their representatives, Civil society organizations working for peace, security and water, women's organizations working for peace, security and water, Technical and financial partners in the water and security sector.

Group works were organized to make in-depth discussions and analyze progress, good practices, challenges and opportunities before formulating recommendations and developing elements of the roadmaps. Key messages were also proposed in each country that would be necessary to develop awareness-raising and advocacy campaigns.

The authorities in each country acknowledge and thanked the great support of the financial partner, Sida and technical ones, IUCN/PACO, and GWP-WA. Country Water Partnerships (CWP) of Benin, Burkina, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal and WANEP-Togo facilitated the logistic and technical organization of the events in the countries.