What is water? A resource? An element? Life? Health?
This was the question asked to members of The World Youth Parliament for Water at the 4th General Assembly in Brasilia, a global network of youths all passionate and connected by water. We as a Parliament, are ready and willing to not only join the conversation and meaningfully contribute but to be the change we want to see in all aspects of life – economically, environmentally and culturally.
Essentially, we all asserted the importance of water in all aspects of life, further highlighting the ability of water to effectively bridge our differing ways of life but understanding how culturally we each saw water differently. This was the first time that I personally identified with this special ability of water, through the perspectives of a diverse group of people. For me, water was a means of hygiene, fun and food, whereas, for others, water represented spirituality, strength, struggle and determination. As one member said, “there is a difference between being poor and feeling poor, it’s all about perspective and our experiences.” This statement truly stuck with me and opened the minds of all the youth present.
The 16th of March was the official start of the youth General Assembly – the countdown was on! Youth across the globe were attending this assembly; Asia, America. Europe, Africa, etc., all gathered for the common goals of water equality, governance, security and awareness. We were formally introduced to each other by an icebreaker exercise whereby we each had to present a mug from our country and randomly select a person to exchange that mug with.
I was mesmerised and inspired by the varying cultures, emotions and drive in each member of the WYPW. At that moment, I knew we were a group of strong, powerful youth that was going to make a change. Following this activity, we were informed of the organisation, their partners and the governing body.
At lunch, conversations were flourishing! It was as though we were a long lost family, separated at birth, finally given the platform and opportunity to connect with each other. A team building activity separated us into regions and allowed us to discuss our personal research in our countries and communities. I saw creativity, drive, information exchange and mutual respect – an energy among the participants that was truly refreshing. Each region presented their collaborative findings, and what sparked me was that in every region there were similarities in management issues, pollution issues, transboundary issues, financial constraints and lack of awareness.
Following our meal, there was the topic of Blue Peace! This concept was introduced to us in a speech by Mr Pio Wennubst, State Secretary of the government of Switzerland.
Essentially, Blue Peace was born from the concept that water is important to all of us and if we value it and treasure it there is a natural desire to protect, preserve, conserve and respect this gift to the planet that fosters life. Blue Peace focuses on aligning our minds and visions with our passion, in this case, water and moving towards a common goal.
So, is Blue Peace a movement? A project? An initiative? It is all of that and more!
It is a way of life that needs to be embedded in our everyday conscious minds. This speech was the fire that we needed as the youth to feel empowered, and positive that we can indeed provide a voice that will lead change. This was the perfect start to the assembly and fuelled our preparations for the 8th World Water Forum.
Author: Khadija Stewart
Editors: Alex Whitebrook and Stephanie Woodwoth