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Bart Devos, WYPW President: “More than ever before, the youth is ready to help constructing our future. “

Mar 22nd, 2012 |

Bart Devos, President of the World Youth Parliament for Water

Bart Devos, President of the World Youth Parliament for Water

On the occassion of World Water Day 2012, Bart Devos, President of the World Youth Parliament for Water (WYPW), shares his vision about water and his impressions of the 6th World Water Forum in a commentary article. Bart is 19 years old and was born in Poperinge, Belgium. He studies law at the Brussels Free University and is since years actively involved in water issues. Bart is President of the World Youth Parliament for Water, Member of Green Belgium, GoodPlanet Belgium and PROTOS. In addition, he is observer in the International Scheldt Commission and a resource person of the Arab Youth Parliament for Water. In 2010, Bart was elected European Youth Water Ambassador during the European Youth Summit on Water- an event organized by the European Water Partnership.

Youth Parliaments for Water have been existing for more than ten years now. They have always gathered very motivated young people, who are actively committed to the water cause and want to raise their voice in the political processes. We young Parliamentarians have always to confront considerable challenges: establishing a strong and profound Declaration and/or a strategy during a meeting of two till five days is not easy. And if we manage to do so, then we face a second and even harder challenge, which is getting the attention of policy makers, making our message being heard, and if possible getting a place in policy making.

I’m very pleased that I can say that we, 85 young people from all over the world gathered in the World Youth Parliament for Water (WYPW) (March 5th till 12th, Marseille), tackled successfully all of these obstacles. As President of the World Youth Parliament for Water, I can only be very happy with the outcomes of our meetings in Aix-en-Provence and Marseille, and our participation in the World Water Forum in Marseille, March 12th till 17th. Thanks to months of preparation – both by the organization team as by the young Parliamentarians- , thanks to very efficient and solution-oriented meetings, and thanks to the establishment of a dissemination strategy, we passed our expectations.

Several high level policy makers made time to meet us personally (French Prime Minister, Korean Vice Prime Minister, Tunisian Minister of Environment, Dutch Crown Prince, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, French Minister of Cooperation, the President of the World Water Council), we had a structural place in the Parliamentarian Conference (where we made several amendments in the Manifest of Parliamentarians), we had an indirect input in the Ministerial Conference, and we had a representative of our Parliament in the Panel during the Synthesis Conference. The Chair of the Parliamentarian Conference thanked us by accepting our Parliament in the network of Parliament for Water, Mr. L. Fauchon (President of the World Water Council) said that three young people will be invited as member in his Council, and Ms. L. Obeng (Global Water Partnership) invited our Parliament to have a representative in the GWP.

All these elements have encouraged us a lot; they made us going back home plenty of motivation to continue this hard work at local level. We will try to spread our message as much as possible, we’ll try to set up and develop youth initiatives, and we are strongly convinced to get a structural place in policy making. These aims that we share as Parliamentarians are all mentioned in our Charter, which is our Constitution. It contains our objectives, and the structure of the Parliament. The Declaration contains the vision of the Youth Parliament: according to the one-liner of the 6th World Water Forum, “Time for Solutions”, we didn’t only define our main concerns, but we identified also our Solutions. However we, as young and ambitious Parliamentarians, weren’t satisfied at that point. Finding Solutions is for us as Youth Parliament not a final goal, but just the beginning. Our final goal is the realization of concrete actions that make a difference. That’s why we developed concrete actions that address the problems comprehended in our main concerns.

For us as Parliament, the meeting in Marseille was only the start: now it’s Time to Act.

For instance, in Europe, the young Parliamentarians of the Rhine and Baltic Sea Basin will introduce an educational tool for schools, about water governance. After 30 hours

Of class study on water governance and river basins, a river basin passport will be awarded to the participants. With this “BLUE PASSPORT” borders will be replaced by those of the river basins, in order to facilitate exchanges and to valorize the river basin. The young people of the Danube River Basin are committed to promote sustainable ‘green’ lifestyles, and they will focus on the sharing of information on local water issues.

There’s no doubt, in my opinion, that a lot of challenges are awaiting each of the Young Parliamentarians, in his or her region.

Also European policy makers have to face huge challenges. Notwithstanding all progress made in the past years, unseen changes threaten water supply in Europe.

For instance, thanks to many efforts and efficient policy making, the quality of the water of the Scheldt has recently improved a lot. However, to reach the European Directive’s norms, a broader approach will be indispensable. The ‘global’ changes that are threatening the Scheldt estuary are of a totally different nature. The Scheldt basin is one of the Europe’s most densely-populated river basins; demographic evolution, urbanization, industrial pollution and many aspects of agriculture imply dangers that need a long term solution. Solutions are only possible if we manage to create a cross sectoral strategy. Furthermore, when it comes to the problems caused by the demographic evolution, we can’t neglect the importance of public participation anymore. At these points, which apply to a lot of European river basins, I hope the Blueprint to safeguard Europe’s water resources will contain adequate responses to this gap in European policy.

One thing is for sure: More than ever before, the youth is  ready to help constructing our future. We are fully aware of the fact that the decisions taken today do influence directly our future. Primarily in the water sector, good decisions have can only be made when they consider the future. And the future, it’s us, young people.

Bart DEVOS

President of the World Youth Parliament for Water

For more information, please contact Mr. Devos at b.devos@greenbelgium.org.





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