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Interview Details

Interview with Bart Devos

  • Youth ambassador, European Youth Water Summit
  • Dated: Monday, June 7th 2010
  • EWP: What do you think is the biggest challenge when it comes to water?

    Bart Devos: The future is our biggest challenge. We should deal now with problems that many of us do not yet feel directly in daily life, but problems that will influence our future life quite a lot if we do not manage to find adequate solutions now.

    And the enormous population increase won’t make it easier in the future!


    EWP: What do you believe is the solution to improve the water situation in Europe?

    Barth Devos: The very first thing that should happen is getting everyone aware of the fact that water flowing out of the tap, is not that evident! The way in the which we’re dealing now with the problem is quite good, I think, as all stakeholders have the opportunity to get involved in the process. But I believe that we should continue to stress the importance of cross-border communication.


    EWP: Who is responsible for improving the water situation in Europe? How can we motivate these persons?

    Bart Devos: I think in Europe it’s up to governments to stimulate a change: we should invest in developing techniques that restrict water waste. Of course all citizens have to take their own responsibility in daily life, but in my opinion the government should give the good example by investing in this kind of research/development.


    EWP:  What type of water problems do you / did you experience in your personal life?

    Bart Devos: My first reaction was: “I’ve got the luck and the luxury to be one of the many Western people that do not experience direct problems in daily life”...but maybe I should change it into: “I’ve got ‘the luck’  to be one of the Western people who are (able to) waste amounts of water every day, without being aware of their lavish lifestyle”. Luckily I changed my habits quite a bit, last years. Although I never had to face water scarcity, I was confronted with water pollution by industry and floods in my town. 


    Why are you interested in water issues and what are you doing to address water challenges?

    Bart Devos: My commitment to the water issue started after I had seen some very interesting and touching documentaries from the BBC, and at about the same time there was my participation in the Youth Water Forum in Brussels, organized by Green Belgium and Protos. First, while watching the documentaries, I discovered the complexity of the problem, the immense consequences, the unfair situations. Especially these concrete situations from all over the world that were described, had a big influence on me. I’m now talking about one year and a half ago. At the Youth Water Forum in Brussels, to my surprise, I really became aware of the fact that this issue also belongs to our Western country. During this forum, I was elected to represent the Belgian youth (together with four other youngsters) during the Youth World Water Forum in Istanbul, March 2009. This was a first milestone. In Istanbul, I was appointed as one of the six leaders that coordinated the whole process of establishing our Youth Declaration.

    This year I participated in the European Youth Water Summit, where I had – for the first time in my life – the opportunity to discuss with MEP’s, and other important politicians. As a Youth Ambassador of this forum, I was invited to join the Aquawareness Forum, a very useful day for me, as I was involved in stakeholder roundtables debates.


    EWP: With reference to the Water Vision for Europe, which of the articles do you regard as the most important ones?

    Bart Devos: Difficult question, as the document contains quite some interesting ideas! I think I’d choose the second. That’s the article that says that water should be recognized as a human right. At the Youth Water Forum we had some interesting debates about the recognition of water as a human right. I was immediately interested in this topic. At the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul, this was one of the main themes. I followed some very informative sessions about this topic, and I discussed a lot about it with other youngsters, while preparing the Youth Declaration.


    EWP: From your perspective and experience, what are the major obstacles to achieve it?

    Bart Devos: It’s quite easy to say that, ideologically, water should be recognized as a human right. At the contrary it should be very difficult, one can even say impossible, to supply the infrastructure to provide every single human being with water, sufficient in quality and quality.


    EWP: For achieving the aims of the Vision which actors are needed? How would you suggest to reach out and motivate them?

    Bart Devos: It’s a multi-stakeholders vision: it  supposes a change in mindset by the politicians and citizens; scientists should create appropriate technologies, it also involves economy, ... This makes it a complete vision, all domains of society are treated.


    EWP: In your opinion, how open are European institutions with regards to youth participation in policy setting? 

    Bart Devos: Well, in fact personally I’ve got – and I’m getting - quite a lot opportunities to get involved in forums, to give my opinion, and to participate in discussions. The European Youth Water Summit was a perfect example.  At one hand,  these opportunities were very useful for me as youngster, committed to the water issue: I was overloaded with theoretical information and practical ideas. At the other hand I’m not sure if politicians will keep our ideas, or more concrete documents e.g. our Youth Declaration, in mind while policy setting. But in that respect it’s also up to us not to consider the mission as completed immediately after this Forum, and to continue lobbying with our Youth Declaration.


    EWP: How can youth become part of the solution for water-related problems?

    Bart Devos: It’s up to youth not to underestimate their responsibility, each youngster at his own level: Via the pupil council, having a try to influence regional politicians, or simply being aware of the fragility of water in daily life. The youth is the future: by ensuring nowadays that some young people are directly involved in this issue - and as many as possible in high level debates -, we can ensure that in the next generation of decision makers, there will be commitment to and interest for the water problems. In addition, more directly for this Water Vision, it's important to take the vision of young people into account: without doubt they'll supply very useful ideas, as they approach this issue in another way. 


    EWP: Participants of the European Youth Water Summit elected you to be European Youth Water Ambassador. Do you pay more attention to water challenges now?

    Bart Devos: Yes, I do – I hope so at least. My election as Youth Ambassador has strengthened my involvement a lot, and now I’m more applying my commitment to the water issue in daily life. I also hope to get more opportunities to participate in this kind of forums.


    EWP: What is your personal hope when it comes to the water crises?

    Bart Devos: When I’m looking forward, one of my main concerns are the water related – economical and in some cases even armed – conflicts. I fear that in regions where water scarcity is increasing, and where river basins are shared by different countries - for instance in the Middle East (e.g. Israel-Palestine) - will cause escalating tensions. It shouldn’t be a big surprise if, after the conflict about the so-called black gold, the next war should arise out of water-related twists.

    I hope that all people will realize that they have a common problem, that they’re allies, and not enemies.


    EWP: Thank you for the interview.


  • Bart Devos
  • Youth ambassador, European Youth Water Summit
  • In March 2010, Bart Devos (17) from Poperinge, Belgium, participated in the first EWP European Youth Water Summit and was elected European Youth Water Ambassador. The European Water Partnership has had the pleasure to interview Bart about his view on current water challenges, the Water Vision for Europe and his participation in the European Youth Water Summit.
"The future is our biggest challenge."

- Bart Devos
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