On 18th of January 2024, the UNESCO Water Resilience Challenge 2023 launched its opening ceremony. This is the start of an exciting journey in which young water leaders from Brunei Darrusalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam will take part in.
The event started with an opening speech from Maki Katsuno Hayashikawa, Director at UNESCO Multisectoral Regional office. Through her speech, Maki-san emphasised UNESCO’s dedication on the empowerment of the youth capital in addressing the climate challenges by offering more opportunities for the youths to showcase their ideas. She mentioned the generous contribution from Government of Japan for UNESCO program aimed to build the capacity of the youths such as UNESCO Water Resilience Challenge 2023: Youth Action for Water.
“Youth for UNESCO is not just a priority group but a powerhouse of creativity and innovation and a source of relentless ideas. We see you as not just the leaders for tomorrow, but vital change bringer of today,” said Maki-san.
Maki-san also emphasized the importance of doing this kind of challenge in UNSECO-designated sites such as the World heritage, the biosphere reserves and UNESCO global geoparks since they are the living laboratory for us to learn more about nature.
Following this was a speech by the Director of The Water Agency, Gregor Van Essen. Gregor shared his gratitude to organise this challenge with UNESCO and his colleagues from The Water Agency. He congratulated the selected 25 teams and encouraged them to take this opportunity greatly, enjoy the experience, and learn as much as they can while connecting with others to become the future water leaders of Asia
The session continued with a sharing by Afiya, an alumnus from the previous challenge, UNESCO Water Resilience Challenge 2022, to encourage the teams in participating in this program. She mentioned how her team developed the idea by approaching water-related issues in real-life situations and considering how to implement it. Afiya’s sharing of her winning experience lighted many sparks in the hearts of young water leaders who want their ideas to become fruitful.
Subsequently, Neil Andika, an assistant professor in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia, talked about the crucial role of youth engagement in the 10th World Water Forum to increase youth engagement in water sectors. Currently, he is actively involved in Asia Water Council and the Indonesia Hydraulics Engineering Experts Association. He emphasized that the ideas, innovation, and the fresh thoughts of youths are needed to deal with the pressing issues in the water and climate sector.
Since the challenge focused on UNESCO designated sites, Ryuichi Fukuhara, a Technical Advisor for Natural Sciences from UNESCO, explained about the UNESCO designated sites as well as their contribution to climate resilience and sustainable development. In detail, he explained its definition, backgrounds, frameworks of implementation, criteria for selection, and interesting facts about UNESCO designated sites.
The opening ceremony was successfully celebrated, thanks to Maki San, Gregor, Afiya, Neil, Ryuichi San and the participants. There will be more upcoming events like training, mentoring sessions, checkpoints, and pitching sessions. Please keep in touch with the updated news to watch and learn how the teams develop their ideas for water resilience to build a more sustainable future.