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UNESCO Water Resilience Challenge 2022: Youth’s Role in Making the Invisible Visible

“And it all starts by making the invisible visible.”

Hans Dencker Thulstrup, the Senior Programme Specialist for Water and Environmental Sciences, UNESCO Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific.

Working toward this year’s World Water Day 2022 message on making the invisible visible, UNESCO Jakarta, UNESCO Ha Noi, and The Water Agency collaborated to bring a youth engagement program through the UNESCO Water Resilience Challenge 2022. The Challenge will take groundwater as the focus theme in the mission to raise awareness on this invisible issue by engaging and educating youth to be the forefront future leaders in actualizing the way toward sustainable future developments.

A total of fifty selected participants from various backgrounds and universities in Indonesia and Vietnam will work in teams to solve the water-related issues in two of the UNESCO-designated sites: the Merapi-Merbabu-Menoreh Biosphere Reserve and Dong Nai Biosphere Reserve.

On last Friday’s first meeting (26/08/2022), the program took off with introducing everyone, especially meant for participants to meet their teammates and mentors, who will guide the teams in their learning and doing process.

From Indonesian side, the teams are strengthened with mentors coming from different background.

  • Tri Mulyani Sunarharum (Gadjah Mada University)
  • Marsha Himawan and Putu Bawa (IDEP Foundation)
  • Wika Ristya (Royal Haskoning DHV)
  • Gibran Tragari and Feby Hendola Kaluara (Sendalu Permaculture)
  • Jelle Hendrik Therry (Ramboll Studio Dreistl)

Vietnamese teams would also meet their mentors soon,who are already prepared to support the teams, namely

  • Nguyen Huu Huy Hoang
  • Nguyen Khanh Linh
  • Kisha Muana
  • Phan Thanh Long
  • Hà Thị Yến
  • Pro Ha Quang Khai
  • Mr Huynh Cong Thang

The Opening Ceremony was conducted on Monday (29/08/2022). The learning started with a sharing session about the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the importance of water in the biosphere reserve — explained by Hans Dencker Thulstrup as the Senior Programme Specialist for Water and Environmental Sciences, UNESCO Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific. After that, Gregor Van Essen as the Managing Director of The Water Agency presented his view about “The Youth Empowerment Matters!”. He highlighted the important role of young people as water users and leaders of the future, and how youth as a force can contribute to that.

Following this, Dr. Hari Nugroho, the Indonesia Man and the Biosphere (MAB) National Committee delivered the opening remarks about Indonesian Biosphere Reserves. He emphasized the value of opportunity of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves status: recognition of excellence, appreciation, credibility, and international status. Following that, Prof. Nguyen Hoang Tri from the Vietnam MAB National Committee presented about the biosphere reserves in Vietnam in the context of water resilient challenges. He explained in a broader context regarding the biosphere reserves which should be not only in the biosphere boundary but also outside to support the water resiliency.

Talking about the challenging context in Indonesia which is located within the biosphere boundary — Merapi-Merbabu-Menoreh Biosphere Reserves, Jatimulyo and Purwosari Villages in Kulonprogo Regency, Yogyakarta becomes the focus area of the program in Indonesia. In Vietnam, the participants will focus to solve the water-related problem in the Vietnamese highlands giving way to Nam Bo Delta. Aside from the environmental conservation point of view, there are cultural and national reserves within Dong Nai Biosphere Boundaries.

Mixed issues from technical to social are present in both areas. Water spring contamination, the needs for water availability, and natural habitat protection are only some of the problems contributing to the district’s water availability and accessibility. Throughout the workshops, mentoring programs, knowledge exchange, field trips, and teamwork, the participants are expected to highlight the issues and raise awareness to actualize the sustainable future.


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