On the 18th of January 2024, The Water Agency organized the opening ceremony for the UNESCO Water Resilience Challenge 2023. This marked the initiative of an inspiring journey where young water leaders from nine different countries commenced to start a mission.
The ceremony started with an opening speech by Maki Katsuno Hayashikawa, Director at UNESCO Multisectoral Regional Office. She highlighted UNESCO’s commitment to empowering youth in addressing climate challenges by providing platforms for them to showcase their ideas. Ms. Maki expressed gratitude for the generous contribution from the Government of Japan to UNESCO programs, including those aimed at building the capacity of youth.
She also featured the significance of conducting challenges in UNESCO-designated sites, such as World Heritage sites, biosphere reserves, and UNESCO global geoparks, as they serve as living laboratories for learning more about nature.
Following Maki’s speech, Gregor Van Essen, the Director of The Water Agency, expressed his delight in hosting the challenge. He congratulated the 25 selected teams joining the World Water Forum 2023, encouraging young water leaders to seize the opportunity, enjoy the experience, and learn as much as possible while connecting with others to become future leaders in the water sector.
Afiya, an alumnus of the UNESCO Water Resilience Challenge 2022, shared her experiences to encourage her juniors in the challenge, featuring her team’s journey and development of ideas. Her presentation ignited sparks in the hearts of young water leaders aspiring to see their ideas to become fruitful. After that, Neil Andika, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia, discussed the crucial role of youth engagement in the 10th World Water Forum, emphasizing the need for youthful ideas, innovation, and fresh perspectives to address pressing water and climate issues.
Focusing on UNESCO-designated sites, Ryuichi Fukuhara, a Technical Advisor for Natural Sciences from UNESCO Jakarta, explained the significance of these sites and their contribution to climate resilience and sustainable development. He explained the definition of UNESCO-designated sites, their backgrounds, frameworks of implementation, criteria for selection, and interesting facts about existing UNESCO-designated sites. Ryuichi highlighted the importance of biosphere reserves as learning sites for sustainable development, showcasing the linkages between sustainable development, climate resilience, and biodiversity conservation.
The opening ceremony set the stage for a promising journey towards addressing critical water and climate issues, and we eagerly anticipate witnessing the growth of these young water leaders throughout the UNESCO Water Resilience Challenge 2023.