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The 9th World Water Forum in Dakar

The 9th edition of the World Water Forum (WWF) took place in Dakar from March 21 to 25 with the theme of water security for peace and development. Organized every three years in cities around the world since 1997, this was the first time the Forum was held in Sub-Saharan Africa. A few days before the opening of the event, dozens of young people blocked the Niayes national road with burnt tires just 50 kilometers from the capital. They demanded the right to access water from the borehole installed in their locality, which is only intended to supply Dakar, while at home the taps are dry.


Several thousand public and private actors in the water and sanitation sector from around the world met in the Senegalese capital, including heads of state and ministers, with the aim of responding to the global challenges of water resource management. This is a key issue for the host region, which since the 1970s has been alarmed by periods of intense drought and their direct consequences in terms of food security as well as resulting conflicts. According to the OECD, 40% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa does not have access to basic water supply services, and 70% does not have access to basic sanitation. Senegalese President Macky Sall recalled in his opening speech the urgency and the need for enhanced cooperation, citing a UN report that two out of five people in the world live in areas where water is scarce.


Youth participation and empowerment was a key priority for the Executive Secretary. The Association of Young Professionals for Water and Sanitation in Senegal (AJPEAS) and the World Youth Parliament for Water (WYPW) helped develop the Forum's Youth Space, a place for ideas and solutions to come together from all generations, sectors, and countries. This space at the heart of the Forum was dedicated to young people from all over the world, offering them the opportunity to exchange and cooperate amongst each other to make the changes necessary for a sustainable and equitable future. A series of events were hosted by various youth groups and associations on themes such as the future of water research, the voice of African youth on adaptation, the participation of women in water diplomacy processes, and intergenerational policies for the water sector in Senegal.


Moreover, the physical design of the Youth Space was entrusted to the Dakar School of Architecture, allowing the three winning students of the Youth Space Development competition to bring to life their concept, which met the criteria of sustainability, innovation, durability, and attractiveness, while also being inspired by fluidity and Senegalese culture.


"The creation of the youth space, open to all young people, is a monumental step in the right direction for youth inclusion. This space allows for the creative representation of water-related topics that matter to young people. This space strengthens and unifies the voice of youth on the subject of water by giving us a space to act together, while also illustrating the diversity within our movement by allowing many voices to be represented throughout the Forum. I am very excited to be a part of it and to see the diversity of ideas, people, and passions within the youth water movement."


- Carolina Tornesi MacKinnon, President of the Global Youth Water Parliament and member of the 9th World Water Forum Youth Steering Committee.


Image source: https://youthforwater.org/app/uploads/2022/03/Youth-Space-Program.pdf


The Dakar Declaration was signed at the end of a week of discussions with the aim of calling on the international community to "guarantee the right to water and sanitation for all". This "blue deal" highlights the need for "mobilization of financial resources" and a "governance" of water that includes the agricultural, industrial, health, biodiversity, and energy sectors. At the closing of the Forum, the Senegalese Minister of Water, Serigne Mbaye Thiam, announced the creation of a high-level international panel on African investment in water which will develop concrete ways to mobilize 30 billion dollars per year until 2030, in order to remedy the investment deficit in Africa.


While this forum was neither a summit nor an international conference, it was an opportunity for civilians to present to state and private actors the issues they would like to add to the agenda, looking ahead to the second major United Nations conference on water to be held in March 2023. As with every edition, an Alternative World Water Forum (AWF) was organized in tandem to give a voice to those who could not afford to pay costly entrance fees.


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