“From foe to friend,” the water management approach in the Netherlands and worldwide is evolving.

We asked water envoy Meike van Ginneken for her perspective on World Water Day and this year’s theme: Water & Peace.

Improving global water security begins with awareness

“World Water Day coincides with the beginning of spring,” Meike says, prompting us to reflect on the importance of water. “Although clean and sufficient water is commonplace in the Netherlands, many around the world lack this privilege.” Improving global water security and management begins with awareness. Hence, on March 22, we celebrate how water connects us and fosters cooperation while raising awareness about water-related challenges and solutions.

From water as an enemey to water as ally

It’s undeniable that the Netherlands, with its history of water struggles, now leads in embracing water, utilising Nature-based Solutions, and collaborating with water. “This shift, from water as an enemy to water as an ally, is a global phenomenon,” Meike explains. With climate change and population growth, more countries face the challenge of sustainable water management. This goes beyond technical hurdles, often involving administrative complexities, knowledge gaps, and conflicting goals. For instance, some countries inadvertently exacerbate water issues by subsidizing agricultural practices that deplete groundwater.

This shift, from water as an enemy to water as an ally, is a global phenomenon

Meike van Ginneken

Dutch Water Envoy

Knowledge exchange is a two-way street

“Looking beyond our water-centric perspective,” Meike notes, “we must examine how water intersects with agriculture, climate policy, and financial considerations.” While the Netherlands excels in water security and technology, there’s much to learn from other nations, for example in coping with extreme drought. Knowledge exchange is a two-way street.

“Focusing on water and peace,” Meike emphasizes, Dutch principles like poldering find practical application globally, mediating conflicts between farmers and nomadic herders or shaping transboundary river management. “I am convinced that we have prevented many wars over water by bringing people together in peacetime,” she adds. Sometimes it’s as simple as people from neighbouring countries or communities having each other’s phone numbers and getting to know each other.

Water as a symbol of unity and peace

“I am very proud of the role the Netherlands plays in supporting international initiatives to coexist with water,” Meike concludes. As a water envoy, she aims to share Dutch water expertise globally and facilitate dialogue between our nation and others. Together, we strive for a future where water is a symbol of unity and peace, not division and conflict.”

The world is facing an escalating global water crisis that demands urgent action

Water resources are under increasing pressure, and the need for a collaborative international approach is more evident than ever. In response to this challenge

Wavemakers United is aiming to engage, educate, and motivate young people all over the world to actively participate in the water sector.

The urgency to act

Water challenges affect our health, safety and future prosperity. Gijs van Nes, Youth Community Manager at Wavemakers United, emphasises the imperative role young people play in addressing the water crisis. “The water sector desperately needs young minds with new ideas and skills to make a meaningful impact,” says Van Nes. The goal is clear: raise awareness, share knowledge, and accelerate breakthrough innovations. “We do this by creating a global impact community with a passion for water innovation.”

Connecting and activating youth networks

Wavemakers United is on a mission to connect and activate global youth networks for the sustainable development of water, food, and energy. “We have committed ourselves to the Water Action Agenda. And through our initiatives in sports, education, and social innovation, Wavemakers aims to create both awareness and partnerships in local communities. This way we create a network in which young people can develop their talent and make an impact in their community,” Gijs continues.

Creating ‘Waves’ around the world

In 2023 Wavemakers United organised the UN 2023 Game Changer Challenge, a global collaboration with IHE Delft that brought together more than 2,000 students from over 62 countries. Gijs: “The challenge was a huge success. But it also revealed a crucial need for an enabling environment for young people interested in water sustainability. To address this need, Wavemakers United decided to establish local chapters or ‘Waves’ around the world. These Waves will be instrumental in achieving our goals: educating and training students, building communities, integrating sports, promoting innovation, and empowering them to take concrete actions in their communities. Since education is essential in our approach, all Waves will have a university as a strategic starting point.”

Blueprint for Waves: Timeline to WWF Bali

Wavemakers United is preparing to launch the Indonesian Wave at the World Water Forum in Bali in May 2024. “We are aware of the uniqueness of local water challenges, still Wavemakers seeks to provide a blueprint: a format and system of processes to facilitate the establishment of Waves in various countries. No matter the location, our goals for every Wave are the same: building consortia, integrating sports for local engagement, developing educational initiatives, enable capacity building, driving innovation. We are positive that with a solid format, it will take less time to create a network of Waves, each tailored to local needs, yet united in their commitment to water sustainability”, Gijs explains.

World Water Day Event: Shaping the Future

On 22 March, Wavemakers United will organise a workshop facilitated by Partners for Water in The Hague, offering students an opportunity to learn more about Wavemakers and the upcoming World Water Forum in Bali. Participants will engage in brainstorming sessions focused on key topics in regard to the upcoming Indonesian Wave. The workshop is a great opportunity to optimise the launch in Indonesia and at the same time create a blueprint for future Waves.

The workshop

In five rounds participants will dive into subjects such as:

  • Utilising local youth capacity for solving water issues
  • Bridging knowledge gaps
  • Leveraging youth capacity of involved organisations
  • Structuring effective collaboration among universities, students and authorities
  • Identifying and categorising potential obstructions.
  • The aim is to gather valuable input to create a format for Waves, with the ultimate goal of presenting it at the World Water Forum in Bali.

For the students this is a chance to test and enhance their problem-solving skills, join a network of young water professionals, meet international water experts and explore potential career paths. And above all else play an active role in making an impact on water challenges.

Partners for Water’s perspective

Liliane Geerling, programme coordinator at Partners for Water, explains why they support Wavemakers United with this workshop: “World Water Day raises awareness about the importance of freshwater resources and advocates for its sustainable management. Many people around the world take water for granted, not fully understanding its scarcity and the need for conservation efforts. And many others already experience how climate change affects our water systems, with either too little, too much, too saline or too dirty water. Healthy freshwater ecosystems are crucial for biodiversity and provide essential services such as regulating the climate, purifying water, and supporting livelihoods.”

Partners for Water focuses exactly on these aspects and involving water management students in their activities is crucial for raising awareness and empowerment, networking and to encourage young people to harness their energy in developing creative and innovative solutions for global water management challenges. Liliane: “Our programme is also responsible for the promotion of the Netherlands as a Centre of Excellence, which highlights the contribution of the Dutch water sector to the SDGs. This promotion goes beyond just water security, as water plays an important facilitating role in relation to other SDGs. Therefore, we will also join the WWF in Bali.”

A ripple effect

Gijs adds: “I hope we can inspire many young people to get involved in the water sector. Even though the problems are on a global scale, small steps can lead to a big impact. I am positive that establishing Waves and organising events such as the Game Changer Challenge will have a ripple effect, which will enable a new generation to make a change.”

Read about Wavemakers United

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