blog by Rasha Hassan

Youth engagement and empowerment are becoming more challenging in 2021. This year has started with uncertainty and doubts in our minds. Many organizations are hesitant about executing their events while others are shifting to the virtual reality. This challenging environment will decrease youth exposure and opportunities of widening their networks, demonstrating their skills, and advocating for their cases.
One way to cope with these new conditions is to empower youth initiatives by supporting and providing the necessary financial resources for their implementation. These initiatives are becoming a necessity in a world impacted by climate change and complex water issues, to ensure the mainstreaming of youth voices in the decision-making processes. Youth have their own insights and future perspectives about the present issues in their communities, thus they can offer several out of the box solutions. Maybe what lacks in this world is the spark of youth and their energy and creativity in the complicated top-down systems of decision-making. From this brainstorming, Youth For The Rhine was born to promote the leadership of young people, demonstrate their own views about the current situation and the future of the Rhine, and also strengthen the social cohesion in this basin.

Youth For The Rhine is a youth-led initiative with an international fusion. The team is composed of young water professionals from Europe, India, Egypt, Morocco, Syria, and US who are mobilizing their efforts and skills to implement this project with the contribution of various partners. Rijkswaterstaat is the financial supporter of this project along with IHE-Delft which provides the managerial support. Moreover, Water Youth Network, IHP UNESCO and various universities and institutes along the Rhine furnish the project with human capital and networks. The main essence of this initiative is to use a bottom-up approach to co-create sustainable innovations for climate adaptation.

Youth for the Rhine will encompass two main pillars: (1) the creation of an international multidisciplinary knowledge-sharing platform of young professionals, and (2) the development of a bottom-up youth-driven strategy to address the different needs and insights of the end stakeholders mainly youth. Four committees are working in parallel to achieve this ambitious plan: the Pilot Project, the Online Youth Consultations, the Communication/Outreach, and the Partnerships and Fundraising. The main idea behind the pilot project is to gauge youth perceptions of water quality in the Rhine, through the development of surveys, water quality measurements and educational tools.. The Online Youth Consultations are focused on reaching out to the end-users, mainly youth, in this basin and beyond using webinars, questionnaires, and surveys to understand not only the designated youth perspectives of such a project but also their needs and opinions on what is happening in this basin in terms of climate change, and the water-food-energy nexus. Finally, there are two significant attributes of this project. First, it is by youth for youth which a key incentive. This structure encourages youth organizations tremendously to participate and provide their support and opinions when the project members reach out to them. Second, it can be replicable in other transboundary rivers worldwide, so this project can be considered as number one in a series.

All in all, I can say that this experience is so close to my heart, thus I wanted to start 2021 by talking about it. I consider the Youth For the Rhine as an instrument to contribute to making the future that we want as youth by conveying our voices to policymakers. Furthermore, it is a way of developing and demonstrating young professionals’ skills and offering us the opportunity to engage and interact more with the European society and senior water professionals. I am proud that I belong to a team that works for a crucial cause and tries to influence the world positively.

In the end, I hope I have encouraged some of you to support youth initiatives and projects by all means, and maybe contact this above-mentioned project to provide further support and join. Additionally, if you have any out of the box idea, make sure to share it with young people who may not only take the action but also take the lead.

Rasha Hassan