Can solutions to Asia's water problems come from its youth? ADB is partnering with young water leaders to help solve the region's water challenges.

Tapping the Youth's Potential

ADB, through its Water Financing Program, is empowering Asia's youth who represent civil society organizations (CSOs), their schools, and their communities in addressing water problems across the Asia and Pacific region. As an under-tapped human resource, young people are key agents for social change, environmental sustainability, technological innovation, and economic development.

ADB's Youth Initiative is harnessing young leaders' potential through knowledge-exchange and increasing their participation and involvement in improving water, sanitation, and hygiene initiatives in the region. ADB also facilitates platforms for youth's voices to be heard in policy dialogues at the regional and global levels, in programs such as the ADB Annual Meeting, Asia Water Week, the 2nd Asia Pacific Water Summit, ASEAN Water Dialogue Conference, and 5th Network of Asian River Basin Organizations General Meeting.

"ADB recognizes the importance of engaging and working hand in hand with children and the youth," states Chris Morris, Head of ADB's NGO and Civil Society Center. "In our experience, the youth consistently and increasingly show that they are capable of addressing urgent development problems through their innovative ideas."

A Vast but Threatened Resource

"In our experience, the youth consistently and increasingly show that they are capable of addressing urgent development problems through their innovative ideas."

- Chris Morris, Head of ADB's NGO and Civil Society Center

About 60% of the global youth population is in Asia and they are all facing risks every day. WHO statistics show that more than one in 10 child deaths (about 800,000 per year worldwide) are caused by diarrhea, a preventable disease through proper sanitation. For the millions of boys and girls who miss school every year due to illnesses resulting from poor sanitation the implications are far-reaching, affecting their ability to learn and fully participate in their education. According to Water Aid, one in three women and girls worldwide risk shame, disease, harassment and even attack because they have nowhere safe to go to use the toilet.

In the face of these overwhelming challenges, governments and communities must work together with young people to improve water and sanitation in the region. If nurtured and empowered, the 700 million 15 to 24 year olds in the region can become the region's most important asset to improve sanitation in Asia and the Pacific.

Plan Thailand Country Director Maja Cubarrubia laments, "As much as the world has progressed in many respects, we know through our programs in 14 Asian countries that there is still a pressing need for potable water and sanitation facilities in many communities." Plan has teamed up with ADB in working on these issues with the youth.

ADB has been increasing its efforts in meeting the MDG target of halving the number of people without sustainable access to basic sanitation. ADB has a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the Sanitation Financing Partnership Trust Fund for the financing of non-sewered sanitation and septage management solutions across Asia. Through the Sanitation Financing Partnership Trust Fund, ADB will increase support for such innovations.

Supporting the Leaders of Tomorrow

In the months to come, ADB will continue to build the capacity of young water leaders in engaging in policy discourse through different forms of knowledge exchange particularly leading up to the 7th World Water Forum. ADB will further lead engagement of young people through ADB Youth Initiative's innovative use of social media. Support to piloting and mainstreaming of youth-focused projects in water will be increased. ADB will further strengthen partnerships for youth with CSOs such as Plan International, Asia Pacific Water Forum, Korea Water Forum, and various youth-led CSOs.

"Through ADB's Youth Initiative and our projects with governments throughout Asia we look forward to increasing the ways that we engage and support youth in water and sanitation projects," says Morris.

For ADB the answer is clear. With support from the global community, the solutions to our water problems will come from the youth as they become Asia's partners and assets for continuing development.

About Water Thinkpieces

Water Thinkpieces are articles written by ADB water experts that provide insights and analyses of current issues and challenges facing Asia's water sector. This article was written by Ponce Samaniego, Youth Partner, NGO and Civil Society Center, ADB.