"Children of today are the leaders of tomorrow," an 11-year-old eco-activist Aliya Eraj from Tajikistan started her speech with this statement at the Youth & Children's Water Forum in Dushanbe on June 6, according to the UNCIEF Tajikistan Country Office.

Organized by UNICEF Tajikistan under financial support of the European Union, the Youth and Children Water Forum, which is a part of the International Dushanbe Water Conference, "Water for Sustainable Development, 2018-2028", brought together hundreds of youth representatives and decision-makers from around the globe to discuss and identify priorities on how governments and young people could inclusively collaborate towards the acceleration of achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development water-related goals.

The official ceremony was opened by delivering statements of the Tajik Minister of Education and sciences, the EU Commissioner on Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, and the Tajik Chairmen of Youth Committee.  The UNICEF Representative in Tajikistan, Mr. Osama Makkawi, then delivered his statement, after which he closed the opening ceremony, thanking the guests for their participation.

During his speech, Mr. Makkawi stressed the importance of the youth in the water sector: "Young people are more open to accepting and testing innovative ideas and technologies that, in turn, can catalyze the achievement of fundamental objectives of water sustainability and resource efficiency. Therefore, if equipped with the skills and opportunities, young people can be the driving force in promoting human rights to water and sanitation for all."

When discussing their experiences with mechanisms to inclusively manage water resources, young participants reportedly stressed the need for a strong political will of the governments for dialogue and cooperation with the youth leadership.  The latter will create practical tools and measures for implementing SDG 6.  They highlighted that such tools must be supported by improved capacity development mechanisms for young people to further their technical knowledge of this vital resource. Noting UNICEF's long-standing experience in fostering WASH cooperation, all participants highlighted and expressed their appreciation to the Organization for providing a platform for such multidisciplinary dialogues.

Speaking at the Forum, the 11-year-old Aliya Eraj also said, "To prevent water scarcity in the world, I urge my fellows to think about water conservation. We, children, can help our community by offering a helping hand.".

Press release issued by the OSCE Tajikistan Country Office on June 6 says that over the next two days, the participants will share their unique experiences and solutions on many aspects of water management, including: enhancing inclusive collaboration between youth and decision-makers; providing access to technology and innovations; investing in youth social and environmental entrepreneurship; and scaling up and replicating the successful young entrepreneurship examples.

UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being of every child in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children to the benefit of all children, everywhere. UNICEF has been operating in Tajikistan since 1993.