Unless we drastically change the way we manage freshwater, global demand will outstrip supply by 40% by 2030. For the first time since 1977, water will be at the top of the agenda, as world leaders gather to commit to the most important and pressing water-related issues during the United Nations 2023 Water Conference. Why is this an important moment? Because water is our most precious resource. It is essential to create and sustain any form of life. It is also an important driver to achieve a more equal and peaceful world. Water even has its own Global Goal: Goal 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation.

Despite its clear importance for people and the planet, global leaders have not met to discuss water-related issues in over 46 years!

To this day:

  • Over 2 billion people still do not have access to safe water. (Source)
  • Poor sanitation affects over 3.6 billion people. (Source)
  • 90% of natural disasters are water-related. (Source)
  • Over 80% of wastewater is released in nature without treatment. (Source)
  • Widespread droughts are set to become the next pandemic as climate change intensifies. (Source)
Credit: Association Tihary



Our leaders’ inaction on the multiple crises has left many activists and campaigners discouraged. As a young water and climate activist from Canada, I come from a country that has significantly contributed to the current climate crisis and that still benefits from some 20% of the world’s total freshwater resources. When traveling abroad for the first time, I was taken aback by the lack of access to safe water, and poor sanitation, which affects so many communities around the globe and by the impacts of widespread droughts on people’s lives. I soon came to realise that the current state of the world was deeply unfair, as those having least contributed to the climate crisis were the most impacted by its effects, which are almost entirely water-related.

However, there is still reason to be hopeful. This year, World Water Day, which has been held on 22 March every year since 1993, and the UN’s Water Conference, present a unique opportunity to accelerate solutions to the water and sanitation crisis. The conference will address the following themes: Water for Health, Water for Sustainable Development, Water for Climate, Resilience and Environment, Water for Cooperation & Water Action Decade. While there will be no negotiated outcome to the conference, all stakeholders are invited to make voluntary commitments through the Water Action Agenda.

World Youth Parliament for Water at the University for Peace. Credit: International Secretariat for Water


In the lead-up to this important moment, thousands of youth and allies have come together through the Global Youth Movement for Water (GYMW) to amplify the voices of our generation. Launched during the 9th World Water Forum in Senegal (2022) by the International Secretariat for Water, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Senegalese organisers, the GYMW brings together over 370 youth-led organisations and allies to influence decision-makers, increase our negotiating power and encourage action around the globe. Young people under 35 make up more than half of the world’s population and we’re among the hardest hit by the water crisis. Despite being agents of change in a rapidly changing world, we are rarely included in major decision-making processes about global issues. In fact, only 2.6% of the world’s parliamentarians are under 30. This needs to change!

This conference is our opportunity to rally the world around our most precious and finite resource: clean water. Over the past years, we’ve been inspiring change through concrete actions in thousands of communities worldwide and youth-led initiatives and organisations have multiplied at all levels. But we need more. We need more commitment and more bold political will. The #FIllUpTheGlass campaign was thus launched to create a youth movement for water that the world can no longer ignore.

In Nepal, the DrinkPani initiative is using citizen-science to enhance drinking water security.  The Central Asia Youth for Water Network is strengthening regional water cooperation and diplomacy to ensure sustainable peace through joint efforts. In Latin America, Red de Jovenes por el Agua is advocating for universal access to water and sanitation. These are only a few of the many inspiring examples of how youth are leading the way in all parts of the world.

Credit: Central Asia Youth for Water Network


As we seek to make a much bigger impact, we believe cooperation across generations, countries and sectors is the most effective way to better manage and preserve our most valuable resource. For the sake of our generation and those still to come, we must come together to #FillUpTheGlass.

As the theme for World Water Day 2023 is “Accelerating Change”, we commit to strengthening collaboration, coordination and peer-to-peer learning amongst youth organisations in the water space and to amplifying our actions, outreach and impact through a united voice for the implementation of Global Goal 6.


At the UN Conference, we call on our decision-makers to obtain a UN General Assembly Resolution calling on the establishment of regular intergovernmental meetings on water within the UN. Furthermore, we encourage the nomination of a UN Youth Envoy on Water and a Youth Advisory Group on Water, representing different regions of the world. We also call on the importance of ensuring that youth and women receive adequate education to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to fulfill their role as agents of change. Finally, we believe that young people must be included in all water-related mechanisms, negotiations and decisions so that they can be part of the solution. Water is an instrument of peace, and cooperation is needed to guarantee peaceful societies.

No matter where you are, you can partake in our movement and act now because you have the power to inspire change! Small things add up and every action is a drop in the sea of change. 

To learn more about the #FIllUpTheGlass campaign:

Join the movement here.


About the author:

Elysa Vaillancourt is Youth Project Manager at the International Secretariat for Water.

Women’s Power Means World Progress: International Women’s Day 2023

Gender equality is not about women and girls.

Well, it is. And it isn’t.

Under each of the Global Goals, there are specific indicators that measure progress toward achieving that goal. For example, under Goal 5, Gender Equality there are fourteen indicators such as the ’proportion of women in managerial positions and the ‘proportion of individuals who own a mobile telephone, by sex.’

But gender equality is not confined to Goal 5.

Across all 17 of the Global Goals, there are 52 indicators related to women and girls.

That’s 52 reminders of the intersectional impact of gender equality.

That’s 52 reminders that gender equality means less poverty, more climate justice, better health, stronger economies, and so much more.

That’s 52 reminders that women’s power means world progress.

When we break down the barriers and biases standing between women and girls and their full power, we leave no one behind.

Still need convincing?

Here’s a reminder of 52 times that women’s power changed the world for everyone, not just women and girls.

1. In 1843, Ada Lovelace was the first person to recognise the potential of computers beyond mathematical calculations and is widely regarded as having written the first computer program.

2. Mary Seacole, pioneered modern nursing in 1855 when she set up the “British Hotel” to tend to soldiers in Crimea.

3. Harriet Tubman, who was born into slavery, freed 750 slaves in the Combahee River Raid in 1863.

4. In 1890, Cornelia Sorabji was the first woman to study law at Oxford University. She was also the first woman to graduate from Bombay University, and the first to practise law in India.

5. In 1903, Marie Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, for her study of radioactivity. She was also the first person and the only woman to win a Nobel Prize twice, and the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two scientific fields.

6. Helen Keller was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree when she graduated in 1904 from Radcliffe College at Harvard University. She went on to become a prominent political activist, campaigning for disability rights, votes for women, workers’ rights, and world peace. 

Helen Keller. Image Credit: Los Angeles Times.


7. When her plane landed in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1928, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to complete a solo transatlantic flight. 

8. In 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first Black person to win an Oscar. The ceremony was segregated, and she and her guest were made to sit at a table on the far side of the room. Praised by some critics, she faced a backlash from many others, and said herself she was treated as if she had  “done something wrong.” Today she is rightly remembered as a trailblazer of Black cinema. 

9. In 1944, journalist Martha Gellhorn was the only woman to land at Normandy on D-Day. She was denied press accreditation so posed as a nurse to board a hospital ship, and became a stretcher-bearer upon landing. 

10. In 1946, Eleanor Roosevelt was the first Chair of the new UN Commission on Human Rights, the precursor to the modern UN Human Rights Council. She was instrumental in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

11. In 1955, civil rights activist Rosa Parks sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott when she refused to give up her seat for a white passenger.

12. Nina Simone used her iconic voice as a form of protest during the US Civil Rights movement of the sixties and seventies. 

13. Katherine Johnson was a NASA scientist whose calculations were critical in the first crewed US space flight in 1961. Her work was also crucial to the moon landing.

14. Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space when she flew a solo mission in 1963. She remains the only woman to have been on a solo space mission. 

15. When Shirley Chisholm was elected to the House of Representatives in 1968, she was the first Black woman in US history to take a seat in Congress. In 1972, she was the first Black candidate for a major party’s nomination for President, and the first woman to run for the Democratic nomination. 

16. Climber Junko Tabei became the first woman to summit Mount Everest in 1975. In 1992 she became the first woman to summit the highest mountain on every continent. 

17. Actress Helen Hayes became the first woman, and second person, to win an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards) in 1977

18. In the seventies and eighties, singer Miriam Makeba wrote and performed music critical of the apartheid regime in her native South Africa, which she was exiled from for 30 years. 

Miriam Makeba. Image Credit: Paul Weinberg.


19. When Vigdís Finnbogadóttir became President of Iceland in 1980, she was the first woman to be democratically elected to office anywhere in the world.

20. In 1988, Benazir Bhutto became the first woman to be elected the leader of a Muslim-majority country. 

21. Erin Brockovich became a whistleblower in 1993 when she began an investigation into the health impacts of water contamination in Hinkley, California. The resulting lawsuit culminated in the largest class action in US history at the time. 

22. In 1997, journalist Shireen Abu Akleh began reporting for Al Jazeera, covering the Arab world, particularly Palestine. She continued working as a journalist until she was killed on duty in a refugee camp in 2022. 

23. In 2003, Oprah Winfrey became the world’s first black billionaire. By 2012, she had given away about $400 million to educational causes.

24. In 2005, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the first woman to be elected as the President of an African country. 

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the 2017 Goalkeepers Global Goals Award Ceremony


25. When she became CEO of PepsiCo in 2006, Indra Nooyi was the first woman of colour to lead a Fortune500 company.

26. In 2009, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave one of the most viewed TedTalks of all time. “The danger of a single story”, which has over 33 million views, describes how Chimamanda found her authentic cultural voice – and advocates for us all to listen to and engage with multiple perspectives and cultures. 

27. Christine Lagarde became the first woman to be appointed Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund in 2011. In 2019, she became the first woman to be President of the European Central Bank. 

28. Serena Williams became the first person ever to win a Career Golden Slam (winning all four major tennis tournaments and Olympic Gold) in both doubles and singles in 2012. No one else has ever achieved this. 

29. Malala Yousafzai became the youngest ever Nobel Prize Laureate when she won the Peace Prize in 2014

30. & 31. In 2015, Yusra and Sara Mardini saved the lives of everyone on board a boat that began sinking as a group of refugees were crossing the sea to Europe. When the boat began taking on water, Yusra and Sara jumped out and spent the next 3 ½ hours in the water and guided it to safety. Yusra has since swam in the Olympics, and Sara has worked with NGOs to support other refugees. 

Yusra Mardini at the 2016 Global Goals Awards.


32. Christiana Figueres led the process of the UNFCCC which led to the signing of the 2015 Paris Agreement. 

33. Laverne Cox became the first trans woman to win an Emmy when she was awarded for her show “Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word” in 2015. She was also the first transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine. 

34. Hanah Al Hroub won the 2016 Global Teacher of the Year Prize, for her work teaching children in Palestinian refugee camps, who have been exposed to violence. 

35. In 2016, Viola Davis became the first – and so far only – Black person to complete the “Triple Crown of Acting”, winning Academy, Emmy, and Tony awards in the acting categories. 

36. Greta Thunberg began the School Strike for Climate movement when she went on her first strike, alone, outside her school in 2018.

37. In 2018, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library celebrated the donation of its 100 millionth book since the programme started. Today, almost 200 million books have been gifted. 

38. At the 2019 Gymnastics World Championships Simone Biles became the most decorated gymnast of all time after winning her 25th gold medal. 

39. In 2020, Kamala Harris became the highest-ranking female official in US history after she was elected Vice President.

40. Director Chloé Zhao became the first woman of colour – and only the second woman ever – to win an Academy Award for Best Director when she received the 2020 Oscar for Nomadland.

41. In 2020, journalist Zahra Joya created Rukhshana Media, a media platform that was founded to give women in Afghanistan a chance to tell their stories. After the Taliban regained power in 2021, Rukhshana pivoted its coverage to focus on the increasing restrictions Afghan women are facing, and Zahra manages the organisation from the UK, where she is living as a refugee. 

Zahra Joya at the 2022 Goalkeepers Global Goals Awards.

42. & 43. On the penultimate day of 2020, months of intense work by Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert and Dr Catherine Green paid off when the AstraZeneca covid vaccine was approved for use in the UK after a record-breaking development time. Less than a year later, almost 2 billion doses had been supplied around the world.

44. At the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Laurel Hubbard became the first openly transgender woman to compete in the Games. 

45. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became the first woman, and first African to be appointed Director-General of the World Trade Organisation in 2021.

46. In 2022, Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley made history with the launch of the Bridgetown Initiative, a new agenda that would overhaul the global financial system, more fairly allocating resources in order to address the world’s multiple crises. 

47. When she was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice in 2022, Ketanji Brown Jackson was the first black woman ever to serve on the highest court in the United States. 

48. In 2022, Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska partnered with UNICEF to launch the National Program of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support. The program focuses on the mental health of children and young people impacted by the war since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

49. In 2022, actress Nazanin Boniandi began using her platform to bring attention to the uprising in Iran after Mahsa (Jina) Amini’s death in police custody. Nazanin has spoken at the UN Security Council, urging foreign governments to support the protesters.

50. Sônia Guajajara became Brazil’s inaugural Minister of Indigenous People in 2023. She was also the first indigenous person ever to run for the country’s vice presidency in the 2022 elections.

51. When she won her 32nd award in 2023, Beyonce became the most Grammy-winning artist in history.

52. In 2023, Rihanna was the first person ever to perform the Super Bowl halftime show while pregnant. 


About the author:

Authors: Fran Wilski, Partnerships Director, Project Everyone & Lydia Paynter, Communications & Campaigns Manager, Project Everyone