As part of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), President Obama met with 350 emerging leaders from the ten Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries. These youth attended the three-day YSEALI Summit in Luang Prabang, Laos, which brings together alumni from the YSEALI Fellows program to discuss the development gap in ASEAN and challenges facing rural communities in Southeast Asia. The President discussed the important role that their generation will play in shaping a sustainable and prosperous ASEAN into the future, and how they can work together and with the United States on policy areas of mutual interest, including entrepreneurship and economic empowerment, environmental protection, education, and civic engagement.
In 2013, President Obama launched YSEALI to strengthen partnerships with emerging leaders in Southeast Asia; to expand their skills as effective civic, economic and non-governmental leaders in the region; and to encourage them to work together across borders to solve regional and global challenges. YSEALI includes all ASEAN member countries (Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) and is open to young people ages 18-35. Since its launch, the YSEALI Network has grown to more than 100,000 members.
Youth in ASEAN
According to the ASEAN Secretariat, 65 percent of the population in the ASEAN region is under the age of thirty-five. These 400 million youth will define the Asia Pacific region for decades to come, so their full participation in solving global challenges such as climate change or economic growth is critical to the development and prosperity of the region.
- More than 100,000 young leaders are part of the YSEALI network.
- Since 2014, 640 young leaders have participated in educational and professional exchanges in the United States.
- Over 1,300 YSEALI members have attended 14 skills-building regional exchange workshops in Southeast Asia.
- YSEALI has granted nearly a half a million dollars in seed funding to 36 multi-national teams for projects addressing the YSEALI development and foreign policy themes.
On December 3, 2016–the third anniversary of President Obama’s announcement of YSEALI–members of the YSEALI Network will participate in YSEALI YOUnified, a single day of community service projects that will take place in all 10 ASEAN countries.
Over the next 12 months, YSEALI will execute YSEALI Regional Workshops to build participants’ skills and knowledge of current issues facing the region. These programs include the Women’s Leadership Academy in Jakarta and workshops on NGO management (Philippines), eco-entrepreneurship (Brunei), urban planning and sustainable development (Singapore), the ASEAN Economic Community (Vietnam), and increasing access to education (Malaysia).
The YSEALI Academic Fellows Program brings undergraduates or recently graduated students between the ages of 18 and 25 to the United States for five-week institutes held on the campus of a U.S. college or university. The program includes an on-campus academic residency, leadership development, interaction with American peers, an educational study tour, and community service activities. Programs conclude with a visit to Washington, D.C. to meet U.S. leaders, policymakers, and think tank experts. Each cohort of fellows studies one of three themes: Civic Engagement, Environmental Issues, or Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.
The YSEALI Professional Fellows Program gives participants ages 25-35 the opportunity to spend five weeks in the United States, including four weeks working directly with American counterparts in individually tailored work placements with non-profit organizations; federal, state, and local government; and private-sector offices across the country. During these placements, Fellows build their practical expertise, leadership skills, and professional networks. YSEALI Fellows’ areas of work include: environmental protection, government transparency, social entrepreneurship, non-profit management, disability rights, wildlife protection, and empowerment of women and girls. American hosts also travel to Southeast Asia on reciprocal exchanges under this program.
YSEALI Generation: Regional Exchanges
YSEALI Generation Regional Exchanges bring together youth from all ASEAN countries to develop practical skills, learn about regional problems, and collaborate on solving common challenges. From 2013-2016, more than 1,300 emerging leaders have benefited from professional workshops focused on entrepreneurship skills, workforce development, environmental studies, education, women’s leadership, and other leadership skills necessary to make a positive impact in their communities.
YSEALI Network and Virtual Engagement: 100,000 Strong
The YSEALI Network connects leaders from across the region and offers online networking opportunities and professional trainings. YSEALI digital programs use social media, online speaking programs, webinars and other digital technology to encourage young people to collaborate on issues of shared concern. The YSEALI website (www.yseali.state.gov), Facebook (www.facebook.com/youngsoutheastasianleaders), and Twitter (www.twitter.com/yseali) accounts regularly update network members about upcoming events, courses, resources, and opportunities.
YSEALI World of Food Innovation Challenge
The U.S. Agency for International Development launched the first YSEALI Innovation Challenge in February 2016, inviting university and vocational education students to propose science and technology solutions to food security challenges in Southeast Asia. Ten semi-finalist teams participated in an innovation boot camp in Singapore in July, supported by private sector partners. The winning teams will be announced in October.