ASEAN, Mekong Institute empower youth in civic engagement for stronger regional community

VIENTIANE, 21 May 2024 – Forging a stronger and more sustainable regional community, ASEAN Secretariat and Mekong Institute (MI) gathered 30 young leaders from across ASEAN Member States for the ASEAN Youth Convergence (AYC) on 20-21 May in Vientiane. Supported by the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Youth (SOMY) and through ASEAN Youth Programme Fund (AYPF), AYC set a remarkable tone for youth leadership and civic engagement with aim to shape the future of the region.

In his welcome remarks, Chair of the ASEAN SOMY and Director-General of Myanmar’s Department of Youth Affairs, Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, emphasised that opportunities like the AYC help young leaders expand their networks and meet like-minded peers. These learning platforms further empower young people as architects of the future of ASEAN community.

“We must keep exploring approaches that enable ASEAN youth to leverage their skills and competencies for our community-building efforts. We also ought to strengthen the institutionalisation of these youth engagement mechanisms, including through regional policy discourse.”

Lee Yoong Yoong, Director of the Community Affairs Directorate of the ASEAN Secretariat, highlighted the significant role of youths as active drivers of the region’s future. He emphasised that ASEAN is committed to harnessing the extraordinary potential of young people by providing them with the necessary tools, platforms, and opportunities to contribute to the region’s development.

“The ASEAN Youth Convergence is organised to enrich the capacities, honing the technical skills, and deepening the understanding of youth participants in forging ASEAN’s regional development journey, especially through the areas pertinent to regional cooperation and integration, youth leadership and volunteerism and advancing women socio-economic empowerment,” he stated.

Facilitating the youth conference, Anusara Tanpitak, Manager of MI’s Communications and Knowledge Management Unit and AYC 2024 project leader, explained that the AYC sought to inspire the youth on regional community issues and enhance their capacity for stakeholder engagement. “We wanted the delegates to develop a sense of aspiration, and we did this by showcasing the extraordinary journeys of our ASEAN Prize Recipients providing them with role models. We also worked on deepening their understanding of and sharpening their skills in civic engagement,” said Tanpitak.

The youth delegates were among the participants of the ASEAN Prize Symposium 2024, where they were provided the opportunity to have direct learning and mentoring session with the three most recent ASEAN Prize Recipients, respectively, The Mekong Institute (2021), represented by its Executive Director Mr. Suriyan Vichitlekarn; Muhamad Iqbal Damit (2022); Madam Nguyen Thi Tuyet Minh (2023). The ASEAN Prize Recipients, who are among the region’s changemakers, were awarded the ASEAN Prize, a regional premier award following their exemplary contributions to ASEAN community building efforts.

Aside from the ASEAN Prize Recipients, the youth delegates had the opportunity to engage other leaders in the region, including government representatives from ASEAN Member States, civil society leaders, and members of the private sector based in Vientiane. The delegates actively participated in the breakout sessions promoting solutions development through peer learning and collaboration among participants from various backgrounds.

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