Today, President Obama hosted a town hall with youth from across the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as part of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI). YSEALI is the President’s signature program to strengthen leadership development and networking in ASEAN, deepen engagement with young leaders on key regional and global challenges, and strengthen people-to-people ties between the United States and young Southeast Asian leaders. President Obama announced YSEALI via video message December 2013 during the LEAD ASEAN Youth Summit in Manila, Philippines.
Engaging and strengthening ties with young people is a critical element of the United States’ rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region. Recognizing that over 65 percent of ASEAN’s population is under the age of 35, YSEALI is an important investment in the next generation of Southeast Asian leaders. This initiative expands existing U.S. engagement in the region to better empower, support, and connect youth across Southeast Asia. Learn more about YSEALI here.
Developing Innovative Solutions to Shared Challenges
Over the coming months, the State Department will host YSEALI Generation Workshops aimed at developing a regional network for youth in ASEAN countries to collaborate on solving common challenges and creating new opportunities. At YSEALI Youth Summits, cross-regional teams will present proposals to tackle economic, environmental, education and civic engagement challenges to leaders in business, government, and civil society and share their perspectives on regional issues. YSEALI Seeds for the Future will provide funding for many of these teams to implement their ideas.
YSEALI will also encourage creative solutions to major global issues through the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) newly-launched Development Innovations Lab in Cambodia, which will be the first of several such labs that are being created across ASEAN. The Lab will provide a platform for youth to innovatively address development challenges through creative applications of technology, while strengthening and building networks of leaders in civil society and social entrepreneurship. The Labs will provide young people specialized training and mentoring in communication and leadership skills from experienced ICT professionals, civil society leaders, and established social entrepreneurs. They will have access to state-of-the-art computers, software, and equipment, as well as in-person discussion forums aimed at nurturing new ideas and information sharing.
Elevating the Ideas of Young Leaders
Launched at today’s town hall, YSEALI Talks provides a platform for young leaders to share their ideas, initiatives, and innovations. By organizing and presenting a YSEALI Talk, youth can generate support for their ideas, both within their own communities and across a broader network. Participants in today’s town hall will be the first to present YSEALI Talks and will help others develop their own events. #YSEALITalks will enable young leaders to connect, contribute to a broader conversation, and collaborate on creating new initiatives. Information on how to join the initiative and create a YSEALI Talk is available here.
Linking Young Leaders
YSEALI Connects will expand opportunities for young leaders from Southeast Asia to participate in new State Department-organized exchanges in the United States. Working with their American counterparts, young leaders will be able to discover the latest tools, trends, and technology in their field. These programs will allow ASEAN and American young leaders to develop new solutions for key issues such as economic development, environmental protection, education, and civic engagement. The first exchanges will take place this summer at university campuses across the United States, with a focus on the environment. Another program is slated to take place later this fall.
YSEALI Online will virtually connect young leaders from across the region and will offer an array of resources, networking opportunities, and trainings. The internet-based platform will encourage young people to collaborate on regional strategies for tackling issues of shared concern and will provide them an avenue to further their own development through courses on leadership, entrepreneurship, and major trends. The YSEALI website will also be regularly updated with information on upcoming events, courses, and opportunities.
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