The US YSEALI's regional workshops provide an interactive learning opportunity for youth from ASEAN countries. [Image: The US Embassy in Hanoi Facebook account]

The United States Empowers Youth in ASEAN Countries

ASEAN The Mekong

In early August, 80 students from 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries attended the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Generation: ECommunity workshop in Hanoi, Vietnam, funded by the US Department of State. For the four days of the workshop, the participants deepened their knowledge about sustainable development and civic engagement in ASEAN by meeting with experts from the ASEAN Economic Community, US-ASEAN Business Council, and the Center for Social Initiatives Promotions. As the finale of the workshop, all participants performed skills learned from informative sessions at the ASEAN Summit simulation, shaping their future role in the global community.

In December 2013, the United States launched the YSEALI to offer professional and academic exchange opportunities in the United States for ASEAN students and young professionals between the age of 18 and 25. Currently, over 98,000 young leaders are in the YSEALI network. YSEALI’s various programs have supported over 19,000 young ASEAN students. As a part of the YSEALI’s Professional Fellows Program, the University of Montana welcomed 32 ASEAN students in May. More than12 American students of the school will travel to the South Asian countries in January 2018.

This year ASEAN — the world’s seventh largest economy and the third largest in Asia — embraced its 50th anniversary and also celebrated its 40 years of partnership with the United States. With a long-standing friendship, the ties between the United States and ASEAN are thriving; ASEAN is the United States’ third largest trading partner, importing $100 billion worth in US goods and services in 2016. During the 2015/16 academic year, over 55,000 ASEAN students studied in the United States and their economic contribution to the US economy was $1.7 billion.

Additionally, the United States closely cooperates with ASEAN to tackle challenges in its member countries. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) collaborated with students of YSEALI to develop innovative technology solutions for the food security issue in the Southeast Asian region. USAID has supported ASEAN young female professionals through the ASEAN-US Science Prize For Women to empower ASEAN women. This September, YSEALI will host the second US-ASEAN Women’s Leadership Academy in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Yeo-Ri Kim is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a Master's candidate in Global Policy Studies at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas.