Youth leaders from 10 ASEAN member states explored opportunities for collaboration to address​ regional challenges at a Fellowship co-organised by the Singapore International Foundation and the National Youth Council Singapore.

Singapore: On 7 November 2022 Forty-five youth leaders from ASEAN gathered in Singapore for the fourth edition of the ASEAN Youth Fellowship (AYF) programme co-organised by the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) and National Youth Council (NYC) Singapore.

The programme held from 29 October to 4 November comprised a second leg in Greater Jakarta, Indonesia from 2 to 4 November to boost exchanges and opportunities for cross-border collaboration. AYF 2022, inspired by the theme of Cambodia’s ASEAN Chairmanship, “ASEAN ACT – Addressing Challenges Together”, focused on joint ASEAN action to overcome regional problems and uncertainties.

The Fellows participated in a series of seminars, dialogues, and fireside chats that explored trends and innovations in the areas of social resilience, technology for good, mental health and wellbeing, and the role ASEAN youths can play in addressing challenges together to bring positive, long-term impact to their collective future.

The Fellows had the opportunity to interact with prominent thought leaders from diverse sectors, including senior public office holders namely Singapore Minister for Health Mr. Ong Ye Kung and Indonesia Minister for Education, Culture, Research, And Technology Mr. Nadiem Anwar Makarim.

At the Ministerial Dialogue, Mr. Nadiem underscored the importance of leadership development among the youth so that they will be future-ready.

He said: “One challenge youth leaders will face in the future is how they can bring different sectors to work together. Now is the time for the public, private, and people sectors to collaborate to achieve sustainable community development. Youth need to take the lead for these joint projects to happen and create positive social impact.”

In both countries, the Fellows gained first-hand experience from learning journeys, designed to empower them with insights into social innovation, food security and food crisis management, and environmental sustainability.

In Singapore, Fellows visited the Enabling Village, an integrated community space to support persons with disabilities; the Geylang neighborhood, led by Citizen Adventures, a social enterprise that seeks to re-examine and introduce neighborhoods as interconnected social ecosystems; and Innovate 360, Singapore’s first food accelerator that supports more than 80 food start-ups to grow and expand into Asia.

In Greater Jakarta from 2 to 4 November, Fellows visited a recycling facility and a landfill, managed by Waste4Change, an Indonesian service provider that provides responsible waste management solutions. They also visited the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta and met its Political and Security Director, Dr. Tang Siew-Mun at a panel session. Discussions included pressing issues ASEAN faces and how youths can work together to improve regional cooperation.

Ms. Jean Tan, SIF Executive Director, said: “AYF 2022 seeks to initiate conversations and explore solutions around some pressing issues we face today, from mental health and social resilience to food security, waste management, and diversity and inclusion. As outstanding leaders in their respective fields of work across the public, private, and people sectors, the Fellows are well-placed and resourced to investigate these challenges and work together to make a difference.”

She added: “The SIF, with its focus on international cooperation for development, stands ready to work with any AYF alumni to build a more sustainable ASEAN through community projects in education, healthcare, social entrepreneurship, and the arts.”

Mr. David Chua, NYC Chief Executive Officer, said: “As the world continues to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, many challenges still lie ahead of us. It is thus more important than ever for ASEAN to stand in unity and care for our future, while no one gets left behind, and for youth to step forward and demonstrate that they are the next generation of leaders.”

Mr. Bora Kem, a Fellow from Cambodia and Senior Partner and Director at Mekong Strategic Partners, said: “The AYF is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I enjoyed meeting with senior policymakers and industry experts in Singapore and Indonesia, who are making waves and creating positive social impact in their fields. It inspires me to reflect on what I can do to contribute to a better and more inclusive Cambodia and ASEAN in the years to come.”

Mr. Chansambath Bong, a Fellow from Cambodia said: “With Cambodia heading the ASEAN chairmanship this year, I am honoured to be representing my country for the 2022 ASEAN Youth Fellowship. The biggest highlight is getting to know many like-minded friends across the region. I have learned a lot from them and look forward to cross-border collaborations.”

The Deputy Director at the Centre for Inclusive Digital Economy, Asian Vision Institute added: “Despite our different backgrounds, we have a shared responsibility to build a socially resilient and future-ready ASEAN.”

Ms. Tann Channarath, a Fellow from Cambodia, said: “In just a week, I have gained valuable insights into the pressing issues the region faces today from food security to social inclusion. It was also inspiring to meet changemakers and organisations who are working hard to address various social issues.

The Lecturer at the Institute for International Studies and Public Policy (IISPP) at the Royal University of
Phnom Penh added: “The activities and learning journeys throughout the programme also allowed us to build friendship and pushed us to think out of the box on what we can do together to weather new challenges as one united region in this fast-changing world.”

Photo by: Supplied