Youth Leaders In Asean Explore Ways To Future-Proof The Region With Sustainable Solutions

Participants of the 2021 ASEAN Youth Fellowship held discussions with thought leaders and visited innovative enterprises and organisations in Singapore before outlining the role they can play in the development of the region.

Youth Leaders In Asean Explore Ways To Future-Proof The Region With Sustainable Solutions

More than 30 ASEAN youth leaders have shared their views with the Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN on what young people can do to help move the region forward sustainably. 

The youths – all participants of the 2021 ASEAN Youth Fellowship (AYF) – gathered in Singapore from 27 to 31 October for the third edition of the programme, organised by the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) and the National Youth Council Singapore (NYC).

Their suggestions on the role of youths came as a response to the Chairman’s Statement from the 38th/39th ASEAN Summit. The Statement emphasised the importance of unity in promoting ASEAN’s sub-regional development, especially in narrowing the development gap, enhancing ASEAN’s regional competitiveness and connectivity, and ensuring sustainable and inclusive development. It also highlighted the need to elevate the roles of youth in realising the goals, and to ensure that they are prepared to respond to complex global challenges.

Reflecting a collective voice as ASEAN youth, the Fellows’ proposed greater youth representation and consultation in policymaking. They also suggested ways to support the growth of sustainable businesses, which complements the region’s circular economy framework, and starting an ASEAN youth chapter to facilitate opportunities for cross-border knowledge sharing and collaborations, especially in the areas of youth empowerment, mentorship, human security, digital technology, and low-carbon energy.

Aligned to the 2021 AYF’s theme of “Building a Sustainable Future, Together”, the recommendations were focused on future-proofing ASEAN, building collective resilience, and leveraging digital solutions for sustainable global progress. 

Over five days, the 33 Fellows took part in a series of dialogues that explored innovations in public health management, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) standards, and partnerships among the ASEAN communities, and the role youths can play in amplifying impactful voices responsibly to build a sustainable future. 

Fellows had the opportunity to interact with distinguished thought leaders and public office holders, including the Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN, His Excellency Tran Duc Binh, who shared his views on the importance of fostering an ASEAN identity, youth empowerment in ASEAN’s development agenda, and furthering people-to-people ties among ASEAN youths.

Fellows also visited Sustainable Living Lab (SL2), Sembcorp Tengeh Floating Solar Farm, EWR2, an automated e-waste recycling plant, and Insectta, Singapore's first urban insect farm that rears the black soldier fly to help turn food waste into biomaterials for industrial use, as part of their field trips. These learning journeys provided Fellows with insights into social innovation, energy transformation, and food and agriculture technology in Singapore. 

The AYF programme also provided participants with the opportunity to share experiences, build relationships and be part of a network of young ASEAN leaders who can catalyse positive change in the region. 

The latest cohort of AYF Fellows joins a 79-strong alumni network. They comprised next-generation youth leaders from the public, private and people sectors residing in Singapore. They were nominated and referred through various partner organisations that work closely with the NYC and SIF in areas including youth leadership development and regional cooperation. Fellows were identified as having the potential to take on prominent leadership positions and further contribute to the betterment of the region. 

Ms Jean Tan, SIF Executive Director, said: “Youths today are passionate and purpose driven. Many of them want to make a difference through their work and they form an important voice for positive social change in the region. The AYF programme is designed to connect such young leaders and expose them to opportunities for collaboration to build a stronger ASEAN.”

Mr David Chua, Chief Executive Officer, NYC Singapore said: “The global community today has to address challenges that are not constrained by borders. By working together, we can share our knowledge and expertise to solve multifaceted issues. I encourage our Youth Fellows to build partnerships across the region and create a greener and more resilient future for ASEAN.”

Mr Lim Kar Men, 2021 ASEAN Youth Fellow from Malaysia, who also works at YouTube, Google Asia Pacific, said, “I am excited to be a part of the AYF programme. I enjoyed hearing from senior policymakers and experts who shared valuable insights into the pressing issues the region faces today. It is essential that countries cooperate and formulate partnerships to weather new challenges in this fast-changing world. The activities and learning journeys also pushed us to think critically on how we can contribute to the sustainable future of ASEAN.”

Mr Simeon Yeoh, 2021 ASEAN Youth Fellow from Malaysia, who is also Staff Engineer at AMS Sensors, said: “The dialogues and learning journeys were fascinating, and the organiser has done a great job in enabling this event to be conducted physically while adhering to strict safe distancing measures at the same time. I was especially excited to learn about how various organisations leverage technology and innovation to improve lives and contribute to a sustainable planet. I also enjoyed meeting the other Youth Fellows who are doing great work in their respective fields. I look forward to getting to know them better and to exploring potential collaborations.”