The ASEAN Agenda
As the year draws to a close with the impending culmination of the ASEAN Community on 31st December, it marks an exciting end to an eventful year and also, a promise for a better future for the ASEAN region and its members. This will pave way for a more integrated regional community with major tenets enshrined in areas such as the economy, socio-cultural, and political security. Together with the participation of partner countries, regional trade and multi-lateral cooperation are set to receive a shot in the arm. South Korea, one of the largest trading partners to ASEAN is set to increase two-way trade to US$200 billion by 2020, up from US$138.2 billion in 2014 (Woo, 2015)1)Woo, J., 2015. AEC spells ‘opportunities for Asean, S. Korea’. The Straits Times, 19 November.. With such importance placed on the integration process of the ASEAN member states, youths play an important role in ensuring the success of this grand undertaking.
Youths – Empowering Our Future
“We are the world, we are the children,
We are the ones who make a brighter day…”
The late Michael Jackson sang his Platinum-hit single “We Are the World” and in my point of view, the words sang resonate well with the message of youth and its promise in making a better world. ASEAN is home to more than 600 million people with 60% of them falling below the age of 35. These youths are key to the growth of the region and stewards of an integrated regional community for a better ASEAN future.
Several initiatives have been put forth by the member-states to actively involve youths in the formation of ASEAN Community with discussions made on matters that impact the people whilst affording them with platforms to cooperate on a multitude of issues that pertain to the region or the wider community. An example would be the ASEAN Youth Entrepreneur Seminar and Expo, which provides a platform to enhance and support economic self-reliance and self-employment of the ASEAN youths. Aside from achieving economic objectives, summits such as the ASEAN+ Young Leaders Summit (AYLS) aim to bring together youths from various member countries to participate and lead in dialogues that advocate regional integration and cohesiveness on various levels. Additionally, initiatives such as the ASEAN Youth Cultural Forum leverage and embrace diversity as our core strength – not as a divisive factor in the integration efforts of an ASEAN community. They aim to establish closer cultural and mutual understanding amongst ASEAN youths through an exchange of song, dance, and musical performances.
Therefore, a multitude of activities and platforms serve to foster a stronger ASEAN identity with the drivers being the youths themselves, forging a brighter future for the region. Our visionary youths are the future trailblazers and thus, further efforts and investments are continuously needed for the success of the region and its extended partners in realising an integrated and successful ASEAN Community.
By Solyh Ahmad, ASEAN Correspondent from Singapore
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Woo, J., 2015. AEC spells ‘opportunities for Asean, S. Korea’. The Straits Times, 19 November.|