The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) celebrated its 47th anniversary on August 8th. It was created to promote greater cooperation and improve the lives of the people of its member countries, now 10 strong -- a region of 620 million. Millions of Americans trace their ancestry to the region and it's our fourth largest trading partner, so what happens there matters to the American people. The United States works closely with ASEAN and its people on important issues from education to environmental protection to economic development. President Obama launched the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) in 2013 to strengthen youth’s involvement in shaping the future of ASEAN, and its identity as a cohesive community.
Through programs sponsored by the U.S. government, YSEALI supports young ASEAN leaders by providing opportunities to increase their professional skills and community engagement through regional workshops and study/mentoring tours in the United States. The first YSEALI workshop was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in April 2014. The YSEALI Generation workshop brought together 103 young leaders from across the region to strengthen their social entrepreneurship skills. This summer, YSEALI invited two groups of ASEAN youths to visit U.S. universities as a part of YSEALI Institutes and two groups of young professionals as part of YSEALI Fellows. The students had the opportunity to deepen their knowledge about environmental policy and engage in local community activities, while the Fellows worked with counterpart organizations to deepen their knowledge on legislative governance and economic empowerment.
YSEALI is also proud of the inaugural Seeds for the Future grant competition, which opened on July 15. Winning proposals from ASEAN youth leaders will receive seed money of up to $10,000 to fund their multi-country public service projects. Teams must consist of members from at least two different ASEAN countries and be supported by at least two alumni of U.S. government programs. The competition closes on August 10, and winners will be announced in September. For more information on the Seeds for the Future grant competition and to become a YSEALI member, visit the YSEALI website: https://youngsoutheastasianleaders.state.gov/.
If you have friends or family members who are between the ages of 18 and 35 and are citizens of one of the ten ASEAN countries, encourage them to become YSEALI members by signing up here: https://youngsoutheastasianleaders.state.gov/join/. You can also like YSEALI on Facebook and follow @yseali on Twitter.
Together, Americans can help make our relationship with the people of ASEAN even stronger in the generations to come.
About the Author: Greta Morris serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.