Being young and ASEAN | The star

I still believe that the idea of ​​promoting a spirit of unity and belonging in South-East Asia, especially when thinking of young people, cannot be entrusted to a foundation like the ASEAN Secretariat does. with the Asean Foundation.

There is nothing wrong with having a philanthropic foundation at the heart of regional action to promote youth empowerment and the overall idea of ​​a more youth-oriented and inspired ASEAN identity.

Personally, I like the motto promoted by the Asean Foundation: “Think, Feel and #BeASEAN”. It’s smart, cool, and eye-catching, and I wish it could be adopted and adopted by all primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in the 11 member countries of this community.

If you are a good connoisseur of Asean affairs, you will have noticed that in reality there are 10 members of the bloc, but I have not lost hope that one day soon Timor Leste will also be finally welcomed. in the family, because he deserves it.

Of course, the work of the Asean Foundation should be further extended so that it can become a recognized and visible “engine” for the promotion of a feeling of common belonging, in particular among young people.

For example, look at his work in the field of education. There is no doubt that this is important work, but to make it even more relevant it needs to be significantly expanded.

The foundation manages, among other initiatives in this area, a scholarship program, the Chulabhorn – Asean Foundation Scholarship, the result of a partnership with the Chulabhorn Graduate Institute based in Bangkok. It could become a flagship initiative, however tiny it may be, with its 10 seats available to citizens of ASEAN countries, with the exception of Thailand.

There is no doubt that ASEAN can and must be more ambitious here. With the European Union supporting the idea of ​​a common regional educational space, potentially a real game changer if you imagine future exchange programs on the model of the Erasmus Plus program implemented at EU level, then the Asean Foundation could have a much more important role, perhaps by working a strong partnership with the Asia-Europe Foundation.

Think about the field of social entrepreneurship. In Southeast Asia, this specific sector is becoming more and more transformative – and in a positive way. It’s not just the incredible level of expertise and craftsmanship that comes from Singapore.

There is also a whole ecosystem that is getting in shape and getting stronger and stronger. The British Council, in partnership with UN-ESCAP, Social Enterprise UK and with support from HSBC, produced the State of Social Enterprise in South East Asia report in February.

We found that Thailand has one of the most comprehensive sets of laws to promote social entrepreneurship in the region.

“The supporting ecosystem – of policy makers, facilitators and capacity builders, networks, platforms and facilitators, member organizations, funders and funders and higher education – is relatively mature, although often dynamic, complex and growing, ”the research revealed.

The overall picture is positive, and many of these social enterprises have proven to be extremely effective and useful in helping to tackle Covid-19 and its multiple crises.

Yet is there an added value in strengthening the regional dimension so that more can be done to intensify the work of social entrepreneurs in South East Asia?

In the past, there was certainly an interest. Singapore organized an Asean Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in 2014, then, again with the support of the Asean Foundation through the Japan-Asean Solidarity Fund, UnLtd Indonesia and the Singapore International Foundation have organized the ASEAN Conference on Social Entrepreneurship in July 2016.

In 2015, the Asia Foundation even wrote an article on the role that social entrepreneurship could have in promoting the integration of ASEAN.

The ASEAN Foundation took action this year with the ASEAN Social Enterprise Development Program, to which teams from ASEAN countries could apply.

Should we be satisfied with it or should we expect more? We cannot simply rely on a foundation, however innovative and effective it may be, if we are to make youth-centered policy making more central to ASEAN policy making.

In a very practical way, this means more resources for the Asean Foundation, which should become a true regional facilitator and facilitator of youth engagement in multiple fields. This means not only relying on the international community, but also being able to count on more “internal” resources from the ASEAN Secretariat and its member states.

This means, on the one hand, cementing more innovative partnerships with groups like the ASEAN Youth Forum, the ASEAN Youth Organization or the Young SEAkers and many other like-minded initiatives.

On the other hand – and this is the hardest part – it involves having regional leaders ready to embrace youth-centered policy making.

The fact that Asean is advancing in work related to the phase II survey of the Asean Youth Development Index is commendable, as the next index will reveal even more information on the status of young people in Southeast Asia, valuable data that should be useful to ASEAN. Heads of State.

Nevertheless, I have a doubt: will the results and conclusions of this key research really matter?

At a recent online workshop on ASEAN Awareness, Values ​​and Identity, Dr Eric C. Thompson, Principal Investigator of the Youth Development Index Phase II Survey Asean said: Asean community.[ofAseanalonedoesnotnecessarilycorrelatewithsharingthevaluesandidentityoftheAseanCommunity[ofAseanalonedoesnotnecessarilycorrelatewithsharingthevaluesandidentityoftheAseanCommunity

“Thus, to better reach young people, it is important to promote the values ​​of the ASEAN peoples, the benefits of ASEAN and a positive understanding of the identity of ASEAN. “

If I’m not mistaken, this is exactly the mandate of the Asean Foundation, but can it really fulfill its goals? Shouldn’t that also be the mandate of the heads of state of ASEAN?

Real strategic thinking and real money are needed if we are to ensure that youth will be at the center of ASEAN policy making rather than at its periphery.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the current president of Asean, will he pay attention? Perhaps a real effort in this potentially very easy and uncontroversial goal could create a positive legacy of his leadership, although no effort here could make up for his failure to deal effectively with the Myanmar crisis. —The Jakarta Post / Asia News Network

Simone Galimberti writes on social inclusion, youth development, regional integration and the SDGs in the Asia-Pacific context.

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