Background

To help achieve the ASEAN Community (AEC) in 2015, SEAMEO (Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization) aligned and intensified its initiatives to foster human and intellectual connectivity, which is also congruent with the ADB’s (Asian Development Bank) Regional Cooperation and Integration Strategy. SEAMEO and the ADB signed a memorandum of understanding in 2013 to facilitate the development of regional cooperation programmes, including assistance from ADB to SEAMEO. The main initiative under this cooperation is the SEAMEO College, a high-level policy and strategy forum among education leaders and practitioners. SEAMEO College focuses on three major regional and cross-cutting issues and concerns, namely: a) bridging regional divides; b) accelerating the process of creating a ‘common space’ for education in Southeast Asia; and c) social needs and market demand signalling systems for technical manpower.

SEAMEO College comprises four modules, one of which is “Learning and Innovation Forum for Youth Leaders” (Module 4). This module focuses on developing ‘new leaders’ who will take future leadership roles in education, science, culture and other initiatives in Southeast Asia and beyond. The SEAMEO Regional Centre for Archaeology and Fine Arts (SEAMEO SPAFA), the designated lead centre for Module 4, will organize the first “SEAMEO Youth Leadership Forum 2014” from the 1st to the 4th of October 2014 in Bangkok.


Rationale

The World Bank estimates that globally there are 1.5 billion young people (defined as persons aged between 15 and 24 ), the highest number ever in history. As of 2010, more than 60 percent of the world’s youth live in Asia Pacific, about 15 percent (or nearly 110 million) of which is in Southeast Asia. The so-called “youth bulge” presents opportunities for countries to maximize their human capital in pursuing their social and economic development goals. On the other hand, failing to prepare the future generation of citizens – as workers, businessmen, parents, and community leaders – have serious costs on governments. Not meeting the youth’s expectations to have gainful employment or to be able to participate in political decision-making have the danger of fostering social discontent.

Societies today have to tap the enormous potential of young people in contributing positively to efforts in poverty reduction and socio-economic growth by harnessing the youths’ dynamism and idealism. Development efforts are not only made effective but also made more sustainable if the youth have a sense of ownership of their societies’ futures. For the youth to participate fully in society, now and especially in the future, their values and skills have to align with the vision of a society that is culturally sensitive, politically inclusive, and environmentally caring.

SEAMEO being the lead organization in developing Southeast Asia’s human capital has a critical role in ensuring that the region’s youth are equipped with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that prepare them to become leaders of the next generations. The forum will thus serve as one of the catalysts for the effective engagement of young people in steering the course of Southeast Asia’s future development.

SEAMEO SPAFA has had key programmes that specifically targeted the youth. In 2008 and 2009, it conducted six “Youth, Culture, and Development” workshops that benefitted 225 young participants from ASEAN-member countries. In 2011, it held the “Asia Pacific Forum: Youth Action on Climate Change” in which over 160 delegates from 17 countries in the Asia-Pacific region participated. The “SEAMEO Youth Leadership Forum 2014”, therefore, is consistent with SEAMEO SPAFA’s vision of engaging the youth in shaping the future of their communities and the Southeast Asian region.

References:
  1. UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Available online: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/documents/youth/fact-sheets/youth-definition.pdf [accessed 17 April 2014].
  2. UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Available online: http://www.unescapsdd.org/files/documents/Youth%20factsheet%2020121112.pdf [accessed 17 April 2014].
  3. World Bank (2006). World Development Report 2007: Development and the Next Generation. Available online: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWDR2007/Resources/1489782-1158107976655/overview.pdf [accessed 17 April 2014].