The Association of South East Asian Nations is an organization of ten nations found in South East Asia. The association is focussed on establishing political and economic integration. Established in 1961, the association has been vibrant in mostly establishing a free market and trade across member boundaries (Severino 56). The bloc, however, has been silent on its largest population the youth. It has injected fewer efforts in ensuring the under 35 population which constitutes 65% of the overall populace across its ten members are well catered for as the association pursues its mandate. It tries to factor in a minor way in its agenda through the ASEAN Youth Organization. This is in plain contrast the US funded Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI). The latter YSEALI is anchored on addressing regional opportunities and challenges, economic empowerment, education, environmental protection and civic engagement (The Whitehouse).
ASEAN Youth Organization can reach the heights attained by the YSEALI but due to challenges, this may not be possible. The challenges manifest themselves in various ways. The first is founded on narrow objectives. The objectives of ASEAN Youth Organization are only focussed on community development and youth volunteering. This makes it less impactful on the South East Asia and the youth in general (Asia Engage). It only empowers the youth with the disaster management tips and communal socialization. It is prudent to note that there are many areas that the youth can thrive and realize their full potential. Further, the organization does not participate in civic engagement, education, or economic empowerment initiatives (Weatherbee and Emmers 21). All these spheres resonate with many under 35-year-olds across South East Asia. Another challenge faced by the association is limited governmental support. The youth are not highly focussed on the greater ASEAN agenda by the ten member states. The youth agenda is not appreciated as a force or driver of the South East Asia quest to be a strong regional bloc (Weatherbee and Emmers 29). The governments are not keen on ensuring that the ASEAN overall mandate is structured to complement the youth who constitute 65% of its population. ASEAN also lacks the proper funding and infrastructure to recruit as many youths as possible in its programs. The logistical problems cripple the organization in its pursuit to involve the South East Asia youth. The association also lacks influential input from the top ASEAN brass as compared to YSEALI, which had input from President Obama and other top US departments. With such support emanating from top leaders a youthful organization can thrive and attain more trust from its direct membership.
ASEAN Youth Organization can gain a lot of insightful ideas on how to engage the youthful population in the South East Asia region. It has first to diversify its mandate. The association should stop confining its activities to volunteering and communal development. There are many other platforms that the youth can engage in socially, politically and economically. The organization should also use its massive constituency to push the youth agenda within the ASEAN member states. The association should also focus on directly impacting on its members by pursuing partnerships with relevant organizations in matters to do with scholarships, talent growth et cetera. This will ensure that it draws members from different spheres. YSEALI has collaborated with General Electric, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Intel and US-ASEAN Business Council (U.S. Department of State). All these organizations have been pivotal in the organizations youth empowerment agenda through innovation scholarships, work opportunities, and professional growth. The ASEAN Youth Organization should also participate in more intricate regional issues which will ensure that its influence is felt and appreciated. It is prudent for the organization to comprehend that it has the advantage of numbers as well as overall youth goodwill in its pursuit of its various objectives.
Asia Engage. About The ASEAN Youth Volunteer Programme. 2015. Web. <http://www.asiaengage.org/about-the-asean-youth-volunteer-programme/>.
Severino, Rodolfo. Asean. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2008. Print.
The Whitehouse. "Fact Sheet: The President's Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative." Whitehouse.gov. The Whitehouse, 10 Nov. 2015. Web. <https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/11/20/fact-sheet-presidents-young-southeast-asian-leaders-initiative>.
U.S. Department of State. "Obama: Southeast Asian Youth Will Shape Regions Future | IIP Digital." Home | IIP Digital | U.S. Department of State. N.p., 13 Oct. 2014. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. <http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/article/2014/04/20140427298349.html#axzz41Ue12vgV>.
Weatherbee, Donald E, and Ralf Emmers. International Relations in Southeast Asia: The Struggle for Autonomy. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005. Print.
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