AFI, US Embassy host summit for ASEAN youth

One hundred fifty of the most promising youth leaders from member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) gathered in Manila on December 3 to 5 for the “Link. Engage. Activate. Develop. (LEAD) ASEAN Youth” Summit, hosted by Ayala Foundation Inc., in partnership with the United States Embassy in Manila.

No less than US President Barack Obama welcomed the delegates via a prerecorded video message. “Having spent much of my youth in Indonesia, your region has a special place in my heart,” said Obama. “Your rich cultures, proud traditions, and incredible dynamism—it helped shape who I am, and it’s shaped my approach to the region as President.  Prosperity and peace in the Asia Pacific means more opportunity for us all, including the United States.  And I want to make sure we’re building that future together.”

Obama also announced the US government’s latest effort—the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. He said: “We’ll join with extraordinary young men and women like you on the things you care about most.  We’ll help you strengthen the kinds of networks you’re building at this summit.  We’ll give more young people the opportunity to pursue a quality education in your countries—including in science and technology—and to study in America. We’ll deepen the ties between us with new training and exchanges.  And in partnership with businesses and investors, we’ll help more young entrepreneurs start their own ventures and create jobs.”

Ayala Corporation CEO and Ayala Foundation Co-Chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala was also present to give the delegates words of inspiration. JAZA emphasized the importance of establishing empathy for people, regardless of who they are and where they come from. JAZA added: “I encourage you to network, to learn, to debate, to exchange insights with the amazing pool of speakers and guests present, and with your fellow ASEAN delegates during this summit. Go beyond stereotypes and get to know each other as friends. Before we collaborate with someone, we must first know understand their background, their mind set, their beliefs and their manner of doing business. Use this time as an opportunity of knowledge exchange, and more importantly, cultural exchange.”

Also present to speak to the delegates were David Carden, US ambassador to Southeast Asia; Susan Stevenson, deputy assistant secretary for Public Diplomacy in the US Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs; and, on the third day of the summit, Philip Goldberg, US Ambassador to the Philippines.

The three-day summit featured interactive panel discussions, exposure trips, cultural exchange activities, and workshops, which served as venues for the young leaders to learn from one another’s experiences, learn directly from experts and change agents working in key development fields, and find avenues for continued collaboration. Discussions centered on the following key topics: economic development, environment, education and awareness, and human development

One of the panel discussions, supported by the Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation, featured winners of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards—Lahpai Seng Raw (2013), Tri Mumpuni (2011), and Antonio Oposa (2009). Other speakers represented the following organizations and projects: Gawad Kalinga, Kickstart Ventures, Ayala Foundation’s Center of Excellence in Public Education (CENTEX), Rappler, World Wide Fund for Nature, Philippines Business for the Environment, Asia Society, and Teach Peace Build Peace Foundation.

On the second day of the summit, the delegates were divided into three groups, each visiting one of the following sites: Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm; Ayala Museum and the De La Salle College of St. Benilde; Nuvali and Tagaytay City (with WWF Philippines).

On the last day, the participants proposed innovative projects to address challenges confronting their countries, communities, and region, while building a framework to sustain the youth network in the years to come.

The summit gathered 10 delegates per ASEAN country and 60 from the Philippines. Delegates were selected after a competitive application process supervised by Ayala Foundation and the United States Embassies across ASEAN, and are either alumni of U.S. government sponsored international exchange programs or alumni of the Ayala Young Leaders Congress (AYLC).

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