First SEAMEO Youth Forum Sparks Passion for ASEAN Communityhood among Southeast Asian Youth Leaders

Tuesday, 11 February 2020 |

When asked about her reflection after the four-day forum that was highlighted by a mix of interactive activities such as panel discussions, workshops, film showing, field visits, games, and online discussions through Facebook and Google groups, Phuong Truc Dang Duong who is president of the Student Association at Tan Tao University in Duc Hoa, Long An Province in Vietnam, could not be less serious and firmly declared that leadership does not always have to be something big such as one that involves the entire country. œTrue leadership starts with the little things that we do on a daily basis and at the community level,  she said.

The First SEAMEO Youth Forum was a gathering of a group of 33 Southeast Asian youth leaders selected from among 527 applicants through national screening by the 11 SEAMEO Member Countries, as well as an open competitive application initiated by SEAMEO SPAFA. The potential of the youth leaders to take future leadership in their respective countries and in Southeast Asia was used as a key criterion in the selection of participants.

Primarily, the Forum intended to build youth leadership skills and strengthen capacity to contribute to the ASEAN Community. It aimed at providing a platform for selected youth leaders from the region to reflect on their future, the future of Southeast Asia, and their role in charting these futures that are intertwined and inseparable. The youth dialogue focused on promoting 21st Century life skills, shaping the participants ™ outlook on intercultural understanding and cooperation in the region, raising awareness on the dynamics of leading communities, and enhancing shared understanding of professional ethics, civic responsibility and sustainable development.

A diverse blend of invited speakers and session facilitators animated the four-day youth activity which included a young Thai actor, a Filipino youth commissioner who started government service at age 15, a seasoned journalist who was once charged an activist, a telephone business executive, a farmer and environment enthusiast, a linguist, and others from five countries and representing various fields of interest and expertise.

In total, 16 individuals worked together as resource persons and facilitators to put together four days of fun and learning. They are from international organizations, academe, and private institutions such as the UNESCO Asia Pacific Centre of Education for Inter-cultural Understanding, the Right to Play Foundation, Mahidol University of Thailand, Gadjah Mada University of Indonesia, Ajou University of Korea, True Corporation of Thailand, The Nation Newspaper of Thailand, Korea ™s Kangwon National University and the ASEAN Secretariat, among others.

  Invited resource persons and speakers during the Forum are from top left clockwise:
(1) Dr Djati Mardiatno, Director, Research Centre for Disaster, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia;
(2) Mr Witwisit Hiranyawongkul, Actor and Musician, Thailand;
(3) Dr Suwilai Premsrirat, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia, Mahidol University, Thailand;
(4) Mr Ky Anh Nguyen, Assistant Director/Head of Culture and Information Division, ASEAN Secretariat, Indonesia;
(5) Dr Sumet Tantivejakul, Secretary General, The Chaipattana Foundation, Thailand;
(6) Mr Kavi Chongkittavorn, Columnist, The Nation, Thailand;
(7) Mr Hasanain Juaini, Educator, Pondok Pesantren Nurul Haramain Putri, Indonesia;
(8) Dr Kasititorn Pooparadai, Senior Division Director, National Science and Technology Development Agency, Thailand;
(9) Dr Chung Utak, Director, UNESCO APCEIU, Republic of Korea;
(10) Mr Jo Jan Paul J Penol, Commissioner, National Youth Commission, Philippines;
(11) Ms Natchawi Wadman, Programme Manager, Life Skills Development Programme, Right to Play Foundation, Thailand;
(12) Mr Nattorn Sornvai, Training Officer, Life Skills Development Programme, Right to Play Foundation, Thailand;
(13) Dr Myung goo Kang, Professor, Department of Public Administration, College of Social Sciences, Ajou University, Republic of Korea;
(14) Dr Han Geon Soo, Associate Professor, Department of Cultural Anthropology, Kangwon National University, Republic of Korea;
(15) Dr Sooksan Kantabutra, Chief Researcher, Leadership Research Group, College of Management, Mahidol University, Thailand; and
(16) Dr Teerapon Tanomsakyut, Deputy Director and Head of Innovation Centre, True Corporation Public Company Limited, Thailand.
Indeed, the Forum provided space for the youth leaders to voice their opinions as they interacted freely with the speakers and with their peers. In one of their field visits, the participants dialogued with a Christian priest, a Buddhist monk and a Muslim imam as they got immersed in the Kudi Chin community in the outskirt of Bangkok where people of different religious beliefs and cultures coexist peacefully, thereby providing insight on the aspect of intercultural understanding in leadership in ASEAN and in Southeast Asia. The participants also visited the Royal Chitralada Palace of His Majesty The King of Thailand to learn from a number of development initiatives based on the Sufficiency Economy philosophy.
Three interrelated themes that inspired discussions among the youth leaders included developing future leaders of Southeast Asia, inculcating effective professional values and skills, and managing the development of a changing world. Loh Hong Khai, a senior student of the University Tunku Abdul Rahman in Malaysia lauded SEAMEO for the holistic approach of the Forum. The key is the selection of a small group of high potential leaders for a more focused and intensive discussion. The Forum enabled a truly profound exchange of ideas and resulted in a tightly-knitted rapport among the participants which is beneficial for the continued dialogue and collaborative action beyond the four-day activity in
Bangkok which is an element of the Forum design. œThis is something that is not easy to achieve in a much larger-scale summits involving participants in a range of hundreds,  said Loh Hong Khai.

The First SEAMEO Youth Leadership Forum was supported by the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction through the Asian Development Bank and the SEAMEO SPAFA under the SEAMEO College Project. The project is coordinated by the SEAMEO Secretariat while SEAMEO Regional Centres such as the SEAMEO SPAFA implement specific activities under the project.

Launched in 2013 by the ministers of education of the 11 SEAMEO Member Countries that include Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste, and Vietnam, SEAMEO College is envisioned to facilitate the sharing and exchange of education ideas and initiatives on education among the countries of Southeast Asia. The project consists of high-level discussions as well as the exchange of ideas and programmes on education among all members of SEAMEO to achieve a more global outlook and pursue a stronger fortitude for regional cooperation, subsequently supporting the full realization of ASEAN community. Moreover, through the SEAMEO College, generation of new and innovative ideas is expected to fuel into action the mandate for which SEAMEO was created more than four decades ago which is the promotion of cooperation in education, science and culture.

More information about the First SEAMEO Youth Leadership Forum is available on the activity

Photos above and on left: Youth leaders visit various places of worship and interact with the leaders of different religious groups. Photos below: Participants take part in various activities during the four day forum including workshops, group discussions, lectures, interactions, and others.