The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), since its inception, has strived for a greater engagement of the youth population. The ASEAN Member States firmly believe that youth is the catalyst for economic, social and cultural development. The ASEAN Member States are also members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and this emphasis on youth is consistent with the vision of NAM that youth play a major role in the construction of modern societies.

The ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) 2025 vision is for an ASEAN Community that ebngages and benefits the peoples and is inclusive, sustainable, resilient, and dynamic. It aims to realise an inclusive community that promotes a high quality of life, equitable access to opportunities for all and promotes and protects the human rights of all including the youth.

In line with this vision, the ASEAN has declared 2022 as the Year of ASEAN Youth. According to a statement by the ASEAN, the Year of ASEAN Youth will remain consistent with the post-2020 vision of ASEAN youth development, focusing on fostering 21st Century skills and digital skills, and the institutionalisation of youth engagement mechanisms, guided by the soon-to-be-published ASEAN Work Plan on Youth 2021-2025.

This work plan will continue efforts to promote youth development in line with the current ASEAN Work Plan on Youth (2016-2020), to achieve the broad objectives of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint 2025. The ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Youth (SOMY) developed the ASEAN Work Plan on Youth 2016-2020 and included the development of the ASEAN Youth Development Index as a priority.
The sub-goals and priorities of the ASEAN Work Plan on Youth 2016-2020 were anchored on the ASCC Blueprint 2025 as follows: 1) Sustaining the focus on youth entrepreneurship through structured capacity building and mentoring programmes; 2) Enhancing youth employability through skills training and life-long education; 3) Enhancing awareness and appreciation of an ASEAN community through mutually beneficial people to-people exchange programmes; 4) Strengthening youth involvement and participation in building an ASEAN community through volunteerism opportunities and leadership programmes and 5) increasing youth competencies and resilience with advanced technological and managerial skills.

The priority areas of the next work plan will be structured around the five domains of the ASEAN Youth Development Index: Education, Health and Well-Being, Employment and Opportunities, Participation and Engagement, and ASEAN Awareness, Values and Identity.

The focus on youth is in line with Cambodia’s 2022 chairmanship theme, “ASEAN A.C.T.: Addressing Challenges Together”. At the Handover Ceremony of the ASEAN Chairmanship to Cambodia last year, Prime Minister Hun Sen said, “Cambodia will strengthen the development of human resources to respond to the needs on the ground for community building, promote the participation of women and youth in building and maintaining peace, and develop an inclusive social protection system. Another key priority is strengthening people-to-people bonds to enhance the spirit of One ASEAN Identity.”

At least four flagship activities under the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Youth (SOMY) will contribute to the Year of ASEAN Youth 2022, namely the 1st ASEAN Youth Dialogue funded by the Republic of Korea; the 6th ASEAN Youth Video Contest in collaboration with ASEAN Foundation and US PROSPECT; ASEAN Youth Photo Competition; and ASEAN Youth Debate 2022.

Through these events and other youth-led and partner-led initiatives, the ASEAN seeks to provide more platforms for young people with various backgrounds and interests to unleash their potentials and play an active role in addressing current challenges.

Towards the end of the year and through a series of consultations with various stakeholders, the ASEAN expects to adopt a Leaders’ statement on the Year of ASEAN Youth at the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits in Cambodia.

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