The 2016 Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) summit took place at Souphanouvong University in Luang Prabang province on Wednesday, bringing together about 200 YSEALI alumni from ASEAN member countries.
The 187 YSEALI Summit delegates, including from Laos are alumni of the 2016 YSEALI academic and professional fellows programmes, which bring emerging leaders from Southeast Asia to the United States for five weeks, where they either engaged in study at academic institutions or did a placement in a US business, government office or NGO.
The 2016 YSEALI alumni took opportunity to visit the treasured temples of Luang Prabang, volunteered with local schools and organisations and better understood Laos before attending this summit.
The gathering was chaired by US President Barack Obama who is a founder of the programme, which was established in 2013. And what began as a small group of young people is now a network of 100,000 young people from all 10 ASEAN countries.
The 2016 YSEALI Summit aimed to deepen young leaders’ knowledge of the challenges and opportunities facing ASEAN, particularly those related to sustainable rural development.
Other objective was to help participants form networks with other young leaders across the region to enable them to work together on regional solutions.
The meeting was attended by senior officials from the Ministry of Education and Sports, teachers and students from Souphanouvong University, and local and foreign media.
This year’s programme included discussions and interactive breakout sessions with local, regional and international experts on topics including the global challenges of rural development, the power of education, engaging rural women in sustainable development, managing and energising volunteers, sustainable agriculture and food security, and harnessing ecotourism for rural development.
Mr. Obama informed the audience about programmes such as English for All, Let Girls Learn and a new US-ASEAN Women’s Leadership Academy, which will help to sustain the YSEALI initiative.
Regarding the English for All programme, Mr. Obama said it would bring more English teachers to ASEAN countries and bring more of their educators to America for training.
We’re going to offer opportunities and resources to help anybody, not only in ASEAN countries, but also young people around the world to learn English on a new website called EnglishForAll.State.gov, the president said.
Mr. Obama said the US was focused on making sure that every girl earns a quality education, observing that In too many countries now, including Laos, women and girls are not getting the same educational opportunities as men and boys.
Research shows that when a girl gets an education, not only does she grow up healthier, but her children will grow up healthier also. Not only will she become more prosperous, but her community will become more prosperous.
Referring to the Let Girls Learn programme, Mr. Obama said he was working on, but more importantly his wife was working on, going to two more countries — Laos and Nepal.
The new US-ASEAN Women’s Leadership Academy will offer leadership training and mentoring for emerging women leaders from ASEAN countries each year.
But ultimately it’s up to you as role models to inspire young people across this region, Mr. Obama added.
After addressing the summit he took questions from young people from ASEAN countries.
One question was asked by a young man from Laos who asked Mr. Obama if he could change only one thing in ASEAN countries, including Laos, what kind of change would it be and how would the president contribute to that change.
In reply, Mr. Obama said that if there was one thing he had learned it was that the most important thing for any country is its people. So if there was one thing he could help to bring about it would be improving education standards for young people throughout Laos and other ASEAN countries.
Mr. Obama also said that when he said education, he didn’t just mean a high-level college degree. Technical training, training in a trade — that can be valuable as well, he added.
So we want to make sure that at every level young people have the ability to access a great education. And if we’re able to do that, then I’m confident that ASEAN will be successful, Mr. Obama said.
On the same day, Mr. Obama visit Xiengthong Temple, one of the most noteworthy in the World Heritage City of Luang Prabang, greeted local people, and drank fresh coconut juice with his colleagues.
Source: Vientiane Times