More than half of ASEAN’s population-629 million people and counting-is under the age of 30. The youth make up one of the largest segments of the ASEAN Community.

The ASEAN youth are innovative, independent, outspoken, and technologically savvy which means that they are not just the future leaders of the region, they too have the potential to broaden the world’s awareness of ASEAN and to foster a sense of ASEAN kinship.

Here are five ways that young people like you can make a difference in ASEAN:

    1. Be informed

Know what ASEAN is all about and what it stands for. Be informed of the goals, programs, and concerns of the ASEAN Community and its three pillars, namely, Political-Security Community, Economic Community, and Socio-Cultural Community. This is the first step towards being an active member of ASEAN.

There are several free and accessible sources of information on ASEAN online, such as through ASEAN’s website (http://asean.org/) and the ASEAN 2017 website (http://www.asean2017.ph/). Take time to get to know the ASEAN Community as a whole as well as each of the ASEAN Member States.

Broaden your understanding of ASEAN and keep abreast of what’s happening in the region. Making a difference in ASEAN begins with knowing how ASEAN works.

    1. Be inquisitive

If you’re not that familiar yet with ASEAN, don’t be afraid or too shy to ask questions about the basics of ASEAN. Digital and social media does not only offer you free access to information about ASEAN. Through social media, you can engage ASEAN, your government, or other experts about ASEAN and what it stands for.

If you already have a working knowledge of ASEAN, dare to delve deeper. Asking the right people the right questions will help you in finding your niche in the region.

    1. Be involved

Youth participation energizes ASEAN in many ways. Youth engagement is critical in addressing issues directly affecting people and the government.

ASEAN holds various meetings and seminars that urge young people to engage ASEAN. The ASEAN Youth Leadership Development Programme, the ASEAN Youth Day Meeting, and the ASEAN University Student Council Union Conference put the youth front and center as the region’s change makers. Activities like these are meant to build up the confidence of young people, develop their leadership skills, and encourage them to participate in the many opportunities available for them to be active citizens in ASEAN.

Challenge yourself to enhance your knowledge in the formulation of policy on ASEAN matters.

In 2013, former U.S. President Barrack Obama launched the Youth Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) to develop regional connectivity and to inspire Southeast Asian youth to become effective leaders. The program continues to encourage young people become solutions to today’s and tomorrow’s problems.

There is also the ASEAN-Russia Youth Summit, which aims to promote awareness regarding the ASEAN-Russia partnership.

Finally, during the Philippines’ Chairmanship of ASEAN, the Department of Trade and Industry will host the 2nd ASEAN Youth Entrepreneur’s Carnival in Manila from September 07-09. The Carnival puts a spotlight on the role that ASEAN’s young entrepreneurs play in strengthening the ASEAN economy and market connectivity.

    1. Be innovative

Young people are a wellspring of ideas. These ideas are important in ASEAN’s pursuit to achieve inclusive and innovation-led growth, and to become an influential global player.

Young people are an asset to ASEAN considering that the world that we live in today is incredibly different from the world that many of ASEAN’s leaders grew up in.

You and other young people in ASEAN can take advantage of social media and digital technology to collaborate with other young people from other ASEAN Member States in order to talk about ASEAN, to exchange ideas, and to develop innovative ways in making the ASEAN region a better place to live in.

Initiating online forums and social media campaigns, developing interactive apps on ASEAN to get more young people to become aware of and involved in the ASEAN are only a few ways that the youth can engage and become a partner for positive change in ASEAN.

By expressing innovative ideas, young people like you can inspire government leaders, businessmen, and institutions in addressing the issues faced by ASEAN in its 3 pillars.

    1. Be an intrepid traveler

One of the best things about being an ASEAN citizen is the ability to travel to any ASEAN Member State visa-free. This makes it easier for young people in ASEAN to get to know other ASEAN Member States on a deeper level by immersing themselves in the culture of other ASEAN Member States, treating their taste buds to a cornucopia of ASEAN cuisine, and more importantly by forging strong people-to-people ties with other ASEAN citizens that they will encounter throughout their adventure.

Several young people today even go the extra mile by “voluntouring” in other ASEAN countries. Through voluntourism, young people combine voluntary service to a community in their chosen destination while at the same time enjoy the arts, culture, history, and geography of the place.

What better way to know ASEAN more than to experience it?

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