U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines formally welcomed 250 youth participants of this year’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Summit. The participants are YSEALI alumni from across the ASEAN region. Read Ambassador’s full remarks:
Magandang umaga! Good morning and welcome to Manila! We are especially pleased to welcome you here in The Manila Hotel, a place that witnessed so many of the important moments in the long history of friendship and alliance between the United States and the Philippines.
Four years ago, in December 2013, at a gathering of 150 ASEAN youth leaders here in Manila, the United States Government launched something called the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. Today, it is our great honor to host the third YSEALI Summit here in the Philippines.
We launched YSEALI based on the premise that you, ASEAN’s next generation of leaders, are best positioned to address the critical challenges ASEAN faces in the 21st century. Since arriving in the Philippines last December, I have been deeply impressed by the passion, commitment, energy, and optimism of the YSEALI leaders I have met.
In Southeast Asia, two out of every three people are under the age of 35, which means that your generation will have an outsized role in tackling the pressing issues that face your communities, your countries, your region, and our world. And that is why the rallying cry of YSEALI is Never Too Young To Lead!
Since ASEAN’s founding 50 years ago, the ASEAN economies have experienced impressive growth. However, as we all know, significant social, political, environmental, and economic challenges remain.
Together, the United States and ASEAN have cooperated to address many of these challenges, including disaster response, terrorism, trafficking, and cybercrime.
These challenges are complex, involve multiple stakeholders across international borders, and require strong bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
Researchers have developed leadership techniques to help individuals and organizations deal with challenging situations in a wide range of contexts — from conflict stabilization, to poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability, to business.
These advanced leadership models share several basic tenets. For example, before we set out to solve global challenges, we must first understand the big picture and how all of the parts of a problem interact with one another. That is the systems thinking approach you will be learning about throughout this Summit.
These leadership models also require leaders to engage all parties — even those who hold opposing views — to build coalitions to develop innovative solutions to meet the collective needs of the community. That is what you will be grappling with in the collaboration and negotiation sessions later in the week.
As hard as it is to develop a systemic understanding of a problem, building coalitions and negotiating win-win outcomes is even more difficult. But it is also absolutely essential to finding durable solutions to today’s challenges.
I personally experienced many such situations as a prosecutor and as a diplomat.
During the Summit, we will also reflect upon 40 years of partnership between ASEAN and the United States. We will celebrate the successes and think together how to build an even more productive U.S.-ASEAN partnership for the next 40 years — one that further supports economic integration; addresses transnational challenges and expands maritime cooperation; promotes opportunity for women; and continues to cultivate emerging leaders like you.
Lastly, the Summit will be a platform for you to deepen collaboration with your fellow young leaders across the region. I understand that as part of the Summit you will be proposing projects to be implemented during YSEALI YOUnified in December 2017.
YSEALI YOUnified 2016 was the very first YSEALI program I attended after arriving in the Philippines. I was impressed to see more than 16,000 young leaders from across ASEAN working together to advance common goals in a youth-led day of service. So I really look forward to seeing how you use the skills you gain at this Summit toward cross-border, collaborative community engagement this December.
I hope these few days you have here in Manila will be inspiring and rewarding, and that you can take home new ideas, new skills, and new friendships that will strengthen your resolve to be a force for positive change in your communities. The 100,000 strong YSEALI network and the United States government are here to support you and your work as we build the future of ASEAN together.
I want to thank Cultural Vistas, our lead partner in organizing this Summit, for their tremendous effort. Thank you also to The Manila Hotel for its hospitality and professional attention to detail.
Special thanks to all the excellent speakers who will participate in this Summit, like Mr. Matthew Cosby from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Philadelphia, who will lead this morning’s session on Systems Thinking.
I want to thank our volunteers and facilitators for working so hard to give you the best possible YSEALI Summit experience.
And finally, I want to thank all of you, the next generation ASEAN leaders, for your continued engagement and dedication as partners in our shared future in your countries, in this region, and in our world. Thanks you, and as we say it here in the Philippines, mabuhay ang YSEALI!