Young ASEAN Leaders Attend Manila Summit on Advanced Leadership

Ambassador Kim takes a selfie with YSEALI Summit participants.

Manila, October 31, 2017 — The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines convened 250 youth leaders representing all 10 ASEAN member states for a 5 day advanced leadership training at the 2017 Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Summit in Manila from October 17-21, 2017.

U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim welcomed delegates to Manila and encouraged them to be a force for positive change. He noted that “the 110,000 strong YSEALI network and the United States government are here to support you and your work as we build the future of ASEAN together.”

Through lectures, hands-on activities, and simulations, the 2017 YSEALI Summit equipped these rising ASEAN leaders to address the complex political, social, economic, and environmental issues confronting ASEAN today.  Kevin Dela Cruz, a delegate from the Philippines, said, “The Summit helped me develop more holistic leadership and management skills, specifically for dealing with complex development situations.”

Throughout the Summit, delegates also marked ASEAN’s 50th anniversary and the 40th year of U.S.-ASEAN partnership (40/50 U.S.–ASEAN), and discussed the role of youth in strengthening U.S.–ASEAN relations in the next 40 years.  In his remarks, U.S. Mission to ASEAN Ambassador Daniel Shields described the deepening relationship between the United States and ASEAN, noting, “ASEAN is America’s 4th largest trading partner.  The United States invested over $274 billion in ASEAN by 2015 – more than in the Chinese, Indian, Japanese and South Korean economies combined.”

Susan Thornton, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, took questions from delegates via video conference.  Having seen YSEALI in action during the ASEAN Regional Forum, she noted that “it was encouraging to see a regional organization grappling with the critical issues of the day – North Korea, the South China Sea, terrorism, and cyber threats – and advancing our collective interests in peace and stability.”

Learn more about the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative at

Quick Facts

  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2017. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the United States’ diplomatic relationship with ASEAN.
  • YSEALI includes all ten ASEAN member nations (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) and is open to individuals ages 18-35.
  • The 250 participants are all alumni of YSEALI academic and professional fellowships, regional exchange workshops, and Seeds for the Future grant programs. Indonesia (53), the Philippines (35), Vietnam (32) and Myanmar (31) will have the largest country contingents at the 2017 YSEALI Summit.
  • Since its launch in 2013:
    • The YSEALI network has grown to more than 110,000 members.
    • 640 young leaders have participated in YSEALI educational and professional exchanges in the United States.
    • Over 1,500 YSEALI members have attended 23 skills-building regional exchange workshops in Southeast Asia.
    • YSEALI has granted more than $700,000 dollars in seed funding to multi-national teams for projects addressing the YSEALI development and foreign policy themes.
  • Responding to priorities from youth in the ASEAN region, YSEALI programs focus on four central themes:
    • Civic Engagement
    • Education
    • Economic Growth
    • Sustainable Development
  • This year’s Summit will be the third such gathering of YSEALI alumni. Previous summits were held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Nov. 19-23, 2015) and Luang Prabang, Laos (Sept. 6-9, 2016).