EU-ASEAN youth exchange brings together young voices in sustainable urban development
Young leaders brainstorm pathways towards a joint campaign for youth empowerment in cities
Cities across the EU and ASEAN share a series of urban challenges and solutions, and both regions share an interest in working with youths as the next generation of leaders to build a better future for all.
Pushing ahead EU-ASEAN commitments in ensuring youth participation in the sustainable urban development agenda, an interregional exchange between youths and policy-makers was organised in Bangkok. From 30 March to 1 April 2023, the ‘EU-ASEAN Youth Exchange on Sustainable Urban Development’ gathered nearly 40 delegates from around 20 countries from EU and ASEAN member states to brainstorm and devise youth-led action for a resilient, inclusive and sustainable future.
Drawing inspiration from insightful panels and exchanges with EU youths on Day 1, young leaders from across ASEAN on Day 2 initiated discussions towards a joint campaign that will raise awareness of urbanisation challenges and amplify youth’s role in shaping their cities. The regional campaign is a key deliverable from the two-day, interregional and intergenerational gathering of youths and experts.
The youths, who serve as community leaders in urban development, environmental stewardship and climate change, are expected to push forward initiatives of the campaign in their respective cities over the coming months, with the close support of the EU. Outcomes will be showcased at the ASEAN Mayors Forum in Indonesia in August 2023.
At the event in Bangkok, Ms Maria Rosa Sabbatelli, Deputy Head of Unit for Industrialised Countries & Foreign Policy Support at the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI), saw the exchange as a confirmation of EU and ASEAN objectives for sustainable development and multilateral cooperation, and their joint engagement to promote the participation of youth.
Pointing out that urbanisation has the potential to lead to economic development across the region if appropriate planning and development of young people are in place, Ms Rodora Babaran, Director of Human Development in the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Department of the ASEAN Secretariat, said there is therefore a need to ensure an enabling environment for youth and tap into their potential to take advantage of this demographic dividend.
Practitioners in urban development from the two regions expressed confidence in the young generation and a keen willingness to work with youth during a panel moderated by Michel Mouchiroud, Deputy Head of FPI Regional Team for Asia and Pacific. The discussion served to encourage youths to come forward, raise their ideas and collaborate with authorities, despite the challenges, whilst reminding authorities and institutions to find common ground, remain accessible and open to youth’s ideas, and identify dedicated funding.
The panel also featured the Deputy Governor of Bangkok – who reminded that a city is nothing without talent and people, and that youths are not the future but the present – along with the Director of the Urban Design and Development Centre (UDDC); District Councillor for Youth and Health in Berlin Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf; a representative from the Seberang Perai City Council’s Eco Community Unit; a board member of the European Youth Forum (EYF); and a representative from Global Covenant of Mayors (GCoM) Southeast Asia.
On Day 2, ASEAN youths also had the opportunity to engage with experts from the International Urban and Regional Cooperation (IURC), Socio-Cultural Community Department of the ASEAN Secretariat and Nikkei Asia, in a session that shared best practice and campaign strategies to execute impactful initiatives.
Rapid urbanisation aggravates climate change and environmental degradation, amongst others, and young people, who make up a sizable share of the world population, can play an effective role in addressing these issues. This EU-ASEAN youth exchange builds upon the EU and Goethe joint project ReThink Urban Spaces (RTUS) in Thailand, as well as the EU’s urban cooperation in ASEAN. It contributes to implementation of the EC Political Guidelines (2019-2024), EU-ASEAN Strategic Partnership, Youth Action Plan in EU external action 2022-2027 and the EU Urban Agenda.
Other represented organisations contributing in Bangkok included the European Youth Capital (EYC), ASEAN Youth Forum (AYF), ASEAN Youth Organization (AYO) and Association of Young Environmental Journalists (AYEJ).
The event was covered both internationally and locally, by Malaysian national news agency Bernama (English, Malay) and news website Astro Awani, Thailand-based news website for Scandinavian expats in South-East Asia Scandasia, Bangkok Metropolitan Authority and Thai outlets BKK Humans, Voice TV and Workpoint Today.
Media and the public continue to follow the developments of the campaign, which will be publicised on the Facebook and Twitter of the EU Delegation to ASEAN (EUD).