ASEAN and Chinese Youths Join Hands to Simulate a Regional Meeting in Siem Reap

The Special ASEAN Foundation Model ASEAN Meeting Plus China 2023 in Siem Reap city. Photo: Sem Vanna

SIEM REAP - Regional affairs between ASEAN and China are being addressed as young people from these 11 nations gather into one common forum to learn about one another’s dream for the future.

The ASEAN-China Young Leaders Programme (ACYLP), with the Special ASEAN Foundation Model ASEAN Meeting Plus China 2023, will enable 72 youths to exchange views, build trust and brainstorm on issues, simulating what real meetings may look like between politicians, experts and other stakeholders, and this, under the supervision and training of highly-trained educators.

The programme, conducted from June 19 to 23 in Siem Reap province, focuses on topics such as building resilience against the changing climate, strengthening digital economy as well as promoting more exchanges in educational programmes.

Encouraging the active participation of youth from the age of 18 to 26, Mahmudi Yusbi, ASEAN Foundation’s head of programme, said it is important to select students from universities as they are ongoingly studying about their region such as China and Southeast Asia.

Mahmudi Yusbi, ASEAN Foundation’s head of programme. Photo: Sem Vanna

“Young people can learn very quickly in terms of the programme that they are attending”, said Mahmudi. “When they are studying, they can also shape their understanding as well as improve their skill”.

The interest shown by young participants both from ASEAN and China has been growing increasingly over the years.

“We are geographically neighbours, and we should know about each other in terms of culture, economy and other topics”, Mahmudi continued.

Sponsored by the Government of the People’s Republic of China through ASEAN-China Cooperation Fund, the Special AFMAM Plus China 2023 emphasizes the urgency of being sustainable specifically through the guidelines provided by the Sustainable Development Goals that was agreed upon by the many members of the United Nations in 2015. Huawei also provided support for this programme.

Young participants will be put into a meeting simulation resembling real-world decision making on more specific topics such as management of ASEAN’s diverse ecosystems and landscapes through a landscape-based approach to build climate resilience, promoting synergies between ASEAN-China partnership to strengthen the digital economy and empowering young leaders to promote education through people-to-people exchanges and programmes.

“This programme may allow youths to come up with new and innovative ideas”, said Vong Saravuth, chapter leader of The Young SEAkers Cambodia. “Even though we are still students at the moment, when some of us become leaders in the future, this environment can help us get used to the reality”.

Vong Saravuth, chapter leader of The Young SEAkers Cambodia. Photo: Sem Vanna

The simulation itself divides participants into three distinct roles in terms of senior officer, minister and head of government.

“Participants are taught the meeting process as this takes place in real-life such as how the voting or the speaking process works as well as how the ASEAN joint-declaration takes form”, Saravuth said.

He also explained that the youth delegations can obtain three benefits from joining this event. First, they learn how to deal with decision-making through the three pillars of ASEAN. Second, participants can build friendships for the unforeseen future and lastly, they can also learn more about Cambodian culture and traditions as this event is conducted in Siem Reap, one of the most highly-recognised historical regions in the world.

Taking place in a hall filled with roundtables occupied by young and enthusiastic delegations, the opening ceremony involves speeches given by high-ranking diplomats and other important figures of ASEAN secretariats as well as stakeholders from business enterprises.

In addition from contributing to strengthening the connection between ASEAN and China, Ambassador Heng Sarith, a Cambodian permanent representative to ASEAN, said that he noticed a spring in the step of the young Cambodians taking part in the ASEAN activities and especially when the country hosted the ASEAN Summit in 2022. A great many young people volunteered as helpers during the summit, with some of them working as liaisons officers, he said.

Ambassador Heng Sarith, a Cambodian permanent representative to ASEAN. Photo: Sem Vanna

“While having a multidisciplinary strategy, China is also a neighbour to ASEAN,” Sarith said. “The country stands in a number-one economic partnership with ASEAN”.

During the meeting, participants will be selected to represent a country other than their own, which will be a challenge but also a process that will lead the young delegations to conduct more research and look into connections between members countries.

“When we are assigned to a random country, we are able to learn more policies, strategies and laws as well as learning how each country tackles particular issues’, said Muhammad Amanullah Bin Mohd Rashidi, a delegation member from Malaysia who will represent Myanmar during the event.

Muhammad Amanullah Bin Mohd Rashidi, a delegation member from Malaysia (Right). Photo: Sem Vanna

“With the inclusion of Chinese participants, I think there will be a stronger synergy and cooperation between ASEAN and China”, he said. “I believe this is a very diplomatic approach being taken between the two parties and I am looking toward a fruitful discussion”.

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