MANILA, June 3 (PIA) — The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) recently concluded two meetings in Brunei on the directions and initiatives to further promote the youth’s contribution towards the future of the region.

With theme “Young People-Building Tomorrow’s ASEAN Today,” the 8th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Youth and the 4th ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan, and South Korea) Ministerial Meeting on Youth were concluded on May 23 in the Brunei’s capital Bandar Seri Begawan.

Important position that young generations, especially young professionals, can play to boost ASEAN solidarity was highlighted in the meetings such as offering voluntary community services in areas such as rural development, disaster relief, health, education and the environment as well as supporting vulnerable groups, including people who are differently-abled, and fostering entrepreneurial skills.

The unemployment crisis that millions of young people are facing around the globe as well as various issues and topics on youth were also discussed in the meetings.

Pehin Dato Hj Hazair of the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports of Brunei said that the global trend in youth unemployment is alarming with the International Labour Organisation projecting more than 73 million jobless young people this year.

“ASEAN is not immune to this global crisis,” Hazair said.

He added that ASEAN should not become complacent and that youth employment should be a priority issue in ASEAN cooperation.

As the Chair of ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Council, Hazair calls for an urgent need to promote entrepreneurship and volunteerism among young people to help combat youth unemployment in the ASEAN region.

The meetings noted with satisfaction the 1st ASEAN Youth Entrepreneur Seminar and Expo, which serves as a platform for promoting economic self-reliance and support the self-employment of the ASEAN youths.

The meetings also endorsed the “Bandar Seri Begawan Declaration on Youth Volunteerism and Entrepreneurship” as guiding principles to promote greater economic self-reliance among young people through enterprise and entrepreneurship development, and several initiatives that instill a sense of community including the establishment of an ASEAN Youth Volunteer Program and other youth professional volunteer initiatives, and the ASEAN Youth Program Fund which was established to further support the ASEAN youth cooperation and development.

“Around 60% of ASEAN population today comprises of those under 35 years old and they are the driving force to shape our future. In tandem with the aspiration of a people-oriented ASEAN, the youth of ASEAN and its Plus Three partners represents one of ASEAN’s greatest assets and one of the most important groups in ASEAN that will help ASEAN realise its vision of the Community by 2015”, said Alicia R. Bala, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.

China, Japan and Korea noted the desire and commitment of ASEAN towards youth development and promoting their roles to build an ASEAN of tomorrow, and agreed that youths are not only the key stakeholders to the future of ASEAN but also in a larger East Asia context.

The meetings also noted that the new phase of the ASEAN-China Youth Camp and ASEAN Youth Leaders Training Program will be implemented by China, the second installment of the Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths by Japan, and the 4th ASEAN-Korea Frontier Forum by South Korea in 2013 would help to further strengthen cooperation among youths in ASEAN and the Plus Three countries while promoting relations to a higher and more strategic level.

The meetings also recognized the potential to work with other ASEAN Dialogue Partners to further enhance efforts in youth development in the region.

The next ministerial meetings will be held in Cambodia in 2015. (