Youth Participation at the 7th AEF

Youth Participation at the 7th AEF

For the first time in the history of the Asia Economic Forum (AEF), youth leaders played a prominent role in the policy dialogues. This year’s 7th AEF, "The Asian Century in the Making: Achievements, Challenges, and Future Trends," featured four Young Leaders as speakers on Plenary Session IV, "Next Generation’s Views: The Voice of the Future of Asia." They were (in alphabetical order): Chheng Kimlong, Economic and Commercial Specialist at the Embassy of the United States in Phnom Penh; Mihoko Matsubara, Resident SPF Fellow at Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS); Fuadi Pitsuwan, Associate with The Cohen Group and Adjunct Research Scholar at Georgetown University’s Asian Studies Department; and Timothy Stafford, Aide to Former British Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind. The session was chaired by Associate Professor Katherine Marshall, Visiting Associate Professor, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service; Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Cambodia (UC); and former Counselor, The World Bank.

The four Young Leaders were part of a larger group of Pacific Forum CSIS Young Leaders. Twenty-seven Young Leaders were selected from around the world to participate in the AEF and included six Cambodian Young Leaders, who were selected by UC in collaboration with Pacific Forum CSIS.

The Young Leaders were led by Ralph Cossa, President of Pacific Forum CSIS, Brad Glosserman, Executive Director of Pacific Forum CSIS, and Adrian Yi, Program Officer of Pacific Forum CSIS and also a Young Leader. Peter Tan Keo, Vice President for Strategy, Development and International Cooperation, Por Malis, Vice President for Operations, and Seng-Dao Keo, Director of the Office of the President, worked in collaboration with the Pacific Forum CSIS team to coordinate the Young Leaders Program in Cambodia. The Young Leaders attended the two-day AEF program and then spent an additional day participating in a roundtable discussion and touring Phnom Penh to gain a deeper understanding of Khmer culture and history.

A UC committee selected the six Cambodian Young Leaders to participate in the AEF from a competitive pool of candidates. These Young Leaders are highly-skilled individuals who hold much promise for contributing to economic and social development in the country and the ASEAN region. They were: Chheng Kimlong, Economic and Commercial Specialist at the Embassy of the United States in Phnom Penh; Chum Chandarin, School Director at School of Vision; Noy Sophary, Project Coordinator at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR); Soth Nimol, Education Technical Assistant at UNESCO; Tong Soprach, public health consultant and health columnist for the Khmer edition of the Phnom Penh Post; and Vong Socheata, Democracy and Governance Specialist for USAID.

Participants in the 7th AEF commented favorably regarding the participation of the Young Leaders, who actively asked questions and exchanged views with the distinguished speakers and forum participants.

The purpose for having the Young Leaders present at the AEF is to help them learn and contribute to making the world a better place, said H.E. Dr. Haruhisha Handa, Adviser to Samdech Techo Prime Minister, Adviser to the Royal Government of Cambodia, Founder and Chairman of AEF, Chancellor of UC, President and Founder of International Foundation for Arts and Culture (IFAC), and Chairman for Worldwide Support for Development (WSD).

After the AEF, a number of the Young Leaders said that this experience was a rewarding and meaningful learning experience for them.

"This forum helped me develop my leadership skills and broadened my ideas not only about Cambodia, but also about other countries in Asia, especially ASEAN nations," said Tong Soprach, adding that young Cambodians need to learn how to develop in a globalized world and build leadership skills so they can contribute to the nation and international community.

"Not only did I gain useful insights from renowned speakers, scholars, policymakers, development practitioners, and the diplomatic corps, I also learned tremendously from my fellow Young Leaders from across the region and other parts of the world," said Chheng Kimlong. "Being one of the Young Leaders in the program, I had a chance to network with talented individuals. . .and the privilege to learn from and discuss with intellectuals the creation of a new chapter of the Asian Century. It was invaluable."

He encouraged young Cambodians to have their voices heard and volunteer to develop their leadership skills so they can "serve as a driving force and build critical mass to promote positive change."

The Young Leaders’ participation in the 7th AEF was funded through the generosity of the WSD.