Friday, March 2, 2018, 7PM, Himawari Hotel, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Your Excellency Dr. Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education Youth and Sport, Royal Government of Cambodia
Ambassador William A. Heidt
Meloney Lindberg, Country Representative, The Asia Foundation, Cambodia
Good evening everyone! Welcome to the closing dinner of the YSEALI STEM Regional Workshop.
Let me start with a huge thank you to U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh and our partner the Asia Foundation for orchestrating this event. And thank you, YSEALI participants, for your time, commitment, and enthusiasm.
What a great three days! I continue to be impressed by the energy, passion, and creativity of the young leaders of ASEAN. It is amazing how much learning and networking you managed to squeeze into such a short time span. You participated in informational sessions and discussions on keys topics such as STEM Education in ASEAN, STEM Skill Gaps, and Innovation in STEM. You heard from experts on how to improve key skills like leadership, innovation, and communication. You met other STEM professionals and panelists. You identified key challenges in the field of STEM, worked with mentors to come up with collaborative project ideas to tackle these challenges, and presented your ideas to us. I greatly enjoyed listening to your pitches and the judges had a real challenge in picking a winner. I hope that today all 50 of you feel better equipped to promote STEM education among ASEAN’s youth compared to when you arrived three days ago. I also hope that you managed to have some fun along the way exploring the city and getting to know one another.
The U.S. Mission to ASEAN has a long-term commitment to support the Southeast Asia region. The United States has been ASEAN’s partner for the last forty years and we see ASEAN’s stability and prosperity as vital to America’s future. One of our shared priorities in working with ASEAN is cultivating emerging leaders. Approximately 65% of people in the ASEAN region are under the age of 35 – just like those of you in this room today. These 400 million youth – of which you are a part – are defining the Asia Pacific region for decades to come, and your full participation in solving global challenges is critical to the development and prosperity of the region.
YSEALI is dedicated to strengthening ties between the United States and Southeast Asia, and to helping ASEAN create an ASEAN identity from the ground up. Since its launch in 2013, the YSEALI network has grown to almost 120,000 members. Over 1,300 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 – which will become 1,550 after this workshop, including you all. YSEALI has granted more than $1,000,000 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, Economic Growth, Sustainable Development, and last but not least, Education. In a world that is becoming increasingly complex, it is more important than ever for young people to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to solve tough problems, gather and evaluate evidence, and make sense of information. These are the types of skills that students learn by studying science, technology, engineering, and math — subjects collectively known as STEM. All ASEAN youth should be prepared to think deeply and to think well so that they have the chance to become the innovators, educators, researchers, and leaders who can solve the most pressing challenges facing the region, both today and tomorrow. The United States is ready to support young, bright leaders such as you to promote STEM education among ASEAN’s youth.
In addition to education, the U.S. Mission to ASEAN also supports a number of science & technology related programs. We have the ASEAN-U.S. Science and Technology Fellowship, a joint program by USAID, U.S. Department of State and ASEAN. Since its launch in 2014, the fellowship has placed 35 emerging science leaders into government ministries to strengthen evidence-based policy making in fields such as science, technology & innovation policy, climate variability, and sustainable energy. We also award the ASEAN – U.S. Science Prize for Women: up to $25,000 is granted every year to support a promising female scientist in ASEAN to encourage collaboration between ASEAN and the United States around sustainable energy solutions for urban centers across Southeast Asia. Last year, the U.S. Mission to ASEAN hosted the first YSEALI TechCamp, where 37 young leaders across ASEAN worked with expert trainers to explore and apply innovative technology solutions to challenges in transnational crime. As you progress in your careers, you may find you are good candidates for the Fulbright U.S.- ASEAN Visiting Scholars awards.
As you all travel back to your communities and start putting your ideas into action, I encourage you all to stay in touch with us and with each other, and keep an eye out for future opportunities with the U.S. Government, in and outside of YSEALI.
Thank you again for all your efforts.