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EU-ASEAN Youth Conference: Discussion and Implementation of Youths’ Meaningful Participation in Sustainable Urban Development

Bangkok, 30 March – 1 April 2023 | Youth participation in the development agenda is essential given the sizeable demographic as youths (those aged 15 to 24) make up 16% of the world’s population.[1] A few weeks ago, youths from the European Union and ASEAN member states gathered in Bangkok to discuss the true meaning of youth involvement in urban development. Other experts and representatives from NGOs and youth organisations shared their thoughts on the role that young people should play within the grand title of development. The two-day event was impactful since there was a lot of knowledge sharing from best practices and future directions from the EU-ASEAN.

Downloading Session: FGD and Panel Expert

The EU-ASEAN Youth Workshop kicked off on March 31st at the Bangkok Art and Cultural Center (BCAC). Upon reaching the site, a large banner reading “My Youth is Yours” welcomed us, highlighting the spirit of this event. This banner channelled the message originating from youths, by youths, and for youths, as we have crucial roles to achieve great things ahead. 

I had the opportunity to become the group facilitator and the ASEAN youth rapporteur for the panel session, while representing the United Cities and Local Governments Asia Pacific (UCLG ASPAC) as the host of the Secretariat of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy Southeast Asia (GCoM SEA). I gained the opportunity to become the group facilitator and the ASEAN youth rapporteur for the panel session. The focus group discussion on youth engagement in sustainable urban development was empowering as I heard several challenges to current best practices. When it comes to challenges, the delegates agreed that the system is a major impediment to effective and meaningful youth participation. Ageism, which leads to adults’ underestimation of youth, bureaucracy, which prolongs the procedure, and a lack of funds due to administrative and legalisation purposes are among the obstacles. Another issue is that the lack of publications makes it harder for young people to access information and participate in youth initiatives. 

The two-hour discussion was fruitful. Based on their experiences, the four (4) groups contributed their ideas. The key takeaway from the peer-to-peer downloading session is that youths simply need the opportunity to empower themselves in the face of adversity. This discussion also highlighted the disparity in youth participation between the two regions. It appears usual for European youths to have a council that connects the advocacy process to the leaders. The youth council serves as a conduit, conveying societal concerns and problems to decision-makers who are actively involved in the process. The youth movement in Southeast Asia, however, tends to be more sporadic and unrelated to the government. It would be ideal if there was a youth council formed by, for, and for the youth, in which they serve as active representatives and are directly involved in bridging the gap between authority figures and the general populace. 

The next session was to report the discussion from the working group session to the panel expert. The panel featured two youth representatives, including Natalia Kallio (Board Member of the European Youth Forum) and Nicole Accalia Angriawan (GCoM SEA Secretariat Intern). Moderated by Michel Mouchiroud (Deputy Head of Foreign Policy Instrument Regional Team for Asia and Pacific, European Union), the panel also invited four (4) urban development experts: Dr. Niramol Serisakul (Director of Urban Design and Development Centre), Detlef Wagner (District Councilor for Youth and Health Berlin Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Germany), Chew Eng Seng (Eco Community Unit of Seberang Perai City Council), and Sanon Wangsrangboon (Deputy Governor of Bangkok). The experts were eager to listen and provide positive feedback to the students who attended the session, reiterating the importance of youth involvement in the development process. This panel underlined the importance of adults listening to youths and including them in action.

Uploading Session: Deliverables of Youth and City Campaign

The beginning of the second day helped us in preparing the outcomes and gaining knowledge from the experts to develop practical actions. We gained the opportunity to learn directly from Dr. Niramol Serisakul (Director of Urban Design and Development Centre), Norman Goh (Reporter of Nikkei Asia), Rogern Jr. Chao (Head of Education Youth & Sports ASEAN Secretariat), and Pablo Gándara (Team Leader of IURC Asia and Australasia). The experiences provided an insight that a good initiative must be supported by a comprehensive strategy that includes stakeholders, methods, media, targets, and funding. The session taught me that social media has a major impact on raising public awareness and enthusiasm. It is also critical to engage with the local governments while raising awareness in order to create the right momentum to sustain the project. 

We were then divided into three (3) groups and given 3 main questions:

  1. What is the meaning of a sustainable city?
  2. Who are the stakeholders that are involved?
  3. What is the priority area of the campaign?

The groups managed to respond to the questions accordingly but there were some overlooked issues during the discussion. The group raised a number of ambitious topics, such as public transport, health infrastructure, community well-being, and clean energy. Those elements are important because they boost the city’s resilience to climate change. However, sustainability also implies leaving no one behindas sustainable urban development should enable the community to live a good life while also aligning the social and environmental aspects. A sustainable urban development must adhere to the principle of no harm, where development must constantly boost growth, while maintaining a balance between the well-being of people and the planet.

As a result of the discussion, we arrived at the 3 outcomes for the youth and city campaign: Conference 0 Waste, City4u Toolkit, and Urban Heroes. Our campaign’s key goals are to focus on sustainability using a behavioural approach and to empower youths to be changemakers. We highlighted the significance of these issues and reviewed the technical aspects of the implementation process. These projects will be developed further for the next 4 months by the ASEAN youth delegates and later will be presented at the ASEAN Mayors Forum 2023.

Way Forward

Youths, as the present growth engine and future leaders, shall actively participate in the agenda for sustainable development. We are a part of society, welcoming to all, and equipped with the necessary skills to pave a promising future. Youths have the understanding and capacity to accomplish great things by raising awareness and practicing initiatives to build national competence and resilience. For the time being, let us walk now and showcase our outcome at the high-level conference in August 2023. Best wishes as we guide this generation towards a brighter future. 

This article was written by Nicole Accalia Angriawan who is currently having her internship at the Secretariat of GCoM Southeast Asia Secretariat hosted by UCLG ASPAC. Nicole was invited to attend the EU-ASEAN Youth Conference to share her internship experience and perspective as a youth from an ASEAN country. The article was further reviewed by the GCoM Southeast Asia Secretariat team before publishing it.

[1] United Nations. (n.d.). Youth | United Nations. the United Nations. Retrieved April 18, 2023, from

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