KUALA LUMPUR – When Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand established ASEAN 50 years ago, they aimed to establish greater political stability in the region.
The next half a century will be about the ability of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to mark economic greatness and the biggest challenge for the region is to move forward to meet the expectations of a whole new generation, said Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
Noting that the younger generation of ASEAN aspires to a better life, an ever-higher standard of living, he said they are generally better educated, more tech-savvy and they believe in the benefits of ASEAN membership.
“We must strive to ensure ASEAN can become a catalyst for inclusive growth, better jobs, better education opportunities and investment in infrastructure that will result in ever-higher standard of living for this generation.
“Herein lies the challenge to meet the trust and expectations in the next 50 years. Addressing the economic concern of people, especially the young ones, is key in building ASEAN’s economic greatness,” he said in his keynote address at the ASEAN 50I50 Symposium: Projecting the Future of a Community, here today.
He said regardless of what the future global scene holds, be it another group of superpowers or new sets of jobs, ASEAN’s future will forever be bright if the younger generations have a sense of belonging to the 50-year old association.
“To do that, we need to engage them because we would not know what they want if we don’t ask them. But, more importantly, they will not care about ASEAN if we don’t ask them their shared goal for this region.
“And if they do not care, we will be under-utilising the strongest asset of ASEAN, which is the people. Our leaders have led ASEAN on a great journey for the past 50 years but the next 50 years will be charted by every single young people of ASEAN,” he said.
Held by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) in conjunction with ASEAN’s 50th anniversary this year, the symposium aimed to critically review ASEAN’s milestones and, importantly, its readiness to anticipate medium to long-term challenges.
Khairy also shared the Malaysian experience engaging with the younger generation in its national discourse series towards shaping the National Transformation 2050 (TN50).
According to him, two key lessons he learned from the youth engagement process of TN50 were that the future of Malaysia relies dominantly on young Malaysians and that young Malaysians care about the future of Malaysia if they were engaged.
The TN50 was announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak while tabling Budget 2017 in the Dewan Rakyat on Oct 21 and is coordinated by the Youth and Sports Ministry. – BERNAMA