Youth Leaders and Entrepreneurs Breaking Barriers and Building Futures Across Southeast Asia

November 6, 2023

Breaking Barriers, Building Futures: ASEAN Regional Dialogue on Young People’s Skills, Employability, and Transition to Decent Work, held recently, fostered an intergenerational exchange of lessons, challenges, and good practices relevant to adolescents’ and youth’s learning and skilling, employability, engagement, and transition to decent work across ASEAN.

The focus of the discussion at the event was across four thematic areas, inclusive and future-ready education systems, skills development and employability, youth employment and labour market transitions for a human-centred recovery, and entrepreneurship with gender equality, green and digital skills.

It was organized by the ASEAN Secretariat, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the International Labour Organization (ILO), with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and UN Women. 

The event promoted a shared agenda on increasing the participation of young people in policymaking and creating solutions to challenges across Southeast Asia. The event became a space for young people to collaborate, learn, and initiate meaningful progress with various stakeholders, including governments, organizations, development partners, the private sector, and CSOs. 

Youth participants from Movers and Youth Co:Lab

Young leaders and entrepreneurs from Youth Co:Lab, co-led by UNDP and Citi Foundation and the Movers Programme, actively participated to share their knowledge and insights on inclusive entrepreneurship, green skills, education, partnerships, and skills development. 

During the Youth Voices session, Le Nguyen Phuong Linh of Movers Vietnam recommended a strengthened collaboration between the public and private sectors to create more green jobs and nurture the digital skills of young people. In the same session, Thitphathay Vorarath (RPao), Co-Founder of Bee More and Youth Co:Lab Alumni, shared that inclusive and impact-driven youth-led businesses can increase through capacitating them with skills development programs.  

In the Partnerships session, Saje Molato, Founder of Siklab Pilipinas and Youth Co:Lab Alumni, highlighted how programs for young people and young professionals can improve their systems for participation for young people and in the Inclusive Entrepreneurship session, Pichmony Thay, Youth and DEI Manager of Impact Hub Phnom Penh, Youth Co:Lab partner of Springboard Amplifier and #Movers4LNOB Facilitator shared, "In building an inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem, we must follow the principle that all youth groups including Indigenous youth and youth with disabilities are included in implementing a program or project. Moreover, we must ensure that there is no tokenism by including them in co-designing and co-implementing programs and projects." 

The knowledge exchanges that took place paved the way for cross-sectoral recommendations regarding the transition of young people to decent work. These recommendations include, but are not limited to:  

1) Developing inclusive education systems that cater to diverse groups of young people and equip them with digital, green and 21st century skills.  

2) Enhancing policies and systems on youth, labour and education to facilitate skills development and employment opportunities for young people.  

3) Incorporating youth in strategies and operationalization of job creation initiatives in the green and digital economies to ensure a human-centered recovery.  

4) Promoting inclusive youth entrepreneurship and innovation by offering programmes with a "Leave No One Behind" approach and collaborating with Entrepreneur Support Organizations (ESOs).  

5) Encouraging integrational collaboration and dialogues to strengthen young people's participation in policy and decision-making processes and initiating productive partnerships with relevant stakeholders. 

The two-day event, held from 17 – 18 October 2023, brought together more than 150 representatives from governments, UN agencies, youth, the private sector and workers and employers' organizations.