Unlimited ASEAN: Empowering ASEAN’s young people through skills, employment, opportunities, and partnerships

Co-hosted by Generation Unlimited, ASEAN-BAC, EU-ASEAN Business Council, UNDP and UNICEF

23 November 2021

Bangkok, 23 November 2021: To empower ASEAN’s young people through skills, employment, opportunities, and partnerships, the ASEAN Business Advisory Council, the EU-ASEAN Business Council, UNDP and UNICEF East Asia and Pacific co-hosted the virtual Unlimited ASEAN Forum on 17 November 2021.

To kickstart UNDP and UNICEF’s long-term strategy to transform young people’s futures in ASEAN in line with Generation Unlimited, the one-day event brought together governments, private sector partners, civil society, social entrepreneurs, and youth leaders and female role models to leverage regional knowledge, secure commitments and investments from participants. Around 500 delegates joined from across the region to hear from 38 speakers and panelists, which included 18 youth social entrepreneurs and young changemakers.

Participants were encouraged to foster greater public-private partnerships, and to ensure young people are active participants in this process. Governments and business leaders agreed to develop closer links between markets and skill building opportunities. They also agreed to support integrating digital literacy, mentorship, and mobile-first approaches to bring skills, information, and opportunities into the hands of young people across ASEAN, especially those most left behind.

Speakers highlighted major challenges in the region, including the lower participation rate of young women in the workforce and stark digital divides due to gender or geography.

The role of the private sector in promoting young people’s empowerment through connectivity, skills, internships and mentorship was also highlighted by young leaders, business leaders and others. “Mental health and resilience are the foundation for young people to achieve our full potential -- Moh Suthasiny Sudprasert, Co-CEO, Happy Grocers Thailand said during her keynote speech.

Participants were invited to answer the call for greater collaboration by convening under the Generation Unlimited global partnership in a regional platform to boost efforts to ensure youth have access to digital learning, skilling, and livelihood while also accelerating opportunities to develop entrepreneurial skills and initiatives.

“What is needed are operational partnerships to connect every school to the internet; build capacities of teachers and facilitators; invest in digital content development and curation; and finance youth-driven entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Debora Comini, Regional Director, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific in her opening remarks.

Key themes involved COVID-19 recovery and response to the youth unemployment crisis.

In his closing remarks, Christophe Bahuet, Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific and Director of the Bangkok Regional Hub for UNDP, reiterated the focus on action, inclusion, youth engagement, and long-term sustainable partnerships.

Moving forward, greater collaboration is necessary to expedite regional learning and cross-country sharing on good practices in adolescent and youth development. Public-private-youth partnerships across ASEAN in support of Generation Unlimited goals also need to be fostered. The Forum called for targeted policies to be developed to address the needs of vulnerable young people. This includes social protection schemes to enable young girls and those with disabilities to access skills and opportunities, making it easier for them to enter the workforce. ​​

Capitalizing on the disruption created by the pandemic, ASEAN Ministers of Education, Youth and Labour are invited to be engaged in discussions on solutions to work with and for young people’s skills, employment and empowerment.

"We are ASEAN, and it is during these challenging times that we should forge our strength as one community to bind our youth as they are both our current and future leaders to lead our journey towards recovery – so we can build the region’s resilience and a sustainable digital future SAMA-SAMA," said ASEAN BAC Chair Hon. Yanty Rahman.

“This is why the forum today is so important. By bringing together all these crucial stakeholders in one digital space, and hearing from youths themselves, the EU-ABC hopes that there will be solutions – practical, and implementable in the near future, with the right funding and support – to ensure that every young person in ASEAN has access to the skills needed for the 21st century, has access to relevant training, and has access to good job opportunities, so that that our youths, and future generations, will continue to thrive,” said Chris Humphrey, Executive Director, EU-ASEAN Business Council.

The Unlimited ASEAN Forum is an initial step towards engaging governments and private sector companies to develop grand-scale commitments to drive research, innovation and investment into young people’s skills, employment and empowerment across ASEAN.


Notes to editors:

Full recommendations and discussion points from the event will be shared with the ASEAN Secretariat and will be available on UNICEF East Asia and Pacific’s website.

For further information, please contact: Shima Islam, Regional Communication Specialist, ssislam@unicef.org

Media contacts

Shima Islam
Regional Communication Specialist
UNICEF East Asia and the Pacific
Tel: +66 (0)23569407


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

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