ASEAN Youth at the ASEAN Summit 2014: Representing All Voices and Claiming our Space

11 May 2014 served as a historical and monumental day for ASEAN Youth. Despite challenges in terms of time, space and genuine representation, we, the young people, asserted our right to claim our space and amplify our voices at the ASEAN Summit. It was the first time that Young people shifted their discourse from mere actors of cultural exchange to active and relevant stakeholders for a youth-driven, rights-based, people-centred, sexuality-embracing, open, transparent and accountable ASEAN community. We are most proud of the Myanmar youth team who had tirelessly and passionately worked to make this happen.

While only three countries, Philippines, Indonesia and Myanmar, were genuinely represented (from the ASEAN Youth Forum) at the interface meeting, we forged all possible measures to negotiate with government-appointed youth. Amid heated debates and differences in terms of socio-political awareness, we were still able to convince all to embrace and endorse the Yangon Declaration (ASEAN Youth Statement 2014).

Our work won’t stop here. It is most important to meaningfully engage beyond those four walls in Nay Pyi Daw. Now, we all have the leverage to monitor our recommendations and push our governments to stay committed to the strong calls of ASEAN young people!

We have to stay true to our main vision and we will not stop until we reach this end. We will remain committed, especially for those who could not access spaces to express their voices and those who are not able to claim their rights and freedoms. This first giant leap is for the present and future young people of the ASEAN.

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We are proud to share the speech of Ms. Phwe Yu Mon, a passionate and committed youth leader and ASEAN Youth Forum core team member from Myanmar, at the ASEAN Youth Summit Interface:

First of all, we would like to convey our gratitute and appreciation to the government of Myanmar for providing the space for ASEAN youth to participate meaningfully at the ASEAN Summit Interface Meeting.

We would like to call for a youth civil society-centred, independent selection process for future official representatives of the ASEAN Summit Interface Meeting.

We, the young leaders from the ASEAN Youth Forum, would like to demand that ASEAN give full recognition to the collective voices of the ASEAN young people based on the Yangon Declaration ASEAN Youth Statement 2014.

We also call for the full recognition of the ASEAN Youth Forum as a youth-based, autonomous and independent regional institution that represents the voices of young Southeast Asians, and to monitor and evaluate the implementation of youth-related policies, agenda, and recommendations

We, the young people of ASEAN, aspire for the promotion of non-discrimination, equality, peace, protection, sustainability, and inclusive development of the ASEAN community that is in line with the principles and values of human rights, democracy, justice and freedom in all aspects of our lives.

We, the young people of ASEAN, strongly call for the creation of a sustainable rights-based, inclusive, people-centered, and youth-driven regional community. Henceforth, we demand for the full participation for the reviewing of the Terms of Reference of ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) to ensure it functions as a fully independent, transparent regional human rights authority, to strengthen human rights protection mandate, owned by the AICHR.

Among our demands are, AICHR should be able to receive complaints of human rights violations cases, form a fact-finding team of human rights cases in ASEAN, support the efforts of the selection and recruitment of the AICHR representatives in all ASEAN countries from among the independent authority for the AICHR, as well as encourage the formation of the Court of HUMAN RIGHTS in the ASEAN. In addition, leaders should also ensure the AICHR can complete the agenda of civil society involvement guideline with AICHR.

We, the young people of ASEAN, strongly call for affirmative action in ASEAN countries to create an enabling environment at regional, national, and local levels that highly addresses the needs, fulfills the aspirations of young people and ensures youth-embracing Post-2015 Development agenda for the region.

We, the young people of ASEAN, must always be able to freely access and shape local, national and regional spaces to lead, claim our rights, and drive a people-centered ASEAN community. We thereby, call for meaningful youth participation by providing them access to information and demand a transparent and accountable policy especially the ones that have impact to the youth.

Meaningful participation of youth in all sectors is highly important to ensure the above, with emphasis on young vulnerable groups including adolescent girls, LGBTIQ (young people with diverse sexual orientation, gender identities, and gender expression), young political prisoners, young persons with disabilities, indigenous people, religious minorities, migrants, stateless people, people living in poverty, language minorities, women, pregnant girls, children, people living in the context of war and humanitarian contexts, sex workers, people living with HIV and AIDS, dropouts, drug users and internally displaced peoples; with genuine democratic consultation, sufficient funding allocation and provision of other resources, and protection on the rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

We demand the immediate reform and repeal of policies & laws that indirectly criminalize and discriminate against young people based on their political views and status, SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression), religion, and social economic status.

Further, we call for an Immediate action to fully address and work with young people on issues related to:

  •  Role of Young People and Impacts of Peace and Reconciliation
  • Good Governance, Democracy, and Freedom of Expression:
  • Ensuring Decent Work and Livelihood for the Youth of Southeast Asia
  • Quality education for all Young Southeast Asians
  • Empowering Young People’s Sexual & Reproductive Health and Rights (gender, sexuality,  access to  health, and comprehensive sexual education)
  • Youth in Migration: Assuring Safety, Freedom, and their Rights (trafficking, refugees,  statelessness, and migrant workers)
  •  Actualizing and Maintaining a Regional Environment (self-determination, preservation of local  wisdom  and indigenous culture)

Youth Rights are FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS!