Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) today announced Senate passage of their bipartisan resolution reaffirming the importance of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) to advancing the policy of the United States in the Indo-Pacific Region.
“Southeast Asia is one of the most dynamic regions of the world, home to hundreds of millions of people who will be pivotal in addressing the economic and security challenges that will define the 21st century,” said Senator Merkley, who serves as the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee for Multilateral Institutions. “Now more than ever, we must strengthen our partnerships and help promote cooperation and stability around the world in order to meet these challenges. The passage of this resolution is an important symbol of our commitment to helping build the next generation of leaders who will advance human rights, democracy, and good governance in Southeast Asia. I will continue to fight for other investments in the diplomatic and development focused levers of American foreign policy.”
“It’s critical that we build strong partnerships across the Indo-Pacific region, and youth leadership programs like YSEALI build personal relationships and trust necessary to advance U.S. national security interests at minimal costs to the American taxpayer. People-to-people exchanges are the foundation for demonstrating U.S. leadership and advancing our values, and I am pleased to see this resolution pass the Senate,” said Senator Gardner. “The bipartisan Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, signed into law in December 2018, authorized robust funding to support initiatives like YSEALI, and I urge the Administration to fully follow through on implementation.”
The senators first unveiled their resolution in October 2019 at the start of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Bangkok, Thailand.
Since the founding of YSEALI in 2013, the program has provided civic leadership and entrepreneurship training, as well as academic and professional exchanges in the United States for over 145,000 youth from ASEAN members, which include Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. YSEALI alumni have gone on to distinguish themselves as influential government officials, entrepreneurs, human rights activists, journalists, social entrepreneurs, and educators. Their wide-ranging accomplishments and efforts include relief efforts during the ISIS siege of Marawi in the Philippines, campaigns to combat the accumulation of plastics and save corals in oceans, and organizing the first Pride Parade in northern Mindanao province of the Philippines.
YSEALI’s network includes valuable partners to embassies and agencies of the United States overseas, as the program raises the profile of the United States among ASEAN members and counters China’s influence in the region.
The full text of the resolution is available here.