Washington, DC – Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley joined Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), and Todd Young (R-IN) today to announce a 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.
The Senators made the announcement as the 35th annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit begins today in Bangkok, Thailand.
“When the United States participates in youth training programs like YSEALI, we strengthen our partnerships and help promote cooperation and stability around the world,” said Merkley. “America’s strength has always been rooted in our values, and YSEALI’s contributions serve as a powerful reminder of what can be accomplished when the United States invests in the diplomatic and development-focused levers of American foreign policy.”
“There are few efforts more important than strengthening people-to-people ties, and that is exactly what the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative does,” said Markey. “Exchange programs to build the capacity of democracy, human rights, and good governance activists in the Indo-Pacific are indispensable, as we noted in the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act that we passed into law. I am proud to join my colleagues in this important legislation.”
“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. It’s critical that we build strong partnerships across the Indo-Pacific region, and people-to-people exchanges are the foundation for demonstrating U.S. leadership and advancing our values,” said 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.”
“Programs like YSEALI are an important part of breaking down barriers between the United States and nations in Southeast Asia,” said Duckworth. “I’ve been honored to meet many YSEALI participants over the years and am inspired by their hard work to create meaningful change in their communities and their countries, which is one reason why I’m proud to be introducing this bipartisan resolution with my colleagues.”
“The United States remains a beacon of hope for young people around the world yearning to build a better future for themselves and their countries, and programs like YSEALI are crucial for building partnerships with these emerging leaders,” said Hirono. “I saw YSEALI’s transformational impact first-hand when I met with a group of inspiring young professionals during a visit to Vietnam this spring. America is strongest when we connect with people around the world who share our values, and I am proud to support this resolution to continue this important work.”
“It is said that an ‘ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’ that is why we need to ensure the Indo-Pacific region’s next generation knows they have a trustworthy friend in the United States,” said Young. “America is strongest when we work with our partners, and when reassured of our commitment, those in the region will be less inclined to look towards the Communists in Beijing who do not share their values or interests.”
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, campaigns to combat the accumulation of plastics and save corals in oceans, and organizing the first Pride Parade in northern Mindanao.
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.