BANGKOK, 13 September 2019 – Around fifty university students from across ASEAN gathered in Bangkok on 3-7 September for the 3rd ASEAN University Student Council Union (AUSCU) Conference.

Themed “ASEAN Youth for Transformative Impact: Sustained Change through Volunteering,” the conference was organised by the ASEAN University Student Council Union (AUSCU) in collaboration with Thailand’s Department of Children and Youth, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. It aimed to explore untapped potentials of youth in creating positive changes for community development through volunteering activities.

At the opening ceremony, Deputy Director-General of Thailand’s Department of Children and Youth Teppawan Pornawalai said that “ensuring a sustainable future for our people and the region requires lifting up the quality of life through collaborative activities. Through conferences like this, we can empower our youth networks in ASEAN to contribute to this process.”

Through group discussion, world café and light debating sessions, students voiced their aspirations and drew solutions on how ASEAN can better mobilise its youths to volunteer in community projects and eventually contribute to sustainable development.  A study visit to Bang Khun Thian mangrove forest was also organised where the students witnessed the fruits of a successful mangrove planting volunteering project.

Prominent experts in volunteerism from across the region shared their experience and insights on how to initiate and manage impactful volunteering programmes. They included Thailand’s Professor Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, Vice-Rector of Thammasat University and Director of Volunteers for Dad Project and Putthisak Panomsarnnarin, Project Manager of Thailand Climate CoLab, Young Good Governance and Dress the Dream.  Viet Nam’s Tran Thi Thao Nguyen from Coach for College as well as Muhammad Fikri Ahmad from Malaysia’s Yayasan Sukarelawan Siswa or Student Volunteers Foundation were also present.

Serving as a bridge to connect the ASEAN youth with the region’s policy makers in youth development, the conference delivered a set of recommendations to encourage and sustain youth volunteerism in the ASEAN region by improving the existing structure of volunteering programmes and providing more volunteering opportunities in various fields.

The students agreed that volunteering programmes in ASEAN should be responsive to the current development and societal needs. The recommendations highlighted the importance of connectivity and ICT in volunteering programmes, as well as the need to establish common guidelines and an integrated regional volunteering platform in ASEAN. The role of educational institutions in advocating for youth involvement in volunteering programmes was also emphasised by the students.

ASEAN Youth Bytes, a compilation of articles crafted by officials from ASEAN Member States and partner organisations put together by ASEAN Secretariat, was launched at the opening ceremony of the conference. Participants received the first 100 copies of the publication that showcases success stories on youth development initiatives in ASEAN and promotes the role of youth in ASEAN Community building efforts.

AUSCU was established by the ASEAN youth delegates of the JENESYS2016 Student Conference in March 2017 in Hiroshima, Japan. This youth-led initiative is in line with one of the priority areas of the ASEAN Work Plan on Youth 2016-2020 in promoting youth leadership.