Singapore’s 2018 ASEAN chair theme of “resilience and innovation” is particularly fitting because of the United States’ enduring commitment to forward-looking partnership with ASEAN. Last year, we celebrated ASEAN’s 50th anniversary and 40 years of close U.S.-ASEAN relations. This year, we are looking ahead to the many decades to come, exploring new ways for our countries to promote peace, prosperity, and stability throughout Southeast Asia and the greater Indo-Pacific region.
U.S.-Funded Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative hosts ASEAN Entrepreneurs at Inle Lake. (U.S. Mission to ASEAN photo)
Our people-to-people ties and our commitment to ASEAN’s youth exemplify the theme of ‘resilience and innovation’ by giving youth new skills to manage change. Tens of thousands of alumni of our Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) are making positive changes in their communities. In Mindanao, Philippines, YSEALI members recently led several dozen voluntary projects on community resilience and humanitarian relief, which reached more than 1,000 beneficiaries in conflict-affected communities. In Brunei, young leaders who were inspired by a YSEALI workshop established “Youth Against Slavery” (YASBrunei), the nation’s first ever-civil society organization to focus on trafficking in persons.
Mutually beneficial economic engagement has long been an important part of the U.S.-ASEAN relationship. Trade and investment between the United States and ASEAN are growing consistently, bringing benefits to our respective populations. Together, we are advancing programs that encourage the development of micro, small, and medium enterprises; support female entrepreneurs in accessing new fields; and stimulate job creation on both sides of the Pacific.
Representatives from ASEAN and the U.S. at the 9th ASEAN-U.S. Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) Meeting at the ASEAN Secretariat on May 5, 2018. (U.S. Mission to ASEAN photo)
To realize our shared ambitions, we continue to make strides towards regional peace and security. We are cooperating on pressing security issues, including denuclearizing North Korea, promoting maritime security in the South China Sea, and ensuring a free, open and secure Indo-Pacific region. Our partnerships also address challenges such as trafficking in persons, disaster management, cybersecurity, and counterterrorism.
With the annual ASEAN-related ministerial meetings approaching in Singapore, our focus on “resilience and innovation” could not be more appropriate. I look forward to my upcoming travels, and to the bright future of the enduring U.S.-ASEAN partnership.
Editor’s Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State’s publicationon Medium.