US ASEAN Young Professionals Association

US ASEAN Young Professionals Association

Founded in 2020, the US ASEAN Young Professionals Association (UAYPA) is led by a voluntary team of emerging U.S. and Indo-Pacific youth leaders, with the common goal of positively contributing towards cross-cultural exchange and collaboration in the fields of diplomacy and foreign policy.

US ASEAN Young Professionals Association

Founded in 2020, the US ASEAN Young Professionals Association (UAYPA) is led by a voluntary team of emerging U.S. and Indo-Pacific youth leaders, with the common goal of positively contributing towards cross-cultural exchange and collaboration in the fields of diplomacy and foreign policy. Our mission is to develop the next generation of Indo-Pacific leaders and centralize the ASEAN diaspora within the diplomacy sphere. Our vision is to connect and empower youths with opportunities that support the fostering of US-ASEAN relations and catalyze positive change in global issues. As an organization we champion diversity, like-mindedness, and goal-orientedness as our core values. We achieve thess goals through three priority areas: (i) ASEAN Diasporic Empowerment, aims to bring the voices of the ASEAN diaspora to the forefront, and advocate for increased representation in U.S. and Indo-Pacific affairs. (ii) Understanding International Relations, focuses on cultivating the next generation of Indo-Pacific leaders through providing opportunities for cross-border idea exchange and diplomacy. (iii) Promoting Capacity Building, is targeted towards investing in emerging leaders and young professionals through cultural competency, thought leadership, and professional development activities. Since 2020, we have grown to a platform of over 4000 members, with a membership base from diverse U.S. states and ASEAN countries who are engaged in various fields. In particular, we posted a strong upward trajectory in our organizational reach in the first and second quarters of 2023.

About the Organization:

Founded in 2020, the US ASEAN Young Professionals Association (UAYPA) is led by a voluntary team of emerging U.S. and Indo-Pacific youth leaders, with the common goal of positively contributing towards cross-cultural exchange and collaboration in the fields of diplomacy and foreign policy. Our mission is to develop the next generation of Indo-Pacific leaders and centralize the ASEAN diaspora within the diplomacy sphere. Our vision is to connect and empower youths with opportunities that support the fostering of US-ASEAN relations and catalyze positive change in global issues. As an organization we champion diversity, like-mindedness, and goal-orientedness as our core values. We achieve thess goals through three priority areas: (i) ASEAN Diasporic Empowerment, aims to bring the voices of the ASEAN diaspora to the forefront, and advocate for increased representation in U.S. and Indo-Pacific affairs. (ii) Understanding International Relations, focuses on cultivating the next generation of Indo-Pacific leaders through providing opportunities for cross-border idea exchange and diplomacy. (iii) Promoting Capacity Building, is targeted towards investing in emerging leaders and young professionals through cultural competency, thought leadership, and professional development activities. Since 2020, we have grown to a platform of over 4000 members, with a membership base from diverse U.S. states and ASEAN countries who are engaged in various fields. In particular, we posted a strong upward trajectory in our organizational reach in the first and second quarters of 2023.

organizational budget

$500,000 - $1 MILLION

existence for

16-20 YEARS

The Issue:

As the world’s third largest population and fifth largest economy, ASEAN is amongst the fastest growing regions in the Indo-Pacific, behind only China and India. ASEAN member states have an established history of US-ASEAN partnership in diplomacy, economy, and security: ASEAN is the US’s top investment destination in the Indo-Pacific and ASEAN visitors contribute close to $8B to the US economy. However, ASEAN is often glossed over in the public domain, in favor of more high-profile topics such as escalating US-China relations. Consequently, the symbolic representation of ASEAN as a key partner of the U.S. for important global issues is lost in the discussion. Today, ASEAN remains overshadowed as a region vis-a-vis other communities in U.S. public policy discussions. Within Western media, literary, and academic depictions, ASEAN nations tend to be lumped together, without any nuanced treatment of the region’s distinct cultures and national identities. This lack of representation contributes to an overall dissonance in self-identity experienced by ASEAN diasporic youths within AAPI communities outside of the ASEAN geographical region. These youths face complicated social issues of underachievement in higher education, generational inequalities, and poverty. Further compounding these problems are the spate of recent events which disproportionately affect the ASEAN diaspora within the historically underserved AAPI community, such as hate crimes against the Asian community, the Harvard Asian affirmative action lawsuit, and the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionally affecting underserved minority communities and highlighting structural inequalities. Only recently in 2022, after the launch of the U.S.-ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, has there been some political recognition of the strategic importance of ASEAN to the U.S.. Similarly, the belated founding of the UN Youth Office speaks to the late realization of the need to include youths in conversations at high-level forums. There continues to be a lack of space for youths, as future leaders in U.S.-ASEAN policy, to engage meaningfully in platforms that encourage dialogue and allow new perspectives and ideas to flourish.

The Solution:

Firstly, we strive to empower the ASEAN diaspora to be future change-makers, by actively cultivating an inclusive and welcoming community of members from around the world. Having broken through systemic barriers in our own personal and professional lives, we aspire to create a global community of affirmative and edifying youths, and to legitimize their voices and lived experiences so as to empower them to enact positive social change from the ground-up. Our prior and upcoming work organizing localized networking events, marketed not as traditional professional events but rather as opportunities to meet with like-minded individuals to build genuine positive relationships in a safe space, further demonstrates our commitment to fostering positive partnerships and bridging gaps on the global and local levels. Secondly, we promote understanding of international relations through our flagship diplomacy curriculum: Diplodemy. Diplodemy aims to bridge the gap between the U.S. and Indo-Pacific regions by engaging youths from both regions. Focused on enabling access to information and tools not immediately accessible to those seeking entry into the international relations fields, UAYPA has engaged numerous subject matter experts on topics of popular interest. As a fully volunteer-run and unpaid organization, we are committed to keeping our platform free to access. Towards that end, we host webinars conducive to different time zones as much as possible, and recordings of these events are subsequently posted on our platforms for convenient access. Thirdly, we engage in capacity building by planning information sessions and expert lectures (the latter of which we strive to ensure have diverse representation in gender, nationality, ethnicity, and age when identifying speakers). We also aim to deliver free language learning courses, beginning with Bahasa Melayu by the end of 2023, for the ASEAN diaspora in general, as well as other interested parties, to learn relevant regional languages from experienced native speakers and teachers. We believe this work is important not only from a professional but also a cultural perspective, as it draws generations of ASEAN diasporic youths back into an empowering space to reconnect with their roots and identities through the medium of language and community building.

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