US president Joe Biden has expressed his commitment to strengthening the capacity of Cambodian youth through the Southeast Asian Youth Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) scheme. During his visit to Cambodia, Biden met with many young people who had attended the US YSEALI programme.

According to a November 13 press release by the US Embassy, Biden was in contact with members of the scheme, most of whom are leaders of Cambodian civil society and entrepreneurs.

He discussed their work to promote human rights, sustainable development and education, anti-trafficking and environmental issues in the Kingdom of Cambodia with them.

“We care about our relationship with ASEAN and our relationship with the people, and that is why I am here right now,” Biden said.

Biden also highlighted the US’ commitment to the Indo-Pacific region and the next generation in Southeast Asia.

According to Van Srey Roth, a member of YSEALI, the project offers many programmes for training young people. The programme has now added Timor-Leste, as its focus is on young people in the ASEAN nations.

“I think one of the main advantages to the programme is the opportunity to network with other young people in 10 different countries. We can build relationships and discover the situation in each of our countries. For example, I attend programmes related to climate change, and I have learnt a great deal about the floods in the Philippines.

“Even though it is online, I we can benefit from the quality of their leadership and teaching. Their strategy is to get young people involved and not just sit and listen to others,” she said.

She added that the programme is international, so people learn to speak in public and exchange ideas with other participants. The project has given many young people the courage to effect change, while improving their understanding of international relations. It is also a great opportunity to develop their abilities and apply for scholarships to study in the US.

Chan Ramy, director of the Youth Resource Development Program said that she was not aware of the specifics of the YSEALI project, but was aware that it ran many training programmes for young people across ASEAN.

“As far as I understand it, this programme is very important for our youth because it enhances their leadership abilities,” she said.

YSEALI was established in by US President Barack Obama in 2013 and is a key US government programme to strengthen partnerships with youth leaders across Southeast Asia. It aims to enhance their skills and motivate their involvement in economics and non-governmental affairs in the region. It also encourages them to work internationally to address regional challenges.

The YSEALI project includes the 10 ASEAN member states, as well as Timor-Leste, which ASEAN leaders have agreed will become the 11th member state of the association in the future.