KUALA LUMPUR - The Young South-East Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), mooted by US President Barrack Obama last year, has been expanded to include more participants.
YSEALI aims to strengthen leadership development and networking in South-East Asia through programmes and engagements based in the United States.
US Ambassador to Malaysia Joseph Y. Yun said there would be 500 YSEALI Fellows chosen from the 10 ASEAN member countries on an annual basis.
"They will be divided into two groups.
"The Academic Fellows will comprise current or recently graduated students aged between 18 and 25 for five-week programmes at preeminent US universities and colleges.
"The Professional Fellows, aged between 18 and 35, will work directly with their American counterparts in non-profit organisations, state and local government offices across the United States for five weeks," he told a programme to promote YSEALI here yesterday.
YSEALI focuses on critical topics identified by youth in the region, such as civic engagement, environment and natural resources management, entrepreneurship and economic development.
Since its inception last year, over 10,000 youths from all over ASEAN have become YSEALI Fellows and benefited from their five-week experience in the United States.
Yun said that the United States hoped for a multiplier effect through the initiative, which meant Fellows would, upon their return to their countries, engage other aspiring leaders to share their knowledge.
"Fellows will connect with their peers across the region through the larger YSEALI and US exchange alumni network.
"It will help the fellows build on their US experience and address both local and regional issues through grant competitions, regional workshops and other opportunities," he said, adding that a substantial number of Malaysians applied for YSEALI programmes.
To be a YSEALI member, one must be between 18 and 35 years old, a citizen and resident of an ASEAN country and be interested in working on economic development, environmental protection, education or civic engagement.
At least 12 programmes on these topics have been lined up for next year.
Those interested can log on to youngsoutheastasianleaders.state.gov or the YSEALI Facebook page www.facebook.com/youngsoutheastasianleaders.