On Sunday 24 April 2022, STEAR hosted the inaugural edition of its flagship Townhall event, in which youth from across the world came together to discuss thoughts on a number of key areas under the theme of “(Inter)regionalism in Asia-Europe: The Role of Youth in International Cooperation.” We were joined by around 30 delegates - students and young professionals from a wide range of countries and backgrounds - as well as several distinguished speakers.
The day-long Townhall kicked off with the opening ceremony, during which STEAR Secretary-General Koen Donatz and STEAR Conference Director Aamna Khan welcomed all attendees. Koen then introduced Ambassador Leon Faber, Deputy Executive Director at the Asia-Europe Foundation, who proceeded to give opening remarks. Ambassador Faber noted the similarities in values upheld by STEAR and ASEF, and spoke about some of the changing dynamics that are currently impacting multilateralism across the world, including the current and future importance of youth in these contexts.
Before splitting up into the respective working groups, all participants attended a plenary opening panel focused on the role of youth in policy development and multilateralism in the Europe-Asia context. This panel, moderated by STEAR Editor-in-Chief Jedidja van Boven, featured multiple high-level speakers from different professional backgrounds, namely dr. Jayant Menon (Senior Fellow at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute), dr. Jing Rong Goh (Director at Risk Lighthouse), and STEAR Vice-President for Internal Affairs Ziarla Mae Malabanan (Consultant at ASEAN Foundation). Additionally, ambassador Leon Faber kindly agreed to join the panel as well, which allowed for more audience interaction following the opening remarks. After brief introductions of each speaker, several moderated questions were addressed on topics ranging from the future of interregional organizations in multilateralism to challenges in youth empowerment. The floor was then opened up to participants, who asked nuanced and timely questions on equal opportunities (or lack thereof), holistic problem-solving in a globalized world, and different responses to changes in the international order.
The middle block of the Townhall consisted of group focus sessions, in which the five teams had the chance to finetune the recommendations and content they wanted to present during the final Communiqué presentations. These presentations, moderated by STEAR Conference Director Emika, briefly highlighted the main outputs of each team, which included the following:
the International Politics, Diplomacy and Security team focused on five policy concepts, namely: strategic distrust, multilateralism, gender in IR, global supply chains, and financial responses;
the Technology and Science team presented a multi-stakeholder perspective on the ways in which relevant policies can help tech startups in Asia and Europe grow in a sustainable yet globally oriented way;
the Youth Empowerment team addressed the issue of youth in crisis contexts, with particular attention for three areas: education & job opportunities, digital youth empowerment, and physical & mental safety;
the Economic Integration and Development team explored the issue of building resilient ASEAN-EU economic integration in the post-COVID-19 context, specifically aiming to foster development cooperation in tourism, health, and education;
last but not least, the Climate Change and Sustainable Development team outlined how different actors can efficiently engage with climate change (policy) in the context of interregionalism, through lenses of COVID-19, youth empowerment, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the role of technology.
After each presentation, other teams had the opportunity to ask questions and address comments. Insights from these presentations will be featured in a final communiqué as well, which will be communicated to various stakeholders and STEAR partners - please keep an eye out for the final product!
For the closing remarks, STEAR Co-President Luke Cavanaugh took note of key themes that emerged throughout the day, such as promoting youth voices among policymakers, digitalization, and most of all, improving collaboration and cooperation across the globe. Conference Director Emika reflected on the hard work that went into preparing the Townhall, both by delegates and STEAR members, and thanked everyone for their contributions. The audience also received closing remarks from our distinguished guest Themis Christophidou, Director-General for Education, Youth, Sport, Culture at the European Commission, who noted the continued importance of intercultural communication, exchange, and youth mobility for future international development.
Finally, STEAR Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary General Koen Donatz and Kynam Nguyen presented the initial results of STEAR’s Europe-Asia Pulse Survey, an exploratory research project that aims to chart various stakeholders’ perceptions about the state of Europe-Asia relations and youth perspectives in different relevant fields, such as climate and human development. The Pulse project will be finalized in the upcoming months, so keep an eye out for the final report!
If any of these topics, panels, or presentations sound interesting to you, we strongly encourage you to stay up to date with our website and various social media channels - we regularly publish relevant opportunities in these areas and organize both training sessions and public events with interesting speakers and interactive workshops. We’d like to thank everyone for their participation in the Townhall, and the involved STEAR members for their efforts in organizing this wonderful event!