Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative

YSEALI is a signature flagship program of former President Barack Obama. It builds the leadership capacities of youth in the ASEAN region and promotes cross-border cooperation to solve regional and global challenges. I participated in various YSEALI programs since 2016: Oceans workshop in Jakarta, Academic Fellowship in the USA, and Sea and Earth Advocates (SEA) Camp Summit in the Philippines. Through YSEALI, I was able to collaborate with fellow young people on several conservation activities, mentor young and emerging leaders in conservation, and participate in dialogues with leaders (e.g., Former United States Secretary of States John Kerry, Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman, and other officials of the US Embassy in Manila) to discuss our experiences and challenges as young conservation advocates/practitioners. 


The Global Youth Biodiversity Network is the official youth constituency of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. It aims to represent the voice of global youth in the negotiations under the CBD, raise awareness among young people of the values of biodiversity, and connect individuals and youth organizations in order to build a global coalition to halt the loss of biodiversity. My experiences with the GYBN helped me gain knowledge on biodiversity policy in the context of the CBD. But more importantly, it provided me with opportunities to actively engage with various stakeholders during international meetings and negotiations, as well as a vibrant and passionate youth network that continues to inspire me in this conservation journey.

I participated in the Sustainable Ocean Initiative Sub-regional Capacity-building Workshop for the Coral Triangle held in Jakarta, Indonesia from 30 July to 3 August 2018 on behalf of GYBN. In this workshop, I engaged with government representatives to promote young people as effective partners at both national and sub-national levels in conserving one of the richest marine biogeographic regions in the world, the Coral Triangle. 

I was fortunate to attend the 14th UN Biodiversity Conference in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt in 2018. At COP14, I followed closely the issue of marine biodiversity, where I was given the chance to draft the intervention of GYBN on marine biodiversity and deliver it before the parties.

On behalf of GYBN, I participated in the Asia-Pacific Regional Consultation Workshop for the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework in Nagoya, Japan in January 2019. In this meeting, I lobbied for youth-specific concerns, interests, and issues— including a presentation on the new narratives for biodiversity, highlighting the important role of youths, women, indigenous peoples, and local communities in the process.

Along with advocating for policies, GYBN also engages in capacity-building programs to inform young people about the CBD and its application. I assisted in organizing the Youth Biodiversity Leaders 2019, the flagship youth program run by the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity in partnership with the GYBN, in March 2019. Twenty young conservation leaders from throughout the ASEAN region were brought together by this program in Bangkok, Thailand to develop their leadership abilities, learn about conservation policy, and establish connections with other young leaders in the area as well as with GYBN.

In September 2019, I helped facilitate the 2nd MAB Youth Forum of UNESCO in Changbaishan Biosphere Reserve, China under the theme "Committed to Biodiversity". The forum gathered more than 200 youth from the world's biosphere reserves to build capacity on the MAB, CBD, and Post-2020 framework, as well as mobilize them given their involvement in CBD COP15. The final output of the forum was a youth declaration and an action plan.

I attended the Workshop for Experts in Marine and Coastal Biodiversity, which took place in Montreal, Canada, from November 13–15 2019. The workshop solicited opinions and generated specific ideas from experts on components linked to the conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity for inclusion in the Post-2020 GBF. Photo grabbed from IISD Reporting Services.

I participated in the Regional Training Capacity-building Workshop on Gender-Biodiversity Issues in Southeast Asia held in Manila, Philippines on 9-13 December 2019. This workshop aimed to help enhance institutional capacity on gender mainstreaming, contribute to stronger regional action on gender-responsive biodiversity policy and programming, and identify recommendations for gender elements to be incorporated in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. This was co-organized by the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity.

I participated in the Regional Workshop on Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (OECMs) to Accelerate Progress on Aichi Target 11 Implementation in the East and Southeast Asia Region. This workshop is the first for OECMs, which aims to reinforce initiatives of countries in the said region towards fulfilling the Aichi Target 11 by sharing the strategies and approaches about how the countries will recognize, report, and support OECMS. This was co-organized by the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity.

In February 2020, I joined the GYBN in Rome, Italy to attend the 2nd Open-Ended Working Group Meeting of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Our target proposals on transformative education and the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities, women and girls, and youth—both of which are very well reflected in our youth consultations—were well received by Parties. 

I joined the GYBN youth delegation in the 23rd Meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA-23) of the UN Biodiversity Convention held in Montreal, Canada from 25-29 November 2019. This meeting helped establish a solid scientific foundation for the Post-2020 GBF. We also met with Elizabeth Mrema, CBD Executive Secretary, to share with her our network and the youth roadmap to COP15 in Kunming in 2020.

I served as the co-chairperson of the IPLCs, Women, and Youth session at the 6th ASEAN Heritage Park Conference in Pakse, Lao PDR in 2019. In the photo above, I delivered the key message, highlighting the importance of recognizing emerging area-based protection measures (e.g., Indigenous Community Conserved Areas); the important role of women, youth, and IPLCs in the decision-making process; and the need for rights-based approaches to conservation.