Youth leaders participating in the Arangkada: Youth Leaders Summit 2023 are writing their collective commitments on a tarpaulin with a jeepney graphic.

Arangkada: Youth as key driver for meaningful engagement in democratic governance

Youth leaders participating in the Arangkada: Youth Leaders Summit 2023 are writing their collective commitments on a tarpaulin with a jeepney graphic.
Nothing about us, without us. Youth leaders declared their commitments and calls towards more meaningful participation in democratic governance during the Arangkada: Youth Leaders Summit 2023 in Cebu City.

“Nothing about us, without us.”

This is the concluding call of the 1,000 Filipino youth leaders to the government, private sector, and civil society to ensure young people’s meaningful participation in democratic governance at the Arangkada: Youth Leaders’ Summit 2023 held in September in Cebu City.

Anchored on the Philippine Youth Development Plan (PYDP) 2023-2028, the youth leaders bared their collective commitments and calls for greater involvement in addressing various economic, political, social, and cultural inequalities and injustices in the country, dubbing it as the “Declaration of Youth Participation in Democratic Governance in the Philippines.”

Arangkada (accelerate) 2023 was implemented by the Youth Leadership for Democracy (YouthLed) in partnership with the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. to foster collaborative engagement, upskilling, and strengthening of youth networks across the country; providing more enabling spaces that inspire youth participation in democratic governance. Its theme “Gearing Towards Sustainable Coalitions” aptly captures this vision.

The changing face of youth active participation

The Philippines has a long history of youth active participation. From the First Quarter Storm in the 1970s, to the People Power Revolution in 1986, to today’s hashtag campaigns online such as ‘#AbanteBabae’ to advance women empowerment, ‘#NeverForget’ to remember the injustices during the Marial Law period, and most recently, ‘#DragIsNotACrime’ to stand up for the rights of drag queens to express themselves and their views, we continue to feel the youth’s vibrant presence and their continuous advocacy for causes that matter to them. 

According to the 2021 National Youth Survey, the youth’s expression of participation today is shaped by technology, specifically by social media and online campaigns. With 97% having access to at least one social media account, it is no wonder that more than a half of youth surveyed (60%) have liked or shared political or social posts on social media. 

Prince Harvey Arellano, a Sultan Kudarat-based youth leader and a summit participant, described a more involved participation of the youth in democratic governance.

“We’ve seen youth participate in different forms of democratic governance such as through elections. We’ve seen that effect especially now in the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections in which we are able to take up space in government and not just remain as bystanders,” Arellano shared.

Prince Harvey Arellano, a youth leader from LUPAD coalition, is at the summit podium holding a microphone presenting the youth declaration.
Prince Harvey Arellano, a youth leader from LUPAD coalition, presented the youth’s collective commitment towards engaging in policy reforms that foster inclusion of voices in the margins.

This year’s summit captured the momentum young Filipinos have gained through time, learning from the shared herstories and histories that generations have experienced. The youth’s expressions of participation may have changed, now complemented by technology, but the calls never wavered especially with systemic issues continuing to persist.

First presentation to the Youth of the Philippine Youth Development Plan

This year’s summit holds paramount importance as it introduced the new PYDP to the public for the first time. During NYC Commissioner Reena Pineda’s presentation, she shared the NYC’s ‘10 Centers of Participation,’ identifying key priority areas where the Commission will focus its efforts in the next five years to bolster youth development: (1) Health; (2) Education; (3) Economic Empowerment; (4) Social Inclusion and Equity; (5) Peace building and Security; (6) Governance; (7) Active Citizenship; (8) Environment; (9) Global Mobility; and (10) Agriculture.

As part of its partnership support to the NYC, YouthLed then designed the summit to localize the new PYDP, zooming in on each center of participation and facilitating conversations that deepened the participants’ knowledge on issues and triggered entry points for participation.

Kim Aira Resuma, a summit participant from the First Asia Institute of Technology and Humanities (FAITH) Colleges, wrote a note in her notebook towards the end of the Social Inclusion and Equity session capturing her key takeaway, “Sa bawat pag-arangkada, dapat kasama ang mga bata.” [“Every time we accelerate, the youth need to be included.”] 

She shared that the youth’s contributions are often belittled because of their age, but the eagerness and active participation of the youth she witnessed in Cebu proved otherwise.

The breakout sessions also encouraged the participants to leverage existing regional and issue-based coalitions. This is to further amplify the youth’s voices and efforts, strengthening their position, as NYC puts it, as Kaagapay sa Kaunlaran [partner or ally in nation-building].

Arellano, who is also a member of the Leaders United for Progressive Advocacies in Davao-SOCCSKSARGEN (LUPAD) youth coalition, pointed, “With the presence of the youth organizations and coalitions, [the NYC] can expand their reach. They can expand the mobilization of their activities.” 

The NYC’s areas of focus also resonate with more youth as seen in YouthLed’s Local Youth Assemblies conducted in 51 provinces across the nation, with more than 3,400 participating youth leaders, each representing at least one organization.

A group of youth leaders discussing the priority issues that affect the youth sector in their region.
Collaboration at work. Youth leaders during the Arangkada: Youth Leaders Summit 2023 collectively identified priority issues that affect the youth sector in their communities.

This tells us that today’s issues have never been more felt by the youth. But to address the issues of the youth, they must also be at the driver’s seat steering the wheel.

“We must give importance to the vital role of youth in all of their diversity and other stakeholders in social change and development in both formal and informal spaces of engagement,” the youth stated in their declaration.

Towards a shared destination

At the beginning of Comm. Pineda’s keynote, she asked all participants to close their eyes and imagine the Philippines they wish to see in the future. She then requested all the participants to hold on to their visions and deeply ingrain them into their hearts.

“A fairer, more equitable, and just society” – this is how the youth responded and described their collective vision -- further concretized by their eight-point declaration, committing to active and constructive engagement in democratic governance.

Mahatma Sangacala, one of the members of the declaration’s technical working group and a YouthLed Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) Fellow, shared that writing the declaration with fellow youth leaders means a lot to him, “It is an opportunity to incorporate my experience, and the data I have from the times I engaged in grassroots areas. It is a responsibility to our nation, the declaration contains the oath, the promise of those 1,000 youth in the summit to fulfill.”

With the direction set, the next step is to sustain the momentum of the youth. The summit has provided the space to enable more youth leaders to participate and foster partnerships between and among themselves. Toolkits on approaches such as deliberative democracy have also been launched to guide youth leaders as they engage communities. 

Beyond the summit, YouthLed has also began supporting projects of youth organizations through a grant facility called the IGNITE Grants, mobilizing nearly P12.3 million in grant funding to support initiatives that strengthen youth participation in democratic governance.

The project is also monitoring the journeys of 277 youth leaders who vied for a position in their barangays during the recent local elections, inspired by the various leadership training YouthLed has facilitated for them. 

For Resuma, she plans to echo the lessons she learned to other students through their Sibika Hub where she had spearheaded various civic education and engagement activities. Arellano, on the other hand, also shared that LUPAD plans to continue expanding their membership base and identify the advocacies and strengths of the organizations they will engage.

Arangkada is not simply a theme of this year’s summit but a declaration in itself – that the youth is no longer making any U-turns, only accelerating to a path forward.

“The future is here. And those decision-making bodies, we also see ourselves among them. The hope for the future is here, we are here,” Sangacala highlighted.

The Youth Leadership for Democracy (YouthLed) is a youth-focused project of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and The Asia Foundation that aims to increase civic engagement among Filipino youth, leading to their strengthened participation in democratic governance.

1,000 Filipino youth commit to localize the Philippine Youth Development Plan at Youth Leaders’ Summit 2023

Youth representatives from different regions of the country lead the declaration of youth participation in democratic governance which reflects their current realities, aspirations, and calls for inclusive, participatory, and accountable governance. | Photo: YouthLed

Cebu City, Philippines–A gathering of 1,000 Filipino youth leaders marked the Youth Leaders’ Summit 2023 held on September 29-30, 2023, at the IEC Convention Center in Cebu City. 

This year's summit is a collaborative effort between the Youth Leadership for Democracy (YouthLed), a joint project of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and The Asia Foundation, and the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. 

The Youth Leaders’ Summit is an annual activity of YouthLed that brings together Filipino youth leaders across the country. It highlights the youth’s vital role in strengthening democracy and empowering them to engage in different platforms for political and civic participation towards pushing their causes and advocacies.

Under the theme "ARANGKADA (Accelerate): Gearing Towards Sustainable Youth Coalitions," the summit showcased youth-led projects and initiatives in the regions for advancing their respective advocacies. 

Myn Garcia, Deputy Country Representative of The Asia Foundation, commended the accomplishments of these youth leaders and organizations, “We are all here to celebrate the achievements of youth leaders and youth organizations that we have accompanied. Twelve regional clusters all over the archipelago–these groups have coalesced, have been engaged constructively in governance processes, regionally and locally, and are now key actors in the democratic landscape.”

Atty. Rebekah Eubanks, Deputy Mission Director of USAID, acknowledged the role of YouthLed in strengthening leadership skills among Filipino youth. “YouthLed is a pivotal part of USAID’s support and investment in Filipino youth leadership, playing a major role in helping advance Philippine democracy,” she said.

The summit's focal point is the imperative need for the adoption of the Philippine Youth Development Plan (PYDP) 2023-2028 as a framework for youth development programs at the local level.

Commissioner Representing Luzon Reena Vivienne Pineda of the National Youth Commission presented the development plan to the public for the first time, outlining strategies for youth organizations to actively participate in localizing the PYDP. “As youth organizations, you have a critical role of helping ensure a better future for all because you complement the efforts of our government agencies to empower our young people,” the Commissioner said.

The PYDP strategies, according to Commissioner Pineda, are focused on awareness and advocacy, capacity building and training, and mainstreaming of youth issues in programming. 

While national and local government agencies will implement most of the strategies, youth organizations can also play a role in implementing activities such as those that mobilize youth champions for involvement in community decision-making, promote comprehensive sexuality education among young people, and enhance youth and community responses to disasters, among other initiatives.

Throughout the summit, a series of breakout sessions delved into various facets of youth participation within the PYDP. This culminated in a unified declaration by the youth, articulating their current realities, commitments, and their calls for inclusive, participatory, and accountable governance. 

“We stand together as the youth of the Philippines to engage more actively and more meaningfully in democratic governance. We will achieve this through common effort, shared experience, action with vision, and imagination and by building inclusive, participatory, and accountable governance. Nothing about us without us,” the declaration stated.

USAID, The Asia Foundation announce newest cohort of Youth Leadership and Democracy Fellows

Ready to LEAD. YouthLed and partners welcome 40 new Leadership and Democracy Fellows at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City last July 14, 2023. The Fellows will participate in a two-year youth leadership development program.


Ready to LEAD. YouthLed and partners welcome 40 new Leadership and Democracy Fellows at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City last July 14, 2023. The Fellows will participate in a two-year youth leadership development program.

Makati City, Philippines – The Youth Leadership for Democracy (YouthLed) project held a launch ceremony on July 14, 2023 to announce the newest cohort of the highly anticipated Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) Fellowship program at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City, Metro Manila. 

YouthLed, a joint project between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and The Asia Foundation, onboarded 40 new LEAD Fellows who are set to develop their political leadership skills grounded in a deep appreciation for democracy and democratic values, structures, and systems. The LEAD Fellowship is YouthLed’s two-year flagship program for youth leadership development, comprising a series of learning sessions, workshops, and mentorship programs.

“We invest in the youth because we are investing in the future of our democracy. Our youth play a vital role in shaping our democratic landscape and safeguarding its core principles, sustaining the continued progress of our society,” said YouthLed Chief of Party Natalie Christine Jorge.

For the new cohort, YouthLed introduced three executive tracks to cater to different phases and directions of youth leadership: Aspiring Leaders, Governance Champions, and Changemakers tracks.

The Aspiring Leaders track aims to build general competencies of emerging youth leaders focused on honing their democratic values, principles, and servant leadership skills.

Gusto kong hikayatin ang mga kabataan sa makabagong henerasyon na pahalagahan at kilalanin ang sektor ng agrikultura,” shared Eunie May Fernando, an Aspiring Leader from Baler, Aurora, who is advocating for increased support to the agricultural sector. She also expressed in her message on behalf of the 10 LEAD Fellows under the Aspiring Leaders track their eagerness to grow in the program, “Through this LEAD Fellowship, I want to create inclusive spaces where youth can work together towards common goals and amplify their voices.” 

Ahmed Ibn Djaliv Hataman, Provincial Board Member of the 1st District of the Province of Basilan, also highlighted in his message the potential of youth to serve, “In my work so far, I’ve met people who I’ve learned so much from, who’ve only confirmed my suspicions, and reaffirmed my hopes -- that the potential for leadership can be found in people all around us, all they need is the right opportunity.” 

Hataman is from the Governance Champions track, a specialized course that aims to develop the capacity of youth in public service and those who want to create an impact through policy reform. Twelve LEAD Fellows will undergo this track. “We must empower each other, fight to earn the privilege of leadership, and most importantly, extend our power and opportunity to those who otherwise wouldn’t have had them,” he added.

Capping the messages from the fellows was Gabriel Villaruel, Artistic Director of PINTAKASI, a youth-led non-profit multi-arts organization. Gabriel is a LEAD Fellow under the Changemakers track, who reminded his co-fellows about the importance of volunteerism. “Kaya dapat nating tandaan, na bolunterismo ang nananalaytay sa dugo ng tagumpay ng kwento ng ating mga daan-daang bayani, ng EDSA People Power Revolution, at ng kasaysayang iginuguhit palang natin ngayon. Imagine the power we have if all of us realize this now.

The Changemakers track is a specialized course that aims to enhance the capacity of youth to lead organizations and manage projects. Eighteen fellows make up the Changemakers track, the largest group in the fellowship.

In his welcoming address, USAID Democracy and Governance Team Lead Mohamed Dansoko reiterated the need for youth leadership support. “We all know that the challenges ahead are daunting -- embattled democracies, intensified climate change, increasing food insecurity, and more. Through all these, we have more than enough evidence of youth making a difference in their respective countries and at the global stage. Our combined effort to train and support young leadership have never been more crucial and with no doubt bring meaningful change.” 

The Asia Foundation Deputy Country Representative Myn Garcia also expressed the Foundation’s support for the LEAD Fellowship program and the value it brings to Filipino youth. “By grounding youth leadership, youth leaders like yourselves in this room, in a comprehensive understanding of democratic governance, we are contributing to the process of strengthening young leaders to navigate and optimize multiple platforms for constructive engagement in governance.”

Beyond training, the LEAD Fellows will also access a grant support of up to Php250,000 to assist them in implementing their Change Projects geared towards developing their communities and increasing youth participation in democratic governance.

Following the success of the fellowship program inaugurated in 2021, YouthLed partnered once again with the Asian Institute of Management, the Ateneo School of Government, and the Ayala Foundation, Inc. in co-implementing the Fellowship with the second cohort. This cohort’s LEAD Fellowship journey will culminate in April 2024.

For partnerships with the LEAD Fellows, kindly email YouthLed at