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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.

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