ASEAN 2030: Youth Perspective in the New Global Landscape


Authors: Hein Htet, Anjulie Razak, Dwi Riyan, Chanbora Sek*

The year 2015 is a remarkable year for the sustainable development journey. It is a year where the nations decided to move from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals and set the aim to transform our world with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is the same year the ASEAN Community set the ambitious Vision 2025 to build an integrated, peaceful, and stable community with shared prosperity. The two ambitious goals cover a wide range of sectors in accordance with people, planet and profit framework and complementary to each other in many aspects.

The spread of COVID-19 pandemic around the world has impacted these goals and ambitions toward certain directions and pushed them to become more resilient in the near future. Since ASEAN youths are vital for the success of the ASEAN community, it is now a good time to ask ourselves just “how we as ASEAN’s youth want to see ASEAN by 2030”?


Indonesia committed to successfully achieving SDGs agenda in 2030. So far, out of 241 indicators of SDGs, Indonesia already achieved 94 of them. Indonesia outlines the goals and targets that are most viable to their ongoing development challenges, emphasizing the importance of addressing key issues in health, education, social protection, food security and sustainable agriculture, infrastructure, ecosystem services and biodiversity, and financial support for local authority.

The Indonesian government has been doing several efforts to put Sustainable Development Goals through its policies. They also issued several issues to be focused on and decided on the implementing evaluation process to measure the achievement of SDGs. As a result, Indonesia’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will increase by one level in 2020. Indonesia’s position will be higher from 102 to 101 out to 166 countries. Indonesia’s index score has progressed from previous years. In 2019, the index score was 64.2, while in 2020 it was 65.3.

However, Indonesia still needs to focus and do some accelerated actions to reach 2030 SDGs goals. Here is my vision towards Indonesia’s commitment to SDGs in 2030.

First, Indonesia has full Political commitment and concrete action that urgently needed to get the SDGs on track and accelerate its progress. Sustainable Development Goal should become the core principles to Indonesia politic culture to ensure the supervision clearer on each sector of Indonesian development. By having political will on SDGs, it will automatically drive Indonesia policy to be closer on sustainability.

Second, Implementing Responsible Investment Principles toward sustainability as Indonesia’s financial strategy to fund any development of infrastructure which also become one of the core targets of current Indonesia’s president. Moreover, It would be good to have a special scheme on youth-based sustainable capital to boost the development of youth-based business with sustainability principles to participate in the economic development of Indonesia.

Third, Implement a social forestry program for all the remaining forests in Indonesia as the border of any investment in the community nearby the forest that potentially damages the forest. The status and legitimacy of Indonesia’s forest should be strengthened to ensure zero deforestation development in Indonesia, and maximize the program that ensures the economic development while still managing to protect forest. Moreover, the focus also needs to develop sustainable livelihood for the locals with better measurement and evaluation along with the implementation of social forestry programs.


Cambodia highly regards the SDGs as one of the main vehicles toward sustainability. As one of the UN member states, Cambodia has successfully nationalized SDGs into its own domestic strategic development framework in 2018, which is called “Cambodia Sustainable Development Goals Framework 2016-2030” or CSDGs 2016-2030, according to the Royal Government of Cambodia.

To date, the Cambodian government focuses heavily on six global prioritized goals of the CSDGs, which is goal 4, 8, 10, 13, 16, and 17. The latest data in 2019 revealed that 29% of the targets were ahead of track, 32.3% were on track, and 38.7% lacked sufficient data to make a judgment. Therefore, it is still a long journey for Cambodia to fully achieve the CSDGs before the 2030 deadline, especially during the global pandemic of COVID-19.

CSDGs need the involvement of various stakeholders, including youth because Cambodian youth is made up of around 70% of the total population. Therefore, youth involvement is essential in achieving CSDGs by 2030. And as a Cambodian youth myself, I have some visions that I want to see Cambodia by 2030 in its mission toward achieving the CSDGs.

First vision: By 2030, 80% of Cambodia’s energy will come from renewable and green energy, because Cambodia’s geography is favorable for positive exploitation of renewable energy, including hydroelectric, wind, and solar energy. With the latest data in 2020, approximately 35% from coal, 48% from hydroelectricity, 2% from fuel oil, and less than 1% from renewable energy (other than hydro), while the remaining energy is imported from neighboring countries.

Second vision: By 2030, all of Cambodia’s natural resources including protected forests, animals, national parks, ocean, and rivers are fully protected from the encroachment of illegal logging, poaching, and exploitation. As of 2019, Cambodia’s protected rainforest Prey Long lost 7,511 hectares of tree cover, which is equal to a significant increase of 73% compared to 2018, due to illegal logging for luxury wood.

Third vision: By 2030, Cambodia and all ASEAN member states have built a stable community that is resilient toward global pandemics, climate change, and environmental problems. As well as setting itself as a successful example for international duplication. At the same time, a sustainable lifestyle is a new normal for Cambodians and other ASEAN youth in promoting sustainable consumption, environmental protection, and social protection.


Malaysia became one of the 192 signatories that adopted the 2030 Agenda and established a three-phase implementation framework to align SDGs along the country’s national development plans. The National SDG Council leads the SDGs implementation and monitoring together with five Cluster Working Committees (CWCs), focusing on themes ranging from inclusivity, well-being, human capital, environment and natural resources, to economic growth.

The country’s 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP), effective 2021-2025 aims to pick up the momentum from its predecessor plan to maintain the progress in Goal 1, 7, 8, and 9 while putting more focus on Goals 3, 5, 6, 11, and 16. In 2019, Malaysia initiated the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 (SPV 2030) to strengthen their commitment and ensure equitable wealth distribution to all citizens. Today, the country is ranked 65th in the 2021 Sustainable Development Report, trailing behind ASEAN counterparts such as Thailand and Vietnam.

Malaysian youths make up approximately 70% of Malaysia’s demographic and experienced a 13.6% unemployment rate as of May 2021. Graduate unemployment is more concerning as DoSM reports a 4.5% increase from 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic reflected a competitive labour market, however the bigger picture of unemployment has yet to be addressed. Upskilling of youths can integrate them into the constantly changing workforce and help overcome the challenges in sustaining the economy’s lack of adequate skill set and manpower.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development accounts for a mere 5% or US$7.64 billion of FDI to Malaysia in comparison to the 80% or US$156 billion to Vietnam, Indonesia, and Singapore. This shows that Malaysia’s political turbulence benefits no one as securing a larger percentage of the FDI can help to boost innovative and sustainable business economies. Therefore, governance transparency is a significant goal to achieve by 2030.

Malaysians have been abuzz with the government’s recent announcements on the climate change agenda. Discussions on net zero emissions and green economy emerged in the 12MP and has faced several backlash by the public for its ambitiousness. This, along with the decreasing focus in SDG 15 (Life on Land) poses a serious threat to climate change mitigation in Malaysia’s development blueprints. By 2030, Malaysia should recognise the importance in preserving and conserving terrestrial biodiversity in order to achieve a holistic measure in combating climate change.

Our Vision for Sustainability

The demand for sustainable development is growing like we have never seen before, therefore ASEAN as a regional community must incorporate the SDGs elements in national development plans as it approaches national problems with an interdisciplinary and holistic approach. Tangible changes take time, however, it is worth noting that by making small but significant steps to acknowledge SDGs can benefit the countries in the long run. Additionally, innovation, knowledge, financial capacity, and commitment is necessary to effectively implement and ensure that countries stay on track of their plans. Moreover, to achieve sustainable growth, empowering the youth and getting them involved as one of the major stakeholders is very important as they are the generation that will inherit the countries in the near future.

*ASEAN Master in Sustainability Management Students from Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia.

Hein Htet
Hein Htet
ASEAN Master in Sustainability Management Student from Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia


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