March 13, 2013
Students at Gadjah Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta are doing their part to prepare for the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community 2015. In late January, UGM's Executive Students' Organisation hosted a five-day opinion-sharing and problem-solving forum for international students.
All told, 28 students from three countries – Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines – gathered in the Central Java district to study, debate and offer solutions on issues and opportunities facing the regional bloc – in this case, nuclear energy, eco-tourism and the environment.
At the same time, they had plenty of time to build friendships, meet local people, and sample the area's cultural riches, which comprise just a fraction of ASEAN's stunning cultural, religious and ethnic diversity.
The , called Join Opinion Solving for Southeast Asia (JOSSEA), took place in and around Yogyakarta from January 21st-26th.
Agents of change
After the opening ceremony on January 21st, participants visited Tembi village in nearby Bantul Regency, where they learned how to make batik, then heard about nuclear energy from a UGM lecturer.
The following day, they visited a landfill in Bantul Regency to learn about waste disposal and recycling, and met with scavengers and waste management specialists. On the same day, participants discussed solid waste management with the Youth Green Coalition (Koalisi Pemuda Hijau Indonesia/KOPHI).
Ratna Anggareni, 20, head of JOSSEA programme development, told Khabar Southeast Asia, "Waste is a problem faced by ASEAN countries. With this activity, we are expected to identify potential solutions."
John Mark Carino, a Filipino participant from Manila's De La Salle University, described urgent environmental challenges in his country. "In the Philippines, rivers are contaminated by waste, and it has a bad impact on public health in the area," he told Kompas in a February 5th interview.
Participants stayed overnight with local residents in another area village, Brayut, and enjoyed a workshop in traditional Javanese dance.
"This is my first experience sleeping over at a villager's house in Yogyakarta," said Ananda Suci Munggaran, a 20 year-old Indonesian participant.
JOSSEA participants got to try their hand planting rice and plowing fields, visited the Indonesia Nuclear Energy Agency (Badan Tenaga Nuklir Indonesia/BATAN) in Yogyakarta, and presented their ideas related to eco-tourism, nuclear energy and the environment in a seminar at UGM's Humanities Department.
ASEAN Community 2015
ASEAN's ten member states have set a goal of achieving regional economic integration by the end of 2015, supported by an increased sense of regional identity among the bloc's citizens and greater political consultation and cohesion.
"In particular, ASEAN Community 2015 is concerned about social and politics matters," Ratna, the JOSSEA official, said. "We would like to convey that energy, culture, and eco-tourism need ASEAN attention."
Ratna also mentioned the importance of disaster preparedness and support shared among ASEAN members. "Since Indonesia as a 'ring of fire' country, we need solutions to develop better disaster management policies and practices," she said.
The JOSSEA programme helps move towards the ASEAN Community 2015 goal by forging connections among young intellectuals and building a common agenda for the region, organisers said.