Students learn about diplomacy and policymaking through role play at Model Asean Meeting

Delegates from different Asean countries simulating a sectoral meeting.
Delegates from different Asean countries simulating a sectoral meeting.ST PHOTO: SONG TAO

SINGAPORE - Undergraduates from universities across the 10 Asean countries have come to Singapore to learn about Asean diplomacy and policymaking through role play and simulated meetings.

For the past two days, 149 students have been brushing up on the grouping's history and structure, as well as its decision-making process through expert-led coaching and information sessions.

On Thursday (July 5), the students gathered at UTown at the National University of Singapore (NUS) for the opening ceremony of the fourth Asean Foundation Model Asean Meeting (AFMAM).

Addressing the students, Mr Joseph Del Mar Yap, Ambassador of the Philippines to Singapore, said: "It is an opportunity for each and every one of you to contribute your voices to find sustainable and innovative solutions to the challenges that Asean faces today, like climate change, terrorism and the rise of violent extremism, and sustainable development."

Over the next three days, the student delegates will form 20 teams - each comprising members from different countries - to engage in role play and meeting simulations to address these challenges.

During the meetings, they will assume the roles of senior Asean officials and work under the theme of a resilient and innovative Asean, which is derived from the tagline of Singapore's Asean chairmanship this year.

The mock meetings include a simulation of the Asean Summit on Saturday.

These meetings, however, are "no empty role play", said Ms Elaine Tan, executive director of the Asean Foundation.

In her opening remarks, Ms Tan noted that two student delegates at the first AFMAM in 2015 - one from Laos and the other from Thailand - are now representing their countries in their respective ministries of foreign affairs.

Mr Tanonrat Naktang, 32, a university lecturer and team adviser for the Thailand team, hopes his students will gain a greater understanding of Asean's challenges from the event.

Among the Singaporean delegates is Ms Jolene Yeo, 21, an NUS political science student, who says online falsehoods is one of the most pressing challenges.

Ms Yeo, who is assuming the role of Singapore's head of government, said: "All 10 Asean countries must work together to deal with both conventional, as well as unconventional threats to our economy, cyber security, and even the very social fabric of our nations."

She added: "(Thus), we look forward to discussing how Asean can cooperate on issues of cyber security, creating an Asean digital economy, and addressing the problems of online falsehoods."